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The Goji Scam

Botanical name:

Goji berries are your normal Lycium berries.

The following is gleaned from a recent discussion on a mailing list for herbalists:

1) Both Lycium eleagnus pungens and Lycium eleagnus barbarum are manufactured names; there is no such thing, botanically. The berry sold under those names is your normal Lycium barbarum or wolfberry.
2) There is no such thing as wild Tibetan goji berries. These, too, are normal Lycium barbarum berries. Ditto for Himalayan goji.
3) The so-called Tibetan-grown goji berries are a) normal lycium berries (Lycium barbarum), and b) Mongolian-grown, like the rest of the Lycium berries on the market.
4) Lycium is in the Solanaceae (nightshade family). Elaeagnus is in the Elaeagnaceae (oleaster family). They are not related, nor have they been each other's synonyms.
5) You can buy lycium berries (Lycium barbarum) in bulk herb stores at $7-$10 a pound. Good quality lycium berries are the same stuff that is sold as goji for a far higher price. By the way, sulphured lycium berries are bright red-orange, and they are not good quality.
6) The statement that Chinese-grown Lycium berries are pesticide-laden is just commercial competitor-bashing. If somebody tries to tell you that ask them for the lab reports.

The name "goji berry" comes of course from the Chinese name for lycium: Gou Qi Zi. It helps to know that qi is pronounced "chi".

There. Now, don't get hoodwinked, don't hop onto bandwagons, and don't buy goji berries. Buy unsulphured lycium berries instead. Your wallet will thank you.

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Update: Before you decide to comment on this post: nobody but me will ever see your pro-himalayan-goji propaganda here, and I only read the first two or three lines of your comment before I push the "delete" button. Like this: clicky clicky.
Because I won't let any MLM scammers hawk their wares on my blog. So shoo. And do stay away, there's a good scammer.
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Update: Comments are now closed.

Comments

I'll be sure to pass that one on to my generous goji donor. Dear mom, good intentions, but sometimes falls for the fads.
Anyhow...they taste good.
lovely lycium fruits.

Aye, let's get the word out.

There's a good introduction to the plant at b-and-t-world-seeds.com and a fine picture at cambridge2000.com. It grows wild in coastal areas of Yorkshire, though its not native.

Thanks, John - nice pictures. The picture from Cambridge looks quite a lot like shoofly plant (Nicandra physalodes), though.

i found this on a goji website.
LOL!!
"These berries are wildcrafted in accordance with the most stringent organic growing standards, hence contain, we believe, more nutrient energy than other cultivated varieties, such as the Wolfberry."

wildcrafted with organic growing standards?? huh!? i think they are throwing all the key words around like free money to get people to BUY into their scam

Nice catch, Darcey.

Hi

Thanks for the great info, any comments about Noni juice ??

thanks kirsty

Oh yes. Lots: "Super Blue, Green, Yellow Magnetic Volcanic Colloidal Nino Juice"
... it's exotic, it's expensive, it's hyped all the way to Saturnus and back - it's a scam. If you want flavonoids, eat your local dark fruit and berries. They're cheaper, tastier, and work as well.

i have a sick mother uses bloodthinners and other drugs my father went to a goji metting and now bielives all he has to do to cure her is take her of here 20 diffrent pills and give her goji thanks goji for. allowing dumb peopel to fall for your merical elexir. now i will be motherless due to fact my father is to old and stubburn to listen. and her death is now on the makers of goji.

Awww. Poor pet. And you can't even print out and give him this blogpost ...

... you have my sympathies. Not.

Of course, now that I've made fun of you here you can't print out the blogpost anymore, cos then your dad (if he exists - I expect your story is fabricated) would see you being ridiculed.

Moral of the story: don't spout random vileness at strangers, cos you might just get slapped on the fingers for it.

It seems none of you have actually researched the amazing amount of research that has been put into the processing of one and only one particular brand of Goji juice and the thousands of people that it has helped incredibly, my husband being one of them. I don't beleive the same results would have been achieved with just dried berries from china town. I respect what you are saying regarding all the hype and the many places hopping on the Goji band wagon, but please don't classify everyone of us as useless.

