Goji berries - also known as wolf berries - are tiny dried shriveled looking red berries with a long history of inclusion in therapeutic Chinese Cooking. As with many other therapeutic herbs they are often used in popular Chinese dishes such as congee - a soupy mix of rice, beans, herbs and vegetables with chicken or pork - and in other tonic soups and teas which are consumed regularly.
Goji beries - when consumed daily - have been proven to give extra antioxidant protection which may protect against oxidative stress which is known to cause male infertility. It's easy to put a spoonful of goji berries in a mug of hot tea every day and when they have softened enjoy their delicious fruity taste - they are especially nice in ginger tea. You should always ask your physician before making radical diet changes.
In Chinese medicine goji berries are used to tonify the 'liver yin' and 'kidney yin' which are often deficient in infertility, Goji is a light and nourishing tonic that is regarded as being safe for long-term use without causing 'stagnation' which is associated with many heavier tonic herbs.
One study on male infertility (4) gave forty two men with low sperm counts and poor motility a daily dose of goji berries (15g fresh berries a day) for one month and noted that just over 50% of the men (23) had normal sperm counts after just one month. Ten of the remaining men had similar good results after two months of treatment and and nine men showed no change. In a follow-up after two years all of the men who had responded to the goji treatment (33 men) had all successfully fathered children.
Studies (1) have shown that when goji berries are consumed daily certain changes take place in gene expression that can protect cells from damage especially when cells are damaged or stressed. Other studies (2) have shown that when goji berries are consumed daily skin damage from UV radiation can be significantly reduced as the berries powerfully reduce inflammation and promote healing. Given the onslaught of chemicals our bodies encounter daily goji may help to protect our cells from chemical-induced damage.
Other studies (3) have shown that goji extracts can protect against the oxidative damage that increases with age. Such damage is associated with both male and female infertility. After just thirty days of goji consumption significant changes in antioxidant capacity are noted:
"...increased endogenous lipid peroxidation, and decreased antioxidant activities, as assessed by superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and total antioxidant capacity (TAOC), and immune function were observed in aged mice and restored to normal levels in the polysaccharides-treated (goji) groups."
"...Lycium barbarum (goji) polysaccharides can be used in compensating the decline in TAOC (total antioxidant capacity), immune function and the activities of antioxidant enzymes and thereby reduces the risks of lipid peroxidation accelerated by age-induced free radical."
This study also showed that the antioxidant capacity of goji is increased when consumed with vitamin C. One caution you should be aware of is that goji may interact with warfarin - a commonly used anti-coagulant medication - used to thin the blood. If your sperm counts and motility need help a daily dose of goji berries may help.
This article is for purely informational purposes and is not intended to substitute for medical or nutritional advice for which you should consult a physician or dietitian.
1. J Agric Food Chem. 2011 Sep 28;59(18):10088-96. Epub 2011 Aug 25. Effect of Goji (Lycium barbarum) on expression of genes related to cell survival. Lin NC, Lin JC, Chen SH, Ho CT, Yeh AI.
2. Phytochem Photobiol Sci. 2010 Apr;9(4):601-7. Mice drinking goji berry juice (Lycium barbarum) are protected from UV radiation-induced skin damage via antioxidant pathways. Reeve VE, Allanson M, Arun SJ, Domanski D, Painter N.
3. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 May 22;111(3):504-11. Epub 2006 Dec 28. Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-related oxidative stress in aged mice.
Li XM, Ma YL, Liu XJ.
4. Xin Zhong Yi, New Chinese Medicine, 1988;2:20