Goji berries can reduce skin cancer risk

29 January 2010

Goji berry juice offers "significant protection" against skin cancer, according to scientists.

The berry, Lycium barbarum, also known as wolfberry, has long been recognised in traditional Chinese medicine for various therapeutic properties based on its antioxidant and immune modulating effects.

Scientists at the University of Sydney have now shown that liquid containing just five per cent goji berry juice "significantly reduced" the inflammatory oedema (fluid retention) of the sunburn reaction in hairless mice. Their results are published in the Royal Society of Chemistry's journal Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences.

Scientists compared the effects of Himalayan Goji Juice, containing 89 per cent goji juice and approximately eight per cent other fruit juices (grape, pear, apple and pear puree) added for flavour, with those of JustJuice apple and pear from Woolworths. The fruit juices were diluted with pre-boiled and cooled tap water and were offered to the mice freshly prepared every day. Mice not given goji juice had a marked sunburn inflammatory reaction that developed over the following 48 hours. Goji berry juice drinking mice were found to have a significantly reduced oedema at each measurement point until 48 hours.

The inflammatory sunburn reaction was strongly reduced. Minor components of other fruit juices (pear and apple) did not contribute to the goji berry juice protection, nor did additional vitamin C.

Vivienne E. Reeve, of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney, said: "The immune protection could not be ascribed to either the minor excipients in the goji juice, pear and apple juice, nor the vitamin C content, nor the preservative, and appeared to be a property of the goji berry itself. Antioxidant activity in the skin was demonstrated by the significant protection by five per cent goji juice against lipid peroxidation induced by UVA radiation."

Dr Reeve said this, and another recent study showing humans aged 55-72 years drinking whole goji berry juice reported improvements in antioxidant activity, demonstrates that "the goji berry has significant and complex antoixidant properties when included in the human diet."

"This study is the first to identify the amelioration of photodamage in the skin by oral goji berry juice consumption. The other identified components of the goji berry also provide potential immune regulatory and anti-cancer possibilites. This study has revealed in the mouse, properties of oral goji berry juice that offer significant protection against UV radiation induced inflammatory sunburn, immune suppression and oxidative stress, factors recognised as prerequisite contributors to the creation of cancer. Therefore goji berry juice might prove to be useful in preventing skin cancer development in susceptible humans."

The goji berry has a long history of health applications that 'nourish the blood, enrich the yin' in Chinese medicine dating back to the 7th century Tang dynasty. Several published studies in Chinese literature report medicinal benefits such as antioxidant properties, protection against inflammatory diseases, vision-related diseases, neurological diseases as well as anti-cancer and immunomodulatory effects.


V Reeve et al, Photochem. Photobiol. Sci., 2010,  DOI:10.1039/B709856A

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