Oooh. Boyo, do I have lots of other bandwagons for you to hop onto!

... do at least try out the Chinatown Lycium berries before you slam them. They are the same as your overhyped overexpensive rigorously grown and extremely exotic goji berries.

Now shoo, the grownups are busy.

I am a professional acupuncturist and herbalist, with a MS in Oriental Medicine.

'Goji berries' do not exist as far as I know. It is all Lycium / Wolfberries / Gou Qi Zi.

Taste the 'juice.' it is grape and pear with a hint of Gou Qi Zi.

You are being suckered. You can buy true organic Lycium berries for $20/pound.

In Chinese medicine, Go Qi Zi is considered a good but mild tonic herb. But I am sure that Earl Mindell, author of the 'vitamin bible' available at grocery store checkouts near you, and the man behind Goji marketing, knows better than five thousand years of Chinese medical practitioners.

Thanks for that, Jake. Earl Mindell, eh? Good to know that, too.

Henrietta,

you say goji (or Wolfberries) can be bought for $7-10/pound? WHERE?

I wonder what the Tibetans really call Lycium barbarum. Anyone know? I'm also still hunting for a botany reference stating that it grows in Tibet. The problem with the plant is that in China alone there are at least half a dozen species of Lycium with red berries that may all be Lycium barbarum when the dust settles. In addition, the original Chinese uses of the berries have yet to see the light of day in modern Chinese let alone English because no one, despite claims to the contrary and even citations, has translated the Pen Tsao Kang Mu (Great Pharmacopoeia) by Li Shih-chen. The pharmacology is also a bit muddy. Despite claims that the berries are rich in vitamin C, a recent study in Japan failed to fin it, but did find a vitamin C analogue. Then there's betain, which a number of sites claim to be one of the actives in the berries. When you finally check the amount, it's miniscule and certainly not a feasible enough for any therapeutic effect. I could go on, but a solid scientific reference to its occurrence in Tibet and the real Tibetan name for the berries would be sufficient right now.

dulcinea: sorry, I'm not an USAian TCM practitioner with a net of quality wholesalers; I'm a western herbalist in Europe, and use western herbs.
Ken: species of TCM herbs can be iffy, yes, but in addition botanists change their minds all the time: some are lumpers, others are splitters, and what I might think of as all one species somebody else splits into a few hundred ...

Hey, some of my family memebers have jumped on the goji juice and I was just wondering if you have found any medical studies from the FDA or something like that? If you read the ingredients on the bottle it is fruit punch, nothing more. I have googled "goji" and have come up with testimonial after testimonial but no scientific backing at all. Also, do you have any info on the selling of the product? It is called pyramid selling pr some such thing where there is one person who recruits a bunch of people to sell the product and then they do not have to actual work anymore becuase the comission from those people will pay them? thanks for any help in advance.

The title of the post is "the goji scam". Did you even read the post?
Yes, it's a MLM (multi-level marketing) scam.
Yes, Lycium berries have been used for centuries in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine).
No, buying it for lotsamoney doesn't mean that they're anything beyond their TCM use - a nice flavonoid-rich fruit.
Buy Lycium berries, ditch the goji scam.

sorry! I thought you meant the product itself and not the selling of it! Is there anyway to find actual "proof" that this is a scam? I know it is but the person I want to help will not believe me unless they can see it in black and white. I personally have not tried it, but a family member sells it and is trying to recruite other family members to do it. Also, do you know of any known side effects of drinking goji juice? I beleive it says not to take it if you are on blood pressure medication, but just wondering if it can be harmful in any other way.

Lycium berries work, within their TCM framework.
"Goji juice"? How much lycium berries are even in there? Ditch the idea already.

OK, here's my first comment to this site.

