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What Is the Difference Between Wolfberries & Goji Berries?

author image Allison Adams
Allison Adams has worked as a registered dietitian since 1996. She began writing professionally in 2000, with work featured in a variety of medical publications such as "Women's Health Magazine" and the "New England Journal of Medicine." Adams holds a Master of Science in nutrition and food sciences from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Goji berry is the commercial name for wolfberry. Wolfberry is a fruit of two closely related species called Lycium barbarum and L. chinense. Additional names for wolfberry include chinese wolfberry, barbary matrimony vine, mede berry, red medlar, Duke of Argyll's tea tree, bocksdorn, murali and matrimony vine. However, goji berry refers specifically to the Lycium chinense species of wolfberry.

The Name Confussion

The Chinese typically refer to wolfberry as gouqi. Individuals marketing wolfberry started using the word goji to match and simplify the pronunciation of the Chinese word. According to "Wolfberry: Nature's Bounty of Nutrion and Health," the name goji first appeared in 1973. Starting in 1977, the name goji started to appear on packaging for teas that contained wolfberries.

The Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-Level marketing companies also played a role in the confusion of wolfberry and goji. MLM companies formerly sold products marketed as Tibetan Goji juice and Himalayan Goji Juice. These MLM companies stated on the product labels that the juice was made from wolfberries, Chinese Lycium barbarum. Other companies started to copy this material, creating further confusion about the relationship between wolfberries and goji berries.

Wolfberries vs. Goji Berries

Both of these berries are part of the family known as Lycium berries, and both goji berries and wolfberries have the same red color and taste. The generic wolfberry grows in various regions across China. The specific goji berry variety, however, only grows in specific areas of Tibet, mainly in Mongolian areas. In other words, goji is a specific type of wolfberry that grows in a unique region but shares the same properties as other types of wolfberries.

Uses of Wolfberries and Goji Berries

In Tibetan medicine, doctors use the wolfberry for its tonic and immune-building properties and often will incorporate the wolfberry into formulas that include other botanicals and herbs. According to Tibetan medicine, wolfberry has neutral and sweet energetic properties making it suitable for the treatment of both hot and cold diseases. Additionally, wolfberries may specifically benefit cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases and have anticancer properties. However, currently available clinical research does not support the use of wolfberries or goji berries to treat specific medical conditions. You should, therefore, speak with your doctor prior to using wolfberries to treat a specific medical condition.

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