Many traditional herbs as well as the tried and tested ancient herbal practices that are linked with them are vanishing as a result of human encroachment of the medicinal plants’ natural environment. One organization, the Tanaduk Institute Botanical Institute in Tibet is helping stem this tide of extinction, focusing on the Tibetan Goji berries which have come into Western consumer consciousness recently as a potent health food supplement.The Tanaduk Institute has studied 41 varieties of the Lycium species and has identified a Goji berry species, Lycium tibeticum/chinensis worthy of conservation and cultivation for the outstanding health benefits it brings. The institute has solicited the collaboration of Tibetan lama doctors and local researchers. The cultivation method deemed appropriate to preserve the genetic makeup of the identified Goji berry species was devised, mimicking the exact conditions by which these plants grows in its natural environment which is the secluded hillsides and valleys of the Himalayas. In this environment, the conditions are extreme cold and extreme heat. Nonetheless, the soil is alkaline-rich and fertile, allowing for the growth of nutrient-rich Tibetan Goji berries.
The institute subsequently organized a farmers’ cooperative to teach them the cultivation method called wildcrafting. An international outlet for the Tibetan Goji berries was also set up to share the health advantages of the fruits and raise funds for the conservation of other Himalayan medicinal plants herbs, and for the benefit of the farmers as well.
It would have been a great loss, had the Tanaduk Institute did not pursue its project to propagate and promote Tibetan Goji berries internationally. The nomadic peoples of Tibet and Mongolia have been chronicled to be using for thousands of years these berries for medicinal purposes such as protecting the liver, improve the body’s immunity, fertility and sexual function. These berries have also been recorded as having enervating effects particularly in strengthening the legs and fostering an efficient circulatory system.
In more recent literature on Tibetan Goji berries, these fruits have been cited as anti-cancer agents because of their anti-oxidant properties. Goji berries have also been proposed as a rich source for carotenoids like beta-carotene and zeaxanthin, a key element in inhibiting age-related eye degeneration.
As a food source, Goji berries can deliver much of what the body needs, as most promotional materials on the products attest. Included in these promotional claims of nutrient content contribution to a person’s diet are 18 amino acids, 11 essential minerals, 6 vitamins, 5 unsaturated fatty acids, calcium, potassium, iron and zinc.
The Tibetan Goji berries production pushed by the Tanaduk Institute not only stands out as helping propagate the many benefits that could be derived from the plant. The wildcrafting methods that it devised are said to be based on traditional organic way cultivation that does away with chemical-based fertilizers and pesticides. Combined with natural-rich soils and the unpolluted environment of the Himalayas, what result are organic crops that not only meet Western standards on organically grown produce but also help preserve an herbal species and some revered traditions.