In New York city, on Grand Street (between Mott & Elizabeth), one can buy Lycium berries (unsulfured) for $6.00 per pound. This is the herb store for the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine. Very soon they will have a website. The name is Kamwo. 212-966-6370

I have been rehydrating a handful a day for about two weeks. Can't claim any miracles. Don't have any serious problems, either, to heal, but just feel good. That's all. Energy, circulation, and eyes are what they claim the berries will help. That's it.

Thanks for that, chinkerpin.

This web site sells what they call "grade A" and "grade B" Lycium Berries. (URL deleted).
They also sell what they call "Tibetan Goji Berries" for 3 times as much. Thanks to this blog for pointing out they are all the same thing. Two things I was wondering; what is the difference between grade A and B, and if you grow the berries here in the US is there really any difference in the medicinal qualities of the berries? Part of this whole marketing hype is that they (the people selling Goji) want you to believe there's something special about the berries if they're grown in Tibet as oppose to a backyard garden in upstate NY or anywhere in the US. Also my guess would be that if you buy these off a website they would more than likely be sulphured.

Hmm, you might want to buy an ounce each and tell us about the difference, if any.
Thanks.

Whats really sad is how quickly you folks scream out "SCAM!" and will never have a chance to try out Goji Juice. Its worked wonders for me and I feel better and enjoy my life more because of Goji Juice.

Perhaps, and this is only a thought, but just maybe people scream "scam!" at the goji juice scam because it actually is a scam?

In other words, have you even tried goji berries instead of the overpriced oversugared MLM juice? No? Thought so.

I've lots of other bandwagons for you to jump onto. Here, try these toxic metals, they'll cure all your cancers within three weeks ...

Here is a simply solution - eat right (fruits & vegetables) and exercise. An assortment of vegetables and a tasty V8 every now and then will provide the same "claimed" benefits of Goji juice at a fraction of the price. If it is too good to be true, chances are it is. I have a friend pushing this product and I almost bought some, but this site provided me the right amount of information to do otherwise. Although now I am curious about actually purchasing some berries for myself!!!

ok...if the bright red orange color means thy are sulphured (yucko) what color should they be?

The GOJI Juice is a scam also. Real expensive. It's a MLM. I know alot of people that lose their asses investing into this product and getting into the business.

Alot of people cannot afford this crap.

Greg? The Goji scam is the goji juice scam.

What are the best growing conditions for Wolfberry?

I've seen one or the other Lycium species in the SW US desert. If that's not what you're after, ask the Chinese.

I bought some Goji juice from a friend yesterday. Actually, I just feel sorry for him because he's got hooked on all these MLMs and I am afraid he won't be able to pay his next mortgage. Anyway, I am not sure if it's going to help me at all, but I'm going to try it.

He gave me the whole spheel about the "Fingerprint" of the GoJi berry and how they only pick the best ones of the crop. The GoJi Juice (1 liter size) is supposed to be made from 2.5 pounds of GoJi berries according to him. (Have yet to verify). If this is the case, then spending $35 a bottle isn't really that bad. I'd rather drink it in a juice form than some strong tasting, raw berries. Mixing it with the other juices, makes it taste pretty good.

Of course none of this can be verified, and, I can't really find any research that this does help, but if it helps a friend, and I get a little benefit out of it, heck, I'll try it for a month or two.

Alf

That's nice.

Thanks for this post. Just got off the phone with a friend who is selling this MLM scam. Glad to hear the berry itself has good benefits, now I know I can get the same benefit for less than paying for the Himalayan Goji scam.

I am so happy that I found this blog as my wife came home today with a catalog from a friend that is trying to get her involved in this MLM called FreeLife. This catalog has the name Breakthroughs In Health and the whole darn thing is about how great this Goji Juice is. Well I have to say... I think it is all a bunch of bull! I've been involved in MLM before and I will NEVER go there again! Most MLM products are not bad but if you search, you will find the same products (most likely under a different brand name) for way less money! Sometimes right on the counter at your local food store! The reason MLM companies charge so much more for the same products that you can find in your local stores, is because that is how the members of that MLM get paid! So before you buy a product from a friend that is involved in an MLM, do your homework and pay less for the same thing!

