- Lycium barbarum is one of two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae from which the goji berry and wolfberry is harvested, the other being Lycium chinense.
- Extensively cultivated in north-central China in about 200,000 acres (2005), the region produced 13,000 tons of fruit in 2001, accounting for 42% of the nation's total production of goji berries.
- In China and other Asian countries, it has been used for more than 2000 years, as
traditional Chinese medicinal herb and, today, as ingredient in food supplements. (2)
- In the United Kingdom, it has been used since the 18th century for hedging, especially in the coastal districts. It grows wild in UK hedgerows, and in 2003, the Department of Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs launched a project to protect the traditional countryside hedgerows, with special mention of Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree. (2)
- The common name Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree refers to the 3rd Duke of Argyll, a plant collector, who first brought the species to UK in the 1730s, under the impression it was a species of tea.
- The common name Goji is derived from the Chinese name 'gouqi'.
-Lycium barbarum is a deciduous woody shrub growing 1-3 m high, with weak arching branches, and side branches often reduced to short leafless spines. Leaves form on the shoot either in an alternating arrangement, or in bundles of up to three. Each leaf is green, scarcely fleshy when fresh, sometimes with rounded tips. Clustered leaves are up to 25 mm long; single alternate leaves up to 55 mm long. Flowers grow singly or in groups of two or three in the leaf axils, pedicels 6-15 mm long. Calyx, eventually ruptured by the growing berry, is a whitish tube crowned by 5 or 6 radial triangular sepals, shorter than the tube, 10-12 mm long and 3-4 mm wide, sometimes 2-lipped, strongly curved. Sepals are whitish on the lower side and deep mauve on the top side. Each flower has 5 stamens, exserted for 3-8 mm, with stalks longer than the anthers. Pistil is 8-11.5 mm long. Anthers are longitudinally dehiscent. Fruit is a bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry, 1-2 cm in diameter. Fruiting calyx is deeply split, once or twice. Seeds vary based on the cultivar, from 10-60, each about 2 mm long, 1 mm wide, yellowish, compressed with a curved embryo. (2)
- Recently introduced.
- Native to China, Inner Mongolia.
- Widely introduced and cultivated worldwide.
- Fruits yield metabolites such as carotenoids, which increases during the ripening. Zeaxanthin dipalmitate is a dominant constituent representing 56% of total carotenoids in the fruit. Also present are ß-cryptoxanthin palmitate, zeaxanthin monopalmitate, small amount of free zeaxanthin, and ß-carotene. Vitamin C content of 42 mg/100g is comparable to fresh lemon fruits. Fruit also contains 1-2.7% free amino acids with proline as main constituent, along with non-proteinogenic amino acids taurine,
γ-aminobutyric acid, and betaine (trimethylglycine). (6)
yield zeaxanthine (83%), ß-cryptoxanthin (7%), ß-carotene (0.9%), mutatoxanthin (1.4%), along with minor carotenoids. (6)
- GC-MS study for essential oil and fatty acids of L. barbarum yielded main constituents of hexadecanoic acid, linoleic acid, ß-elemene, myristic acid and ethylhexadecanoate. (6)
- Roots yielded cyclooctapeptides lyciumins A and B, betaine, choline, linoleic acid and ß-sitosterol.
- Leaves have yielded flavonoids quercetin 3-O-rutinoside-7-O-glucoside, kaempferol 3-O-rutinoside-7-O-glucooside, rutin, nicotiflorin, isoquercitrin, quercetin, and kaempferol. Damascenone and a glucosidic precursor, choline, scopoletin, vanillic acid, salicylic acid, and nicotinic acid have been reported. From the flowers, diosgenin, ß-sitosterol, and lanosterol have been isolated. (6)
- Lycium barbarum contains abundant Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBPs, the primary active component), betaine, phenolics, carotenoids (zeaxanthin and β-carotene), cerebroside, 2-O-β-d-glucopyranosyl-l-ascorbic acid (AA-2βG), β-sitosterol, flavonoids and vitamins (in particular, riboflavin, thiamine, and ascorbic acid). Leaves, fruits, and root bark contain abundant polysaccharides, carotenoids, flavonoids, alkaloids, amides, peptides, anthraquinones, coumarins, lignanoids, terpenoids, sterols, steroids, organic acids, anthocyanins, essential oils, and glycolipids. (21)
- Study of chemical composition and nutritional profile of fruits showed the lipid fraction was characterized by high percentages of unsaturated fatty acids, in particular oleic and linoleic acids, and very low values of atherogenic and thrombogenic indexes (0.1 and 0.2, respectively). It showed to be an interesting source of phytosterols (41.5 mg/100g), essentially represented by ß-sitosterol. Carotenoid analysis showed presence of zeaxanthin in esterified form with high content of zeaxanthin dipalmitate (277.9 mg/100g). The hydroalcoholic extract showed ability to scavenge free radicals. Phenolic acids were abundant followed by flavonols and flavanols.
