Goji berries have a very long medicinal history, dating back to at least the third century CE, and are still used in Chinese medicine today.
The history of goji berries in China
According to a very early Chinese legend, an inquisitive doctor once visited a rural village to find that most of its inhabitants were over the age of 100. Having observed these centenarians for some time, and pondering how they could live to such a ripe old age, he noticed that the most senior residents in the village lived close to a well where goji berries were growing wild.
As the goji berries ripened, they were falling into the well, infusing the water with their magical nutrients. The oldest residents in the village were then drinking this water, and so the doctor deduced that their longevity must have had something to do with the goji berry.
Although this may just be a Chinese legend, it shows that historically the goji tree and its fruit were thought to have life-giving medicinal properties, something that is also echoed in other historical Chinese documentation, including the oldest Chinese book on herbs and medicine.
Goji berries in Shennong Bencaojing
Shennong Bencaojing is the title of the oldest known Chinese book on herbs and medicine. Written by the emperor Shennong, in the year 250BCE, the book is a recording of some of China’s oldest oral traditions and provides precious information about the uses of different herbs and plants in ancient Chinese medicine.
In Shennong Bencaojing, the goji berry is referred to by its formal name, Lycium Chinesis, and is described as being sweet. The text states that the goji plant and its berries could be used to ‘treat the main evils of the internals including central heat, wasting thirst and generalized impediments’ and goes on to explain that the berries can be used to ‘make the body light’ and ‘slow aging’.
Are goji berries still used in traditional Chinese medicine today?
Goji berries are still used in traditional Chinese medicine today and are prescribed to tonify the yin of the liver and yin of the kidneys, brighten the eyes, and moisten the lungs. Some of the primary conditions and symptoms that goji berries are most commonly prescribed for include knee pain, tinnitus, diabetes, anemia, and impaired vision, and they are also named as an anti-aging supplement and as fertility treatment. The list doesn't end there, take a look at these 5 fascinating reasons goji berries are a superfood.