Sheesh. So the discussion continues. Good. After a 6-month investigation, I have to find any evidence of the berries being cultivated or harvested in either the Himalayas or Tibet. I did find a wholesaler who sells the berries grown in Ningxia, China to people who in turn sell them on the web as "Tibetan" goji berries, however.

The sulfur fumigation trick produces a bright red berry that should be conspicous to anyone, but could still fool some. Sufur-fumigated berries have turned up in Ningxia, Hong Kong, and Xinjiang. One way to check is test the pH of the berries. If it's lower than 4.5, be wary. Normally, the berries have a pH over 5.

I'm looking for proof that any of the berries sold in North America are truly "organic". To my knowledge, most of the berries grown in China are produced using pesticides, even if in only small amounts. That said, 9 shipments from China were refused by the FDA over the last 3 years because of unacceptable levels of pesticides (e.g., cypermethrin, dicofol, pyridaben, and triadimenol). By comparison, that small. Ginseng shipments were refused around 60 times in the same period.

But what get's my goat is the outrageous claims about the berries and even the misrepresentation of the science. For example, there are numerous claims that the berries contain cyperone and solavetione, among other compounds that are not found in Lycium barbarum. All this does is further erode the perception of the medicinal plant industry and brings louder cries for more controls by the FDA who are clearly not doing their appointed job.

And all these outrageoud claims are unnecessary when one looks at the real scence behind the berries. They can stand well enough on their own, thank you. Of course, the problem is that few people have gone to the trouble of accessing the data, which is not an easy task, and for many marketing the berries, the hype will do well enough alone, I suppose.

Thanks for that, Ken.

Thank you for your hones info on the Goji Juice, just for your info the Pomeranian fruit does pretty much the same thing.
I am so glad that there is more info about to stop thoses MLM go getters (yes your well earned dollars).

I tried the Goji juice for 3 months. The doctor put me on it for low white cell blood count as its supposed to regulate the blood. On the pro side I noticed the arthritis in my fingers and the usual waking up with a sore neck completely went away.. wonderful! My skin was much more moist and the usual rash on my chest disappeared.
However on the down side I had to stop taking the juice as I became really hot (overheated) and red in the face (flushed) so hot it was impossible to carry on .... and exactly the same thing happened to my daughter who stopped taking it as well. Really disappointing as I haven't found anything since that is such a good anti-inflammatory and Im back to the sore swollen joints again.
I suspect it is something to do with the testerone (or androgens) that are in the juice and that people are unknowingly playing around with their hormones. My daughter (23 years) since found out that her bad skin problem was due to too much testerone so she has to take something else to counteract that.... can't win eh!!

Would like to know it anyone else has had the same problem!!!

This seems quite similiar in many ways to Noni Juice and that was found to be a scam to say the least.

Aye. If it sounds too good to be true it usually is.

I also have a friend who is obsessed with the miracle "Goji juice" She sells it as well as drinks it and gives it to all of her 7 kids. She pours it on every wound soaks sore feet in it and ingest it daily. I started to look around and see if she was crazy or if I was really missing something. I think it is the same crowd that wants to lose weight by popping pills. Get off your butt and eat right and exercise daily. You will most likely get the same results!!!!

I walked out of a store yesterday with a $40 bottle of Goji juice, based on the enthusiastic recommendation of the shopkeep. Went to the web to figure out what exactly I'd bought, and googled "Goji" and of course got a million testamonial pages, mystical meandering pages & rah-rah-rah sell pages. Thought "Gee, this feels like a scam...". Googled "Goji scam" and immediately found this page, which unfortunately is almost certainly the only information in the lot which had real value. In fact, if I'd read it yesterday, it would have been worth $40 to me.... Ah well, laughing at myself and enjoying my own foolishness along with my "Goji juice". I wonder how it goes with Vodka?

