Goji berries have been used for 6,000 years in Chinese herbalism to protect the liver, help eyesight, boost immune function, improve circulation, and promote longevity. Goji berries, also known as Lycium barbarum, wolfberry, gou qi zi, and Fructus lycii are usually found dried. They are shriveled orange-red berries that look like red raisins.
Goji berries have been eaten in Asia for ages to promote longevity and currently are used to help treat diabetes, women’s health, high blood pressure, and age-related eye problems. Goji berries can be eaten raw or cooked and are becoming more prevalent in juices, herbal teas, and medicines. Since they have short shelf life it is a good idea to store them in a cool place or even in the refrigerator.
What are the health benefits of goji berries?
Goji berries are rich in vitamins and antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD).
Some studies using goji berry juice found benefits in mental well-being and calmness, athletic performance, happiness, quality of sleep, and feelings of good health. Significant animal research has demonstrated anticancer, antidiabetes, antihypertensive, anti-infertility, anti-myelosuppressive, antioxidant, hypolipidemic, immune-stimulating, and radiosensitizing properties.
Goji berries are a member of the nighshade family, so if you are sensitive to nightshades, it may be a good idea to avoid or limit your intake of goji berries.
Goji Berry Congee Recipe
Traditionally known as “rice water”, congee is eaten throughout China as a breakfast food. It is a thin porridge, usually made from rice, although other grains may be used. 
1 cup rice, millet, or quinoa
6 cups water
1/4 cup goji berries
1 pear, cut in half (optional)
2-3 dates (optional)
Cook in a covered pot four to six hours on warm, or use the lowest flame possible; a crockpot works well for congees and can run on low overnight. It is better to use too much water than too little, and it is said that the longer congee cooks, the more “powerful” it becomes.
Five more ways to eat Goji Berries
Put them in your cold cereal or oatmeal like raisins.
Make a cold or hot tea infusion.
Bake them in cookies or muffins
Combine them with your favorite nuts and dried fruit in a trail mix.
Cover them in chocolate!
The theory of the natural elements is an enduring philosophy across cultures, appearing in separate countries in vastly different eras around the world.
The ancient Greeks used the five elements of earth, water, air, fire, and “aether” (quintessence/spirit) as a guiding principal to better understand the universe. Both ancient Egyptians and Buddhists understood the elements as fire, water, air, and earth. Hinduism utilizes the five elements (earth, water, fire, wind, and “aether”) as well. In fact, the seven chakras pair with Hindu and Buddhist five element theory. Western astrology also makes use of the four classical elements in astrological charting.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Five Element theory (also called Wu Xing) is a powerful, foundational lens through which medicine, our bodies, and the world at large can be viewed. Fire, Earth, Metal, Water, and Wood are understood to be the Five Elements in TCM.
Each element is awarded a number of characteristics and correspondences. They all have their separate natures, movements, directions, sounds, times of the day, and much more. Similar to Yin Yang theory, many specific aspects of life and the world can be attributed to a certain element.
In addition to these basic qualities, the elements also correspond with certain internal organs, tastes, emotions, and sense organs in Traditional Chinese Medicine—a very important feature of the theory with great implications to the medicinal practice.
Below are the Five Elements and their commonly discussed and widely held attributes.
- Season: Summer
- Direction: South
- Color: Red
- Environment: Hot
- Taste: Bitter
- Emotion: Joy
- Organs: Heart; Small Intestine
- Sense Organ: Tongue
- Bodily Tissue: Blood vessel
- Season: Late summer
- Direction: Center/Middle
- Color: Yellow
- Environment: Damp
- Taste: Sweet
- Emotion: Worry
- Organs: Spleen; Stomach
- Sense Organ: Mouth
- Bodily Tissue: Muscles
- Season: Fall
- Direction: West
- Color: White
- Environment: Dry
- Taste: Pungent
- Emotion: Grief
- Organs: Lung; Large Intestine
- Sense Organ: Nose
- Bodily Tissue: Body hair
- Season: Winter
- Direction: North
- Color: Black
- Environment: Cold
- Taste: Salty
- Emotion: Fear
- Organs: Kidneys; Urinary Bladder
- Sense Organ: Ear
- Bodily Tissue: Bone
- Season: Spring
- Direction: East
- Color: Green
- Environment: Windy
- Taste: Sour
- Emotion: Anger
- Organs: Liver; Gallbladder
- Sense Organ: Eye
- Bodily Tissue: Tendons
In TCM, the Five Elements are dynamic: they create, control, and constantly interact with each other. Each element is said to generate—give rise—to another element. This generating sequence is a type of “mother-son” relationship, where the parent gives life to and nurtures the child. In Five Element theory, Fire generates Earth. Earth generates Metal. Metal generates Water. Water generates Wood. Wood generates Fire. One jumping off point for remembering this sequence is to think of how rubbing twigs (ie: wood) together can create fire.
