China is known for many ‘superfoods’ such as the Red Date or Jujube, Green Tea, and the Goji berry (or Chinese Wolfberry). For millennia Chinese herbalists have used this small, bright orange-red berry to help eyesight, boost immune function and to promote longevity.

Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) are also known for their high antioxidant concentration and high levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, amino acids, iron and B vitamins. Available dried it tastes a little like a dried cherry with a slight metallic, salty tinge. It is also available in powder, juice, or supplement form.

Often sourced in the south of China and Tibet, Goji’s popularity has been constant in the natural, organic and health food retail channel as a dietary supplement and functional ‘superfood’. More organic and natural brands market Goji berries as packaged whole berries, healthy dried fruits, powder supplements, juices and herbal teas, and in snack bars in North America, Asia and Australia.

The health benefits and therapeutic potential of the Goji berry has been backed by a small amount of published clinical studies.

One study was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical observation of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi published in the Journal of Alternative Complementary Medicine in 2008.

It was the first study reported from outside China that has examined the general effects of the orally consumed Goji berry as a standardized juice, which was given to healthy adults for 14 days.

The study clearly indicated that daily consumption of GoChi for 14 days increases subjective feelings of general well-being, and improves neurologic/psychologic performance and gastrointestinal functions. The data strongly suggest that further research is indicated to confirm and extend knowledge of the potential effects of Lycium barbarum upon human health.

Another study, conducted on mice, showed that Goji berries protect against the flu. Since current flu vaccines do not completely protect against influenza infection, researchers have been looking for alternative measures.

The research, from scientists at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, was published in the Journal of Nutrition on December 11, 2013.

The researchers observed a higher antibody response in the mice that were fed the goji berries, as well as less weight loss, compared with the control group that only received the vaccine.

Senior author Dr. Simin Nikbin Meydani, director of the USDA HNRCA at Tufts University, said about the potential of their findings: “While previous studies have shown that wolfberries bolster immune response in mice, our results introduce their potential to reduce the age-related risk and severity of the flu virus in the presence of the vaccine.”