40 $? Owie ...

i gotta tell ya - i've been on auto ship for goji juice for 2 years - $150.00 a month. i'm cancelling, it's more expensive than chivas and quite frankly - way over priced for pear apple and lyceum juice. there have been no miraculous changes after 2 years of drinking 1 quart every week. the freelife structure reminds me of a junkie selling other people dope to support his own habit. its expensive cause all of the mlm margins involved. they call it proprietary - beware of anything called proprietary! mindell calls it the most "nutritionally dense food on earth." well i'm dense all right but not nutritionally. i mean you cant just buy the stuff for yourself unless you are rich - you have to push it too! well, i never did. i don't know what compelled me to google this stuff tonite - but i'm glad i finally did/ i noticed earl mindell's books never mention the goji berry or lyceum - is he bound by non compete non disclosure perhaps? wwhat a bunch of hooey.

2 years? Owie.

Further to my previous post stating that no has translated the Ben Cao Gang Mu, I stand corrected. An English translation was was recently published in 6 volumes by Foreign Languages Press (2003). This should prove an excellent source of original uses of the berries or "gou qi zi", as they are known in Chinese.

As much misinformation and exaggeration as there may be in most of the popular literature on the subject and especially on the web, there is still no richer source of the carotenoid zeaxanthin and there is no doubt that the berries contain immunomodulating polysaccharides. Recent research on zeaxanthin suggests that it may turn out to be even more active than lutein, a structurally nearly identical carotenoid well-known for its use in eye-health products. The berries are also a good source of Beta-carotene and Beta-cryptoxanthin, the latter in greater amount than any other food. Both carotenoids are pro-vitamin A. Still, I've seen analyses that show the berries contain less Beta-carotene than carrots.

As I continue to separate the facts from the fictions about wolfberries (Lycium barbarum L.), I don't see a downside to consuming them. The only safety precautions I've found concern two cases of allergic skin reactions in China in which the patients complained of extremely itchy sores after eating 20-30 grams of the berries and one suspected case of a drug interaction in a woman in the U.S. taking warfarin at the same time as she drank a beverage made from the berries. Once she discontinued the beverage and her dosage of warfarin was adjusted, the prolongation of her blood clotting time returned to normal. Erring on the side of caution, the berries should be avoided by those taking blood-thinners until more is known. As for the allergic skin reactions, both cases were confirmed by clinicians who witnessed that when the same dosages were taken by the patients a second time, they showed the same reaction. It may be that these individuals were allergic to plants of the family Solanaceae and would therefore experience a similar reaction from eating tomatoes.

Thanks again, Ken.

I am a student of chinese medicine at the moment, and i had a classmate that bought the super expensive gou qi zi. We all tried to talk sense to here, but she was adament that the real scam was the one we fell for that there weren't these better berries.

she made us all try hers, and they were a little better than the ones in the school pharmacy (which has cheap herbs). But later i bought some from a herb store I know and trust, and they actually were even better tasting then the really expensive ones she bought, and insisted hers were the best... she was paying like $50/lb for these things, mine were less than $5/lb

anyway, this is beaten to death already, but thought i would add my 2 cents.
oh yea, and one of my teachers, from china, commented recently how she can't believe the over/mis-use of gou qi zi, and how popular it is with people.

Thank you, Henriette, for your brief and witty article about Goji berries. I was actually trying to find info about if one could eat too many of the berries; however, it sounds like they really are just like any other berry, but with a few more aminos, so this burst of energy is probably more from the limiting of alcohol....

Regradless, it is great to hear a different side of the story. I was searching through pages and pages of sites that said "only side effect is smiling too much" which made me gag. Also, why would you drink a juice that wasn't a 100% fruit? (Like POM?!) So those sites were obvious scams. And annoying cause they didn't have any real info. At least now, I know that the berries are NOT a miracle cure (I eat well and exercise so not too worried) but am still curious if I shouldn't be eating so many (~1 cup a day.)

Also, thanks to chinkerpin for the info. I'll swing by there for my breakfast berries.