Additionally, each element controls and is controlled by another element, creating a system of checks and balances. Ideally, this system guarantees that one element will not over-dominate another element for any lengthy period of time. The controlling sequence is as follows: Fire controls Metal. Metal controls Wood. Wood controls Earth. Earth controls Water. Water controls Fire. An easy way to begin memorizing the controlling relationships is to think of how water can easily douse—control—fire.
Disturbances in these natural generating and controlling orders give rise to pathological symptoms. For instance, if the Wood element is too excessive in the body it may begin “over-controlling” the Earth element. This is a common pathology in clinical practice. One way it can be used is to understand why feeling excessively angry (Wood’s emotion) can give one a stomachache (the Stomach is one of Earth’s organs).
These symptoms are intricately analyzed in AOMA’s didactic classes and utilized to great effect in clinical settings. Even without going into the depth required in Chinese medicine school, however, Five Element theory can provide structure to our daily lives, an understanding of the interconnectedness of our planet, and a richer appreciation of our bodies. Put simply, the Five Elements can be seen as a natural law of the universe.
About the author: Carly Willsie enjoys putting Yin Yang theory into practice as an acupuncture school student and tutor. Carly grew up on a dairy farm in upstate New York and has a background in journalism and publishing.
Herbalists are trained in the healing properties of medicinal plants and consult with their clients about how to improve their health with these natural preparations. The two most recognized ways to become a professional herbalist is by either becoming a Naturopathic physician or Chinese medicine practitioner.
Herbal Medicine Careers
Herbal medicine can be practiced and integrated into other professions in a variety of ways:
- As a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist (in most states)
- As a naturopathic physician (in some states)
- As herbal educators in institutions/schools, industry/retail or community settings
- Medicinal plant research (may include phytochemistry, pharmacognosy, agriculture/horticulture, botanical authentication, etc.)
- Herbal medicine can create a niche market or clientele for landscapers, medicinal herb growers or plant nurseries
- Massage therapists with herbal training, often include/utilize topical herbal preparations
- Small scale herbal manufacturing with emphasis on tonic teas, medicated honeys and topical preparations (food-like preparations or topical preparations are the least invasive and least problematic legally)
Herbal Medicine Programs
The American Herbalist Guild
(AHG), a non-profit, educational organization that works to promote a high level of professionalism and education in the study and practice of therapeutic herbalism, recommends that a program of herbal education includes courses in botany, therapeutic herbalism and pharmacognosy (the study of drugs derived from plants and other natural sources). Classes in basic human sciences, including anatomy, pathology, physiology and nutrition are also a fundamentally important part of the curriculum. In addition, the AHG recommends students get training in counseling, physical assessments, dosing strategies and other clinical skills.
The study of Chinese herbalism usually occurs within an accredited acupuncture and Oriental medicine program. The herbal curriculum within most Chinese medicine programs will include an in-depth study of the Chinese Materia Medica
, theoretical principles and practical application of traditional Chinese dietetics, individual herbs and their functions, hands-on herbal labs, preparation of herbal formulations, and modification of classical formulas.
Apprenticeships are incredibly helpful in integrating the “knowing and the doing”. Apprenticeships are not a typical component of most western herbalism programs but are often sought after by herb students looking for a supervised introduction to working with clients and gaining valuable clinical experience.
The American Herbalist Guild has a mentoring program that supports student practitioners (or mentees), to develop their clinical skills by linking student practitioners with those who have significant clinical herbal experience.
Students who study herbal medicine within an accredited Chinese medicine degree program students practice herbal formulation with modifications as well as prescribe Chinese patent herbs under supervision. A minimum of 72 hours of herbal clinic internship hours are required in AOMA’s herbal program.
Currently, the US healthcare system does not recognize western herbal practitioners as healthcare providers in and of themselves. There are currently no federal or state agencies that regulate western herbal practice. Naturopathic doctors are licensed to use this therapeutic modality in the 17 states that recognize ND’s as primary care providers.
While some countries have minimum education standards to be an herbalist, standards are not the same between or even within countries. Medical herbalists are licensed by The National Institute of Medical Herbalists (NIMH), the UK’s leading professional body representing herbal practitioners. Members are required to have professional indemnity, public liability and medical malpractice insurance.