Studies have suggested anti-aging, antioxidant, neuro/psychologic, hypoglycemic, hypolipidemic, immunomodulatory, anticancer, neuroprotective, nephroprotective, cytoprotective, antibacterial properties.
Fruits, root bark.
- Berries are eaten raw, drunk as juice, wine, or tea.
Berries are popular as ingredient in Chinese cuisine, in soups, porridge with rice, and many meat and vegetable dishes.
- Berries used in Chinese medicine as mild Yin tonic, enriching Yin in liver, kidneys, and moistening lung Yin. Root bark used as cooling agent to "clear heat". Used for blurry vision, infertility, abdominal pain, dry cough, fatigue, and headache; to increase longevity and for premature graying of hair. Decoction of root bark taken for 'yin deficiency', treatment of cough, hemoptysis, hematuria, diabetes, and hypertension. (6)
- Agroforestry: Planted to control erosion and reclaim irrigable soils from desertification.
• Potential Antiaging Effect / Fruit: Study evaluated the potential longevity effects of L. barbarum berry and the underlying mechanisms. Water extracts of L. barbarum berry, which contains 22% polysaccharides and other components, such as anthocyanins, extended the lifespan of Caenorhabditis elegans without side effects on worm fertility and pharyngeal pumping. The lifespan extension effect depended on deactylase sir-2.1. The LBE extended lifespan and alleviated toxic protein aggregation in neurodegenerative worms with hsf-1 deficiency. Results suggest LBE may be a potential antiaging natural dietary supplement, especially for individuals with malnutrition or chronic diseases and a potential therapeutic agent for neurodegenerative diseases characterized by hsf-1 deficiency. (4)
• Use as Anti-Aging Herbal Medicine / Review: Review provides background information and direction for the anti-aging properties of L. barbarum. Variable constituents are zeaxanthin and carotene, polysaccharides, betaine, cerebroside, ß-sitosterol, p-coumaric and various vitamins. Study has demonstrated neuroprotective effects to counter neuronal loss in neurodegenerative diseases. Extracted polysaccharides can protect neurons against ß-amyloid peptide toxicity in neuronal cell cultures. (5)
• Antihyperglycemic / Polysaccharides / Fruits: Study isolated polysaccharides from dried fruits of L. barbarum by boiling water extraction and were evaluated streptozotocin induced diabetic rats. Results showed restoration of abnormal oxidative indices to near normal levels. Results suggest LBP is effective in protecting liver and kidney tissue from damage in STZ-induced diabetic rats and may have potential as an antihyperglycemia agent. (7)
• Neurological and Psychological Benefits / Goji Juice: A randomized- double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial evaluated the general effects of orally consumed goji berry as standardized juice (GoChi) at 120 cc/day to healthy adults for 14 days using subjective measures of general feelings of well-being, neurologic/psychologic traits, gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and cardiovascular complaints, as well as adverse effects. Results showed daily consumption of GoChi increases subjective feelings of general well-being, improves neuro-psychological performance and gastrointestinal functions. (8)
• Effect on Age-Related
Oxidative Stress: Study evaluated the age-dependent changes in antioxidant enzyme activity, immune function and lipid peroxidation and effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-induced oxidative stress in different organs of aged mice. Polysaccharides were orally administered in doses of 200, 350, and 500 mg/kbw over 30 days. Vitamin C was positive control. Results showed increased endogenous lipid peroxidation, decreased antioxidant activities, and immune function observed in aged mice were restored to normal levels in the polysaccharides-treated group. Activity was comparable to vitamin C. Study suggests that LB polysaccharides can be used in compensating the decline in TAOC, immune function, and antioxidant enzyme activities to reduce risks of lipid peroxidation accelerated by age-induced free radical. (9)
• Hypoglycemic / Hypolipidemic / Polysaccharide / Clinical Trial: Prospective, randomized, double-blind clinical trial evaluated the hypoglycemic and lipid-lowering activity of LBP in patients with type 2 diabetes. Results showed remarkable protective effect of LBP in patients with type 2 diabetes, with significantly decreased serum glucose and increased insulinogenic index, along with increased HDL. There was more obvious hypoglycemic efficacy in patients who did not take any hypoglycemic medicine. Results suggest good potential an adjunct treatment for type 2 diabetes. (10)