Oh, this is what I first found online about Goji berries: [I've deleted the too-good-to-be-true "facts". -Henriette]

Thanks Kevin. Way to go, Casey.

I stand corrected, again. One would assume that such a respected source of information on origianl uses of Chinese medicines as the Ben Cao Gang Mu (Compendium of Materia Medica) by Li Shih-zhen (16th century) would supply critical information on Lycium barbarum or "gou qi", and it does. Unfortunately, the recent English translation in 6 volumes published by Foreign Languages Press in 2003 (US$600-US$1000, depending on where you order it) fails to deliver, whether by omitting significant parts of the original text or by mistranslating and misconstruing what it does say. To give you but one example, the recently attempted English translation states that the berries "make one feel happy". Yet according to any number of authorities on the subject of Chinese and traditional Chinese medical terminology, in the original text of the Ben Cao Gang Mu, anything meaning "happy" is not to be found in the section on Lycium or "gou qi". Very likely, this is the source of the term "happy berry", currently found on numerous web sites promoting wolfberry or "goji" products, along with the apparently widely held, false assumption that in Chinese medicine the berries are used to treat depression.

Incidentally, the Chinese characters for Lycium barbarum are transliterated "gou chi" which is pronounced "go-chee" (not "go-jee") and the Chinese name for the berries is "gou qi zi".

Here's another bit of twisted 'information' on the subject. I call it the physalin fallacy. As widely claimed on the web, the berries contain a natural chemical known as "physalin" which is further claimed to have activity against "all major types of leukemia", to increase natural killer cell activity in mice bearing tumors and in normal mice, to hold "broad-spectrum" antitumor activity, and even to have been used "as a treatment for hepatitis B".

In fact, the berries do contain "physalin", which is an outdated and largely abandoned common name for a carotenoid known as zeaxanthin dipalmitate. However, to my knowledge, this constituent has never been used as a "treatment" for hepatitis B, let alone having shown activity against leukemia cells or increasing NK cell activity. What has shown activity against several cell lines of human leukemia are seco steroids known as "physalins B and F", which were derived from an extract of the plant Physalis angulata (see Chiang HC, et al. Anticancer Res. 1992;12(4):1155-62). Because of the potential confusion with the steroidal compounds known as "physalins", the name "physalin" for zeaxanthin dipalmitate was abandoned.

Then there's cyperone and solavetivone. As I mentioned in an earlier post, these compounds have not been found in Lycium barbarum. The claims on the web and elsewhere in promotional literature on the berries are that cyperone, a sesquiterpene, has been used to treat cervical cancer, that it alleviates menstrual discomfort, and that it is beneficial for blood pressure and the heart. Solavetivone, the other sesquiterpene, is claimed to have "powerful" antifungal and antibacterial activity. As in the case of "physalin", no references are provided to back these claims up. Where these sesquiterpenes were found is in the volatile oil of the dried red berries of Lycium chinense Miller, another plant known in Chinese as "gou qi", but for which the berries are widely regarded as inferior to those of Lycium barbarum L. Incidentally, the amounts found in the berries were 0.08 mg solavetivone and 0.05 mg cyperone per 1.4 kg (1,400 grams) of dried berries. How much of cyperone it takes to produce significant effects against cervical cancer or to alleviate menstrual discomfort or benefit blood pressure or the heart, I don't know. That goes for the antibacterial and antifungal activity of solavetivone, too. Presumably, those making the claims would be happy to provide the information and the routes of administration required to produce such activities or "benefits". By the way, solavetivone is also found in potatoes and cyperone is found in tobacco (see Sannai A, et al., Phytochemistry. 1982;21(12):2986-87).

