Search This Blog

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Writing – research - goji berries

While doing research for the third ‘Avenging Cat’ crime novel Cataclysm, I decided to include goji berries in the storyline; I’d actually come across them in a crossword puzzle and looked them up, and found that they could very nicely fit into the plot!

Goji berries are exported to more than twenty countries, such as the USA, Japan, Australia, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong, Macao, Taiwan and the EU. [There are quite a few instances of the word ‘may’, so maybe the jury’s still out on the efficacy of the berries, but it still makes interesting reading!]

The Ningxia Hui region of Northern China, where goji berries are grown and eaten on a daily basis, has sixteen times as many centenarians as the rest of the country. Apparently, as residents of the region age, they are much more active, healthy and vibrant than their peers in Western cultures. The small, red goji berry, traditionally regarded as the "longevity fruit," is a key ingredient in their healthy diet. Researchers who study medicinal plants have identified a variety of nutrients in the goji berry that may help people enjoy longer and healthier lives. Claims of anti-aging properties for these small berries include:

Protecting DNA with Antioxidants

As we go through life, our DNA is damaged by free radicals generated as a byproduct of normal metabolism and by exposure to toxins. Although our bodies are equipped to continually repair themselves, they can become overwhelmed by too many free radicals, especially as we age. This results in the premature death of healthy cells, which may contribute to a variety of degenerative diseases and mutated cells that can lead to cancer -- unless antioxidants counter the onslaught. Vitamins, minerals and amino acids may have antioxidant properties. Here are some of the key antioxidant nutrients found in goji berries and vital body functions they purportedly support, in addition to fighting free radicals:

Vitamin C
Heart health
Immunity, healthy stomach lining
B2 (riboflavin)
Conversion of carbohydrates into fuel
Healthy skin, bone, cartilage
Wound healing, fertility, vision, immunity
Energy, hormonal function, healthy skin
Healthy liver, thyroid, immunity, cancer protection

Promoting Human Growth Hormone Production

Levels of human growth hormone decline as we age. It seems that a 70-year-old produces only one-tenth of the amount generated by a 20-year-old. As Oscar Wilde said, Youth is wasted on the Young! This decline parallels physical deterioration, such as lower levels of energy, muscle wasting and a tendency to store more body fat. The belief is that boosting the natural production of growth hormone helps us feel, look and function like a more youthful person. But it doesn’t turn back time! They say that goji berries help our bodies aid the growth hormone in two ways:

  • Potassium: Goji is a rich source of the mineral, vital for health and longevity. Too little potassium interferes with the normal function of the pituitary gland, which produces the growth hormone.
  • Amino acids: Certain amino acids promote the production of growth hormone. Goji is a rich source of l-glutamine and l-arginine, two amino acids which may work together to boost growth hormone levels and revitalize youthful appearance and function.

Increasing Energy

The goji berry is an "adaptogen," a term used in the world of medicinal plants to describe a substance with a combination of therapeutic actions. An adaptogen invigorates and strengthens the system while helping the body to deal with stress without collapsing. It also supports healthy function of the adrenal glands, which tend to get overworked in times of stress.

Improving Vision

The goji berry contains two key nutrients for healthy vision: zeaxanthin and lutein. These are concentrated at the center of the retina and protect the eye from the most common causes of age-related loss of sight, including macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetic retinopathy. Free radicals also attack the eyes, and zeaxanthin and lutein protect against such damage.

Controlling Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Super Potassium. A 3-ounce serving of dried goji berries contains 1,600 mg of potassium -- four times the potassium in three ounces of banana.

Goji berries have the ability to combat two key factors that promote heart disease: oxidized cholesterol and elevated blood pressure. Cholesterol becomes especially dangerous when it oxidizes as a result of free radicals, and the oxidized blood fats then attach to artery walls as plaques. Our bodies have a built-in defense system, an enzyme called superoxide dismutase (SOD). SOD produces antioxidants to prevent cholesterol from oxidizing, but levels of SOD decline as we age. Chinese research shows that goji berries can increase our production of SOD, reducing oxidization of cholesterol.

Keeping Vital Organs Healthy

In addition to helping keep the heart healthy, goji berries help balance blood sugar and enhance the liver, digestive system and skin:

  • Blood sugar: Goji berries have been used in Asia for the treatment of diabetes and to help regulate high blood sugar, which is a precursor to both diabetes and heart disease.
  • Liver: Several types of phytonutrients in the fruit enhance the ability of the liver to detoxify and guard against the organ being damaged by carcinogens and the hepatitis virus.
  • Digestion: Goji berries are helpful for all types of digestive problems and can aid in recovery from digestive illnesses, such as ulcers and irritable bowel syndrome.
  • Skin: Goji berries contain fatty acids, which can stimulate collagen production and retain moisture, resulting in younger-looking skin.

Improving Sleep

Goji berries are a rich source of two nutrients that are necessary for healthful sleep:

  • Thiamin (B1): The vitamin is found in the hulls of grains, but it is missing from diets that mostly contain refined grains. Thiamin improves mood, alleviates depression and increases energy levels.
  • Magnesium: The mineral reduces the time it takes to fall asleep and improves the quality of sleep.


The above is a slightly edited version of an article on the goji berries; there are other claims, too. The western world is chary of much Chinese medicines – the rapacious slaughter of endangered species doesn’t help; rhino horn doesn’t possess any beneficial properties, for example, but is still prized, sadly. Yet you can’t throw the baby out with the bath-water – many Chinese remedies and techniques are highly efficacious.

The goji berry plotline is an intriguing one; I hope any readers of Cataclysm will appreciate it!

No comments: