Wolfberries or goji berries have the botanical name of Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense. These fruits are marketed widely as dried berries and have a tart sweet and sour flavor. They are reddish-orange in color and resemble raisins when dry. Goji berries (fruit, bark and leaves) have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. They grow abundantly along the shores of the Yellow River in China and the sheltered Himalayan valley regions of Nepal, Tibet and Mongolia. Ripe goji berries are carefully shaken from the vines, gathered on sheets and transported in baskets. They are then carefully dried in controlled temperature before being packed for export. This preserves the nutrients and shelf-life of goji berries. The medicinal value of goji berries are growing in popularity in the west. They are being touted as an excellent cure for a range of diseases and simply as a nutritional addition to our daily diet.
Goji berries are highly nutrient-rich since they contain 18 amino acids, high levels of antioxidants like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin – both carotenoids, vitamins E, C, A, B1, B2, B6, omega-6 and omega-3 – both essential fatty acids, protein, 21 trace minerals including iron, zinc, copper, selenium, calcium, germanium, magnesium, phosphorous, manganese etc. Goji berries have anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-fungal properties. They strengthen the immune system and provide a feeling of health and well being. Having the highest ORAC (Oxygen Rating Absorbance Capacity) rating means that goji berries have powerful anti-aging properties.
Goji berries are said to protect our DNA from damage by free radicals, increase sexual function, increase energy levels, increase production of HGH the Human Growth Hormone also called anti-aging hormone, balance cholesterol and blood sugar levels, maintain normal levels of blood pressure and prevent age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and other eye disorders.
Goji Berries and Pregnancy
Pregnant women need to eat for two. This is not the time to go on a diet but eat well-balanced meals and get plenty of exercise. At this time, unless there are specific complications, pregnant women are usually advised to enjoy healthy foods and avoid high calorie starchy and sugary foods. Un-pasteurized foods, raw eggs and uncooked meat should be avoided since there is a chance of salmonella poisoning.
There has not been any substantive research on their medical benefits for humans and no study on whether goji berries are safe for pregnant women. Some people recommend that pregnant women can consume 10g of goji berries daily for their vitamin and nutrient content. Some people claim that goji berries are ‘superfruits’ and can benefit pregnant women and can be eaten without restraint. They are considered to have nutrients that can cure morning sickness. Others state that goji berries could cause miscarriages by increasing the risk of uterine contractions since there are compounds present with ‘abortifacient’ (abortion inducing) properties. There is no concrete proof to support either claim.
Hence, the choice of consuming goji berries depends on each individual and their belief in herbal medications. While there are health benefits, it is best to speak to your OB/GYN if you are pregnant or are planning to get pregnant, since usually herbal supplements are not advised in such cases.
Pregnant women who are diabetic, have high blood pressure or are on anti-coagulants must refer to their doctor if they decide to take goji berries for there could be adverse reactions. Betaine content in goji berries can be harmful for pregnant women.
Red goji berry tea or wolfberry tea is made from the Lycium chinense plant. This tea has a delicious flavor. Some people recommend that red goji berry tea be consumed by pregnant women when they have a dry cough, to ease low back pain and dizziness during pregnancy. It is said to be safer than pharmaceutical drugs that could cause side effects in the fetus. However, since the effects on pregnant women have not been studied, check with your doctor if you decide to drink this beverage.
Goji berries interact with diabetic, blood thinning and blood pressure medications. Due to its anti-coagulant property, goji berry interferes with medications like warfarin and can cause excessive bleeding. It can cause hypotension or a drop in blood pressure in those taking blood pressure medications and for diabetic patients, it can reduce blood sugar levels and cause spells of fainting and dizziness. Hence, anyone who suffers from these conditions must not take goji berries.
The high selenium content in goji berries can lead to birth defects. Hence, pregnant women or even those who are planning a pregnancy must avoid goji berries.
Anyone with pollen or other allergies may need to avoid goji berries since it can worsen allergic symptoms. Always consult your doctor if you are pregnant, breastfeeding or have any medical condition before taking goji berries to avoid complications.