One source of these claims is the book by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., M.H., PhD., Goji: The Himalayan Health Secret (Lake Dallas, TX: Momentum Media; 2003). Here, you will find cyperone, solavetivone, physalin, and more. For example, did you know that "goji berry" contains Beta-sitosterol? According to Mindell, it does! Now show me a plant that doesn't contain Beta-sitosterol, one of the most ubiquitous substances known. Granted, there are some that don't; just not very many. He makes no mention of how much Beta-sitosterol the berries contain, but he does claim that Beta-sitosterol lowers cholesterol, that it's an "anti-inflammatory agent", and that it has served in treating prostate enlargement and sexual impotence. No references are cited to back any of those claims up and how much the berries contain and how much would be required to obtain any of those effects is nowhere to be found in his book. Maybe one day, someone will reveal how much Beta-sitosterol the berries contain. Then, after potentially hours of digging through the literature on the subject, we could calculate how many grams of the berries it would take to get enough Beta-sitosterol to do anything, provided it has sufficient bioavailability.

And the litany of fallacies goes on. What consumers need to do is insist that when a product is claimed to contain a substance with whatever activity, the purveyors of the information provide quantities and effective dosages with references to back their claims up.

not very likely that the "purveyors of the information" would be compelled to provide said references because they can't and if they could they wouldn't. there is no breakdown or analysis of any kind, now that you mention it - and Earl Mindell is a modern day snake oil salesman. before the goji freelife flim flam - very few folks had heard of this "world's greatest authority on nutrition" as freelife refers to him (and he calls himself.

being a privately held company - we cannot determine what mindell's cut or royalty is off of each bottle sold. but i would guess it's substantial. anybody who wears a toupee to appear as a youthful example of his "findings", and has to keep a young trophy wife in assets and "bling" as the kids call it and jokes about "mixing goji with vodka" which i have personally heard him say on a conference call - needs further scrutiny. i learned the hard way - i paid for and drank 104 one qt bottles of the stuff - $3120.00 over two years (which did nothing) - and then i woke up - thanks in part to this webpage. oh yeah, when i called and cancelled my automatic and asked for an email confirmation - customer service curtly said - "we dont have that - you can look it up yourself." and hung up. nice, huh. i was no longer a goji "follower".

About sulfer-fumigated berries, the color is described as an abnormal, bright red rather than an orange-red.

This whole thing is strange... but I am siding with you guys. I think it's absolute nonsense. At first when my mom got into the buisiness, I thought it was awesome! But just today I found out about the truth, and now I realize that it's fake.

Thanks Ken, celebdrive.
That's nice, DolphinSpeaker.

Goji is not exactly "a fake", as you put it, but rather a heavily marketed Chinese medicinal fruit. There's no question that it represents a rich source of nutrients and immunostimulating polysaccharides, for instance. And besides containing an appreciable amount of Beta-carotene, the berries contain a remarkably high amount of zeaxanthin, a carotenoid associated with a reduced incidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Along with lutein, an almost identical carotenoid, zeaxanthin makes up the pigment of the macula of the human eye. Both carotenoids are being tested in a 5-year, placebo-controlled clinical trial in the U.S. for their potenital against the development of AMD. Unfortunately, the hype has clouded the truth about the berries. Coincidentally or not, the berries have a long tradition of use in Chinese medicine or improving vision.

There's much more to the berries than that, but this is hardly the place to get into it. For scientific studies on the berries, for a start I would recommend the book by Gross, Zhang, and Zhang, Wolfberry: Nature's Bounty of Nutrition and Health (2006), and a search in PubMed for the terms "Lycium barbarum" and another search on the subject of "zeaxanthin".

My fear is that once the public learns that the berries are not grown in Tibet or the Himalayas and so many of the exaggerated claims being made about them are revealed for what they are, wolfberries or "goji berries" will be discounted outright and the current media-battered reputation of the herbal industry at large will suffer a further blow.

Great Site, a friend of ours is peddling Goji juice here in Ontario, Canada. He talks about MLM and the pyramid but does not seem to realize he's been suckered. He say's he's "Director 1"?? He's pushing the stuff like crazy and running himself ragged just trying to get the "big check".

Thanks for the blog.
Marc

My uncle just made me get involved with this thing. It sounds too good to be true and the the juice just tastes like fruit punch. Fuck i order two boxes and now i have to get rid of them. fuck

I assume that by "fuck" you mean Fooled Until Convinced and Knowledgeable. Here's another one: CRAP (Can't Really Assure Potency).

