The Secret Ingredient...


With the change of seasons, colds and sniffles just seem to arrive, just last week my daughter came home complaining of a sore throat and runny nose and asked me to make my “special soup” for her. Of course who doesn’t like a nice bowl of steaming homemade soup when they are feeling unwell? Most people think of chicken soup (unless you’re a vegetarian of course). My “special soup” is chicken soup but it also contains a secret ingredient! I must now admit that it’s not my original recipe but after discovering this recipe a few years ago, it’s now a family favourite for anyone who is coming down with the sniffles.


So what is the secret ingredient I hear you say?

Goji berries!!!

In China the goji berry is used a little differently to the way we use them, most often in savoury dishes such as soups and as a tea.



Goji Berry aka Wolfberry


For over 2,000 years Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has revered the goji berry also known in China as the wolf berry, Gou qi zi or Kei tze, the goji berry also grows naturally in Asia , north and central America and has the ability to survive rugged conditions in such diverse areas as the Himalayas and the scorching Arizona desert. Studies of the more than 100 species of Goji plant, have found the most nutrient and phytochemically dense organic goji berries come from the Lycium barbarum plants, grown in the Himalayan area.


The oldest Chinese herb book, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing, written in 200BC, regarded the goji berry as a “top grade herb” believed to have remarkable health benefits without any harmful effects on humans. According to TCM theory and practice, goji berry can act on both the “liver and kidney channels,” and the major health benefits of wolfberry are its ability to nourish and tonify liver and kidney, improve “jing” the basic elements that constitute the body and maintain life activities), and improve eye function (Chinese Pharmacopoeia 2005).


Not only is the Goji berry used medicinally, but is also popular food in China consumed by its people on a regular basis for the promotion of good health and prevention of disease. It is enjoyed above other herbs because it tastes so much better compared to many of the other bitter roots and barks that may have equally notable medicinal qualities.


Benefits of the Goji Berry Nutrition


Numerous modern studies show that goji benefits, long known to the Chinese, are indeed the result of the presence and combination of several biologically active molecules and some specifics on goji nutrition areas follows:


Macro nutrients

  • 13% complete vegetarian protein with 18 amino acids
  • 8.2% Essential fatty acid
  • 67.7% carbohydrates with 10% fiber, 36% polysaccarides and only 21.7% being simple sugars therefore a low glycaemic fruit



  • A, B1, B2, B5 and B6, C and E



  • Calcium, Copper, Germanium, Iron and Magnesium, Manganese, Phosphorous, Potassium, Selenium, Sodium, Zinc


Antioxidant carotenoids 


  • beta carotene, lutein, lycopene, cryptoxantin & zeaxanthin and numerous phytonutrients



Now I’m not claiming that goji berry is the only ingredient in the “special soup” that will give your immune system a boost –the other ingredients such as onions, garlic, ginger, shitake mushrooms and chillies all have their part to play, but it makes an interesting and very tasty addition to the recipe and besides 2,000 years of Chinese wisdom is hard to ignore!


Keep healthy!



Goji Berry and Chicken Soup




2 onions - sliced

10cm piece of fresh ginger – finely sliced into matchstick size pieces

10 Shitake mushrooms - sliced

2 chillis (as hot as you prefer) - sliced

3 organic chicken thighs with bone or similar pieces of chicken with bone

2 stock cubes (organic, msg preservative free if possible)

2 litres of boiling water (can replace stock cubes and water with same quantity of organic stock if preferred)

1½ cups of dried Goji Berries – soak goji berries in 2 cups of fresh water to reconstitute

10 cloves of garlic finely chopped

Optional – chopped coriander as a garnish!



This is the easy part! Just bung everything in the pot!

1. Place onions, ginger, mushrooms, chillies, chicken, stock cubes and boiling water into a large pot.

2. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 1.5 hours with lid on (until chicken is falling off the bone)

3. Take off heat, remove chicken and flake, then return meat to pot and add drained goji berries and chopped garlic to hot soup.

4. Serve hot soup immediately.


Bucheli P, Gao Q, Redgwell R, et al. Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects of Chinese Wolfberry. In:
Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2011. Chapter 14
Wolfe, David(2009 ) Superfoods North Atlantic books USA
Wong, James ( 2010) Grow your own drugs. Collins UK