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Dried goji berries found their place in the nutrition world spotlight not too long ago. The goji berry grows on the Lycium barbarum and Lycium Chinese plants but beware: these plants are related to the nightshade family which means they contain high amounts of lectins. See our nightshade vegetables list.

So though you may think these dried berries are helping you with weight loss or improving your skin, you need to be mindful of goji berries side effects.

Goji berries are known for the vitamins and minerals they contain. And while they may have vitamins and powerful antioxidant properties, they’re best avoided.

What is the truth about the supposed “superfood,” the goji berry? Read here to learn about goji berries’ side effects from lectins and why to avoid them.

The False Goji Berry Claims: Weight Loss, Energy Levels, And More

goji berries | Gundry MDNever trust a wolf in sheep’s clothing, right? Well, another name for the supposed goji berry “superfood” is the wolfberry. Let’s start with how expensive the goji berry is — what a racket! These pink fruits look like someone stretched a bunch of raisins. Speaking of superfoods, read this Dr. Gundry approved superfood guide.

Food companies have hiked up the price of the goji berry by making claims that the fruit can support better long-term health, eye health, skin health, and fight things like macular degeneration and free radicals.

But, there’s absolutely no evidence that the vitamins in the goji berry make it healthier than any other kind of fruit.

So, when studies claim they can help you fight fatal illnesses, defend against serious heart health issues, boost your energy levels, or help you with weight loss — don’t buy it. In fact, don’t buy goji berries at all.1

Nightshade Plants, Lectins, And Your Long-Term Health

nightshade vegetables | Gundry MDWhat are nightshades, exactly? Well, nightshades are plants from the family Solanaceae. The Solanaceae family includes some common vegetable “favorites” like tomatoes, eggplant, and certain peppers including bell, cayenne pepper, and paprika.

The Belladonna plant is also part of the Solanaceae family. This plant is also called “deadly nightshade”. It’s a highly poisonous plant that’s been used for medicinal or cosmetic purposes since the Middle Ages.

One of the compounds that make nightshades so dangerous is an alkaloid called solanine. This alkaloid is a toxin when used in high concentrations. And solanine poisoning can actually occur from something as simple as eating green potatoes. Solanine won’t usually affect you like the Belladonna, but it could still cause some discomfort for your digestive system.2

Allergic Responses To The Goji Berry — Lectins are one of the single worst things we can put into our bodies, and that’s because they are powerful toxic allergens found in many foods including the goji berry.3

Lectins can disrupt the immune system and prevent your body from healing itself. They can also break through the intestinal barrier, which may lead to a host of health issues including:

  • man with joint pain | Gundry MDFatigue
  • Muscle and joint discomfort
  • Weight gain
  • Arthritis
  • Skin issues
  • Digestive problems4,5

Goji Berry Toxicity — There have been some reported cases of toxicity in relation to the goji berry. In one case, toxic hepatitis related to the use of goji was reported. The symptoms were as follows:

  • Non-bloody diarrhea
  • Lack of energy
  • Abdominal discomfort
  • Yellow skin, eyes, and mucous membranes
  • Red bumps and rash on the skin

The patient’s liver function tests were elevated. Because of the ways in which goji berries are processed, it’s possible the goji berry tea the patient consumed was contaminated.6

woman with eye strain | Gundry MDFurthermore, a toxic alkaloid called atropine is naturally present in the goji berry and should be avoided. That’s because atropine has been known to lead to the following types of health issues:

  • Dizziness
  • Eye discomfort
  • Blurred vision
  • Extreme sensitivity to light7,8

Your Health And Well-Being: Too Much Of A “Good” Thing?

Are Goji Berries Poison?

goji berries growing | Gundry MDRemember, goji berries grow on these two plants: Lycium barbarum and Lycium Chinese. And what was mentioned about these two specific plants? That’s right, they happen to be related to the nightshade family. And the nightshade family happens to contain lots and lots of lectins.

Now, you may have read that goji berries have high antioxidant properties. And antioxidants are great, right?

They’re certainly helpful when it comes to getting rid of toxins and helping to fight free radical damage. But getting your antioxidant supply from foods that happen to be related to the nightshade family is NOT a good idea.

If you’re looking to boost your antioxidant intake, try any number of the following lectin-friendly or lectin-free foods instead of goji berries:

  • In-season berries (in moderation)
  • Red wine (no more than 60z a day)
  • Dill
  • Thyme
  • Mustard
  • Nutmeg
  • Dark chocolate (72% or higher)
  • Leafy Greens (Kale, Arugula)
  • Ginger
  • Olives
  • Pesto
  • Oregano
  • Green Tea
  • Allspice
  • Mint
  • Olive oil
  • Chives
  • Avocado
  • Black Tea
  • Basil
  • Rosemary
  • Millet
  • Lavender
  • Yerba Mate
  • Cinnamon
  • Sage
  • Ginseng
  • Onion

Avoiding Goji Berries For Good

In the end, you’ll want to stay away from goji berries. They’re right up there with chia seeds and acai bowls in terms of fake wellness hype. If you need something to snack on, there are plenty of lectin-free healthy options.

walnuts tryptophanIn fact, why not doctor up a ½ cup of Gundry-friendly Trail Mix:

  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  • Pine nuts
  • Sesame seeds

And to sweeten the mix, break up a couple of squares of 72% dark chocolate or a couple of chopped up dried figs (they’re a flower, not a fruit). This mix tastes great and can give you that added bit of energy to get you through your day. But remember, have no more than ½ cup per day.

So ditch the goji berry. No need to make goji berry juice and coconut water cocktails. And definitely refrain from blending those berries in your smoothie. Your health and your wallet will thank you. There are a bunch of great superfoods out there, but the goji berry isn’t one of them.