• Interaction with Warfarin / Case Report / Goji Juice: Study reports on a 71-year old woman who was taking warfarin and hospitalized for markedly elevated, indeterminate normalized ratio (INR) (prothrombin time > 120 sec) after consumption of goji juice, presenting with epistaxis, bruising, and rectal bleeding. After discontinuation of goji juice and warfarin, and treatment with phytonadione, the INR decreased to 2.6 over 2 days. Using the Naranjo adverse drug reaction, probability scale indicated a probably relationship (score of 6) between the elevated INR and use of L. barbarum and warfarin. There have been two other published reports describing similar interactions between warfarin and tea containing L. barbarum. Study underscores the need for physicians to inquire about their patients' use of herbal therapies. (11)
• Immunomodulatory Effect of Polysaccharides / Review: Review provides comprehensive overview of the immunoregulating properties of L. barbarum polysaccharides and mechanisms of action. (12)
• Effect on Oxidative Stress Induced by Exhaustive Exercise: Study evaluated the modulatory effect of L. barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) on oxidative stress induced by exhaustive exercise in male Wistar rats. Results suggest LBP administration significantly increased glycogen level and anti-oxidant enzyme activities, and decreased malondialdehyde (MDA) level and creatine kinase activities. Study suggests LBP can significantly decrease the oxidative stress induced by exhaustive exercise. (13)
• Anticancer Effect of Polysaccharides on Colon Cancer Cells: Study evaluated the growth effect of LBP on human colon cancer cells, human colon cancer SW480 and Caco-2 cells and possible mechanisms. LBP treatment inhibited both colon cancer cell lines in a dose-dependent manner. The LBP exhibited long-term antiproliferative effect. The cells were arrested at the G0/G1 phase. Changes in cell-cycle-associated protein, cyclins, and CDKs were consistent with cell cycle distribution. Results suggest potential as an anticancer agent. (14)
• Inhibition of Oxidative Injury Induced by γ-Irradiation / Polysaccharides / Fruits: Study evaluated the antioxidant effects of L. barbarum polysaccharides isolated from dried fruits and Ganoderma lucidum against membrane damage induced by free radicals generated during γ-irradiation in rat liver mitochondria. The inhibitory effects of GLP were stronger than LBP. The two polysaccharides were more effective than α-tocopherol (VE) in inhibiting irradiation-induced oxidative injury. Results suggest GLP and LBP have potent antioxidant properties i vitro in mitochondrial membranes of rat liver. (15)
• Inhibition of Growth of Estrogen Receptor Positive Human Breast Cancer Cells: Selective estrogen receptor modulators represent accepted therapy for estrogen receptor positive (ER+) breast cancer, exhibit adverse side effects, and reduce patient compliance. The ER+MCF-7 model examined the growth inhibitory effects of Lycium barbarum. Treatment of E2 stimulated cells with LB exhibited a dose dependent growth inhibition of 9.5%-42.8% at Day-3 and 33.9%-83.9% at Day-7. MCF-7 cells retained their mitogenic and metabolic response to E2 and LB downregulated E2-stimulated growth via formation of antiproliferative 2-OHE1 and accelerated conversion of mitogenic 16α-OHE1 to antimitogenic E3. (16)
• Antioxidant Effects of Extracted Polysaccharides / Fruit: Study evaluated the antioxidant activity of polysaccharides extracted from fruits of L. barbarum using six in vitro methods. The polysaccharides showed considerable inhibitory activity in the ß-carotene-linoleate model system in a concentration-dependent manner and moderate concentration-dependent inhibition of DPPH radical. Multiple antioxidant activity of polysaccharides was evidenced by significant reducing power, superoxide scavenging ability, inhibition of mice erythrocyte hemolysis, and ferrous ion chelating property. Results clearly establish the antioxidant potency of the polysaccharides extracted from fruits. (17)
• Neuroprotective Against ß-Amyloid Peptide Neurotoxicity: It was hypothesized that L. barbarum plant extracts exhibited neuroprotective effects against toxins in aging-related neurodegenerative diseases. Study evaluated whether extracts from L. barbarum have neuroprotective effects against toxicity of fibrillar Aß1-42 and Aß25-35 fragments. Primary rat cortical neurons exposed to Aß peptides resulted in apoptosis and necrosis. Pretreatment with LB extract significantly reduced release of LDH, attenuated Aß peptide-activated caspases-3-like activity, and elicited a dose-dependent neuroprotective effect. Results proved the hypothesis by showing neuroprotective effects and contributes to the new therapeutic window for prevention of Alzheimer's disease. (18)