From my recent survey of the scientific literature on the subject, these berries are not without merit, as I mentioned before. I see nothing wrong with selling them and there are worse things to market. For all I know, there may even be a MLM organization out there worth working. What we need now are placebo-controlled clinical trials to sort out the facts from the fictions. With all the money being made from their sale, I don't see any valid excuse for not conducting clinical trials. Heck. A small pilot study can be done for around US$50,000. If positive, the results would at least provide reason to move forward with a larger study and if negative, we would have some indication that a give application is likely without merit.

GREAT info, thanks to all that have contributed to the discussion. Mother of a friend of mine is making the big bucks hyping this product, and I was convinced through testimonial tales to buy a carton for MY mom who is suffering with IBS and arthritis. She's downed a bottle, no results (not really surprised, but had hoped for a placebo effect, if nothing else).

Any of you know of anything within the herbal market that can help mom w/ Irritable Bowel Syndrome, but won't interfere with heart meds for arythmia (which mom is on, along w/ Dilantin for post brain tumour surgery to avoid seizures)

There's no evidence that wolfberries will help in IBS. People are trying it for everything, which is fine, as long as you know that without any proof of efficacy against a particular condition, it's a big experiment and that herbal remedies often take two months before you find they work on this or that, or don't.

For IBS, there's a considerable amount of research on a European formula called "Iberogast". Try Google for that term to learn more. I believe it's available in Canada, so it's probably also availabe in the US. Also, a recent placebo-controlled trial in Iran found a combination of Mentha spicata, Melissa officinalis, and Coriandrum sativum with either psyllium or loperamide produced significant benefits on pain and bloating severity and frequency. Try a search at PubMed using the phrase "irritable bowel syndrome AND herbal" and see what comes up. There, you'll see the recent study in Iran and more. One would need to check with the makers of Iberogast to see if they are aware of any contraindications with prescriptions drugs.

Very informative post, I've been skeptical of the whole goji thing for awhile.

Got a quick question however...is there any significant difference between Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinese? I've obtained seeds to both, but haven't been able to discover any difference. Lycium barabum seems a very confusing species, with several synonyms like Lycium europaeum, Lycium halimifolium, Lycium lanceolatum ., etc.

James:
Here's the short answer. Yes, there are numerous synonyms for Lycium barbarum L. However, of those you cite, L. europaeum is distinguishable as a separate species and L. halmifolium is L. barbarum var. barbarum. As for L. chinese Miller and L. barbarum L., these are taxonomically, genetically, and phytochemically different plants. Sometime after you plant the seeds you should see a difference.

The main thing to be skeptical about is the business of them being some kind of cure-all.

Truly funny, funny blog! I appreciate the info on Goji berries being normal Lycium berries. I like the verse in Job 12:8 "ask the plants of the earth, and they will teach you" NRSV version Lots of wonderful medicines & cures ARE awaiting discovery in the plant world. So, all the fakes & shams are just like bogus 100's: unable to invalidate the valuable.

Thanks for saving me a lot of time, money and friends :-)

Someone commented on my web site about Goji so I checked it out before making any move. I'm so glad I found your site first.

I also checked into Earl Mindell, and when I saw that he won a "prestigious" award for his work from the National Nutritional Foods Association, I checked them out... only to get more warnings about THEM being fraudulent as well.

"When the character of a man is not clear to you, look at his friends."
- Japanese Proverb

I once got sucked into trying Noni, by a fellow who is now dead.
It didn't work for me and obviously not for him.
It did however taste great!
Recently, my good sister got me some Mangosteen juice, after being convinced by her good freind (who sells the stuff) that it will fix me.
It too tasted great, but that is all.
Now, someone has approached me with the absolutely wonderfull goji juice.
I haven't got caught a third time, but I am sure that it too will taste great.
All I can say, is, that if any of these juices ever become available at my local super market at normal fruit juice prices, I will certainly buy them.

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