To practice Chinese herbal medicine in most states, one must also hold an acupuncture license, although states vary in their requirement of other TCM components like herbal medicine. Almost all licensing states require completion of the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine’s(NCCAOM) national written exam which offers distinct certification programs in acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and Asian bodywork.
About the author:
Jenny Perez has been working to re-connect plants and people for more than 15 years by sharing her passion and practices of urban horticulture, kitchen medicine and therapeutic nutrition. She managed the Bastyr University medicinal herb garden for 7 years, was adjunct faculty for their Botanical Medicine Department for 5 years and created and directed the Holistic Landscape Design certificate program. Currently, she works as the Education Coordinator for the American Botanical Council. Founded in 1988, the American Botanical Council is a leading international nonprofit organization using science-based and traditional information to promote responsible use of herbs, teas, medicinal plants, essential oils, and other beneficial plant-derived materials.
What is Accreditation?
When looking at an educational program of any nature, one important factor to consider is accreditation. Accreditation is the process used within higher education to evaluate the quality of colleges, universities, and educational programs. It is a form of endorsement signifying that a college, university, or educational program offers a legitimate form of education.
Schools obtain accreditation by applying to have their institution or curriculum reviewed by an independent accrediting agency. Accrediting agencies are private, nongovernmental educational associations designed to conduct external quality assessments. Each agency sets educational and institutional standards for the types of programs, colleges, or universities it accredits.
Within the U.S. there are many different accrediting agencies that evaluate and accredit programs based on criteria specific to the nature and purpose of each agency, or to a specific field of study. While the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) does not accredit institutions directly, it does determine which accrediting agencies receive official recognition by the DOE.
In addition to meeting other eligibility requirements, institutions attain eligibility for federal funds by achieving accreditation. However, only agencies recognized by the DOE are able to accredit institutions and educational programs making them eligible to receive federal funds, including federal student financial aid.
Regional accreditation is a form of institutional accreditation that is granted after a school has completed a comprehensive peer review process of all its institutional functions. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes regional accrediting agencies for six geographic regions of the United States. These include:
Because the institutional standards for obtaining regional accreditation are rigorous, regional accreditation ensures a high level of educational quality and effectiveness for students. In general, credits obtained at a regionally accredited institution can be accepted as transfer by other schools, including other regionally accredited colleges or universities.
Regional accreditation may be granted to public and private, nonprofit, and for-profit, two- and four-year institutions.
National Accreditation is typically granted by an accreditation agency that focuses on a particular type of education. National accreditation agencies are often specific to institutions that offer single-purpose degree programs, occupational, vocational, or professional education and training and degrees. Examples of national accreditors include:
Many national accrediting agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is a private, nongovernmental agency that recognizes independent accrediting agencies, though it employs a different process and criteria for recognition than the US Department of Education. CHEA maintains an online list of accrediting agencies it recognizes.
Specialized Programmatic Accreditation
Programmatic accreditation refers to a type of accreditation for a specialized discipline or field of study offered by an institution, but does not necessarily evaluate the college or university as a whole. Specialized accreditation exists within more than 90 disciplines, encompassing the fields of education, health care, law, the arts and humanities, community and social services, and personal care and human service.
Programmatic accreditation agencies ensure that a program of study offered by an institution complies with current educational standards for a specific professional field or academic discipline. Some programmatic accreditors may require regional accreditation as a foundation prior to granting accreditation, and many specialized programmatic accrediting agencies are recognized by the US Department of Education.
Examples of specialized programmatic accreditors include:
Asking about Accreditation
To determine if a specific college, university, or educational program is accredited consult the school’s website, catalog, or ask the school’s admissions department. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of recognized accrediting agencies with information about the nature and purpose of each accreditor.
To learn more about AOMA Graduate School of Integrative Medicine’s accreditation and affiliations, please visit www.aoma.edu/about-aoma/accreditation-and-affiliations/. For more additional information about accreditation for the field of acupuncture & Oriental medicine, please visit the Accreditation Commission for Acupuncture & Oriental Medicine (ACAOM)
"Accreditation in the United States." College Accreditation in the United States -- TOC. US Department of Education (DOE), n.d. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/index.html>.
Eaton, Judith S. Accreditation and Recognition in the U.S. Rep. Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), 2012. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www.chea.org/pdf/AccredRecogUS_2012.pdf>.
Jang, D. "What Is Regional Accreditation and Why Is It Important?" Weblog post. Western Interstate Commission of Higher Education (WICHE). WICHE, 12 Aug. 2010. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www.wiche.edu/knowledge/14295>
"Types of Accreditation." Western Assocation of Schools and Colleges (WASC). WASC, n.d. Web. 23 May 2013. <http://www.wascsenior.org/about>