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On The Other Hand, We Can Do Without These…

Goji berries ‘help fight skin cancer’ (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life/health-fitness/health/Goji-berries-help-fight-skin-cancer/articleshow/5524176.cms)

Nice to read, right?

At first glance, maybe, but a thorough examination of the article shows why it is such careless headlines such as these that fool the public into buying herbs and using them “off-label”.  Thus, the skeptics and naysayers are justified (apparently).

Let’s look at the article and see just how the wolfberry (aka Goji) does this.  Does it actually help contain the spread of melanoma?  Does it help kill squamous cell carcinoma cells?

In traditional Chinese medicine, the superfruit berry lycium barbarum, also known as wolfberry, has long been recognized for various therapeutic properties based on its antioxidant and immune-boosting effects, reports  The Daily Express  .

Okay, good start.  We’ll expound on wolfberry later.

And now, scientists at University of Sydney have found that liquid containing just five per cent goji berry juice can reduce the inflammatory oedema (fluid retention) of the sunburn reaction in hairless mice.

I can see how this will be useful in burns, scalds or any acute tissue repair.  Let’s get on to cancer!

To reach the conclusion, scientists compared the effects of Himalayan Goji Juice, containing 89 per cent of the juice and eight per cent other fruit juices added for flavour – grape, pear, apple and pear puree – with those of JustJuice apple and pear from Woolworths.

The study has been published in the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences.

Okay, so there’s a “control” that doesn’t taste like water.  Where’s the data on CANCER?

Dr Vivienne Reeve, of the University of Sydney, said, “Goji berry juice might prove useful in preventing skin cancer development in susceptible humans.”

That’s it?  HOW?  From preventing edema to preventing skin cancer… HOW?

Where’s the REST of the article?  If you’re going to make claims and headlines like that, better have more data!

The article ends with

But Dr Alison Ross, of Cancer Research UK, said, “This study in mice does not provide evidence that drinking goji berry juice can offer any protection against the skin-damaging effects of excessive sun exposure in people.”

Darned right it doesn’t!  And I’m not being sarcastic!  Where’s the evidence in this study that drinking goji berry juice prevents cancer?!?!?  At least, where’s the LINK to the research in the article?  What’s the study name so I can research it myself?  ARGH!

And what is so special about wolfberry anyway? From tcm.health-info.org: (http://tcm.health-info.org/Herbology.Materia.Medica/gouqizi-properties.htm)

Properties: Sweet, neutral

Enters Liver, Lung and Kidney Meridians

Nourishes Liver and Kidney, Benefits Essence, enriches Yin

Also Used For:

Orally, Gou Qi Zi / lycium is used for diabetes, hypertension, fever, malaria, and cancer. It’s also used for improving circulation, erectile dysfunction, dizziness, and tinnitus. It is used as an eye tonic for blurred vision, macular degeneration, and other ophthalmic disorders. Lycium is also used orally to strengthen muscles and bone, and as a blood, liver, and kidney tonic. It is used orally to reduce fever, sweating, irritability, thirst, nosebleeds, hemoptysis, cough, and wheezing.
In foods, the berries are eaten raw and used in cooking.

Okay I can see how it works but does it justify calling it king of herbs or whatnot?  That’s what most of them herb pusher quacks say.  Oh, and I’m sure you’ve heard about people talking about how goji berry was found in the himalayas and all that.  I couldn’t help but snicker at that.  You see, the truth is that wolfberry isn’t that exotic.  From acupuncture today (http://www.acupuncturetoday.com/herbcentral/lycium_fruit.php) :

Also known as the Chinese wolfberry, lycium comes from a medium-sized bush that is native to east Asia and Europe. In China, the best lycium grows and is cultivated in the Ningzia (sic), Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

A little far from Tibet, eh?  Well okay, Qinghai is beside tibet…

Last time, I talked about how western “herb experts” took Ma Huang (ephedra) and turned it from a sweat inducer and body warming herb into the ultimate weight loss stimulant.  What happened as a consequence of this off-label use?  We all know.  And we ended up with Ma Huang taking a bad rap.  Now “they” are doing it with other herbs.  At least they chose a relatively safer herb like wolfberry (which is, by the way, used everywhere in China for cooking also).  But there is no justice in overhyping it.  It just makes real chinese medicine look bad.

I’m not doubting that these herbs can help cancer patients, but let’s keep the information down to earth and useful, not giving them false hope.  Wolfberry nourishes yin – I can see how it can help mediate chemotherapy side effects, but to come out with headlines like this is just irresponsible, in my not-so-humble opinion.

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  1. April 4th, 2014 at 20:29 | #1

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