• Neuroprotective Against Homocysteine-Induced Toxicity / Polysaccharides from Fruits: Elevated plasma homocysteine (Hcy) levels increase the risk of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It was hypothesized that the neuroprotective effects of wolfberry is not limited to Aß and can also provide protection against AD risk factors. Study elucidated the neuroprotective effects of wolfberry against Hcy-induced neruronal damage. LBP treatment significantly attenuated Hcy-induced neuronal cell death and apoptosis in primary cortical neurons as demonstrated by LDH and caspase-3 like activity assay. LBP also significantly reduced Hcy-induced tau phosphorylation of tau-1 (Ser198/199/202). LBP treatment suppressed elevation of both p-ERK and p-JNK. Results demonstrated that LBP exerted neuroprotective effects on cortical neurons exposed to Hcy and has potential as disease modifying agent for the prevention of AD. (19)
• Encapsulation of Leaf Polyphenols into Liposomes / Delivery Strategy: Study evaluated the strategy of encapsulation of leaf polyphenols to improve delivery. Liposomes presented entrapment efficiency higher than 75%, nanometric particle size, narrow polydispersity, and good stability. Preliminary findings suggest liposomes can be successfully employed as carriers for polyphenols in pharmaceutical applications. (20)
• Cytoprotective Effects Against Reducing Stress: Study investigated whether L. barbarum extracts protect neurons via mechanisms independent of anti-oxidative effects. Using reducing agent, dithiothreitol (DTT), LBG exhibited cytoprotective effects against reducing stress by lowering the DTT-induced LDH release and caspase-3 activity. DTT can trigger endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress leading to PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) activation. LBG attenuated DTT-induced PERK phosphorylation. Results suggest L. barbarum is not simply an antioxidant, it can also exhibit cytoprotective effects against reducing stress by DTT. (22)
• Potential Mechanisms on Colorectal Cancer: Studies have showed extracts from LB exerted protective effects against colorectal cancer (CRC) cells. Study evaluated the effects of LB on CRC and , core targets, biological functions, pathways, and mechanisms of action. Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes pathway analysis proved core targets were significantly enriched in bladder cancer, pathways in cancer. Docking results demonstrated that ß-sitosterol, glycitein, and quercetin had good binding activity to CRC putative targets. (23)
• Nephroprotective / Mechanisms on Colorectal Cancer: LB polysaccharide (LBP) has been shown to have hypoglycemic and antioxidative properties. Study evaluated the protective effect of LBP-4, the major active component of Lycium barbarum, on the defensive antioxidative mechanisms in kidneys in STZ-induced diabetic rat model. Diabetic rats treated with LBP-4 (10 mg/kg) for 8 weeks showed increased activity of antioxidant enzymes and increased scavenging of oxygen radicals, while the activity of PKC in the renal cortex was maintained at a physiological level. The decreased activation of ERK1/2 in mesangial cells through involvement of PKC may explain the protective mechanism in kidneys of diabetic rats treated with LBP-4. (24)
• Toxicity Study: A toxicological study evaluated the safety of oral intake of goji using standardized Lycium barbarum, fruit juice (GoChi™) in rats administered by oral lavage for 14 consecutive days. At maximum dosage there were no deaths, no organ damage, no histopathological findings of significance. Results suggest GoChi is safe for oral ingestion. (25)
• Inhibitory Effect on Cell Apoptosis and Senescence / Polysaccharides: Lycium barbarum fruit or extract is used in Chinese medicine to modulate body immunity and for anti-aging purposes. Study used L. barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) to elucidate its mechanism of action, evaluated survival rates in vivo and expression profiling of genes related to p53 signaling pathway in a zebrafish model. Results demonstrated the effects of LBPs on cell apoptosis and aging may be mediated by the p53-mediated pathway. (26)
• Immunomodulatory Effects / Clinical Trial: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study of 60 older healthy adults evaluated the systemic effects of LB juice on immