Chinese wolfberry, also called goji berry or Lycium barbarum, is a plant commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine. The berries of this plant are bright orange-red and are usually full of tiny yellow seeds. Wolfberry is considered to be a “superfruit” with a high nutritional value. The berries contain at least 11 essential minerals plus trace minerals, seven vitamins, and 18 amino acids. In addition, the seeds contain omega-6 and omega-3 acids which are powerful antioxidants.
Wolfberries and vision
Of particular interest for people with diabetes are the vision-preserving nutrients found in wolfberries, which contain one of the highest levels of beta carotene by weight among all edible plants. These berries also contains a vitamin A component or caroteinoid called zeaxanthin, which researchers believe has a role in preserving vision. Researches in China report that the carotenoids in wolfberries tend to concentrate in the retina of the eye, adding to the benefit of these nutrients in promoting eye health. This may be significant for patients with diabetic retinopathy. This condition, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults in the United States, occurs when excess sugar in the blood prevents tiny blood vessels in the eye from carrying crucial nutrients and oxygen to the retina.
Wolfberries and sugar
Wolfberries also contain polysaccharides or long-chain sugar molecules. These are a primary source of fermentable fiber which can help stabilize blood glucose levels and stimulate immune functions.
Chinese Wolfberry has a long history in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is recognized for nourishing and strengthening the eyes, liver, kidneys, and blood. Other nutrients found in Chinese wolfberries include:
• Calcium – provides strength for teeth and bones
• Potassium – contributes to lower blood pressure
• Iron – carries oxygen in the blood.
• Zinc – required by the body to make proteins and is critical in cellular function
• Selenium – a significant antioxidant mineral
• Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – essential for supporting metabolism for energy
• Vitamin C – a powerful antioxidant providing protection from free radicals
Chinese wolfberries are rarely found as fresh berries away from the areas where they are grown. They are often sold as dried berries which may be soft like raisins or hard. Dried wolfberries are usually cooked before they are eaten and may also be made into herbal tea.
Many nutritional supplements are available claiming to contain wolfberries, including juices, powders, and pills. Before you purchase these products, research them carefully to be sure they do not contain other ingredients or sugars that can offset the beneficial properties of the wolfberries. Wolfberries or lycium can also interact with other medications including blood-thinners such as Coumadin (warfarin). Be sure to talk with your doctor about any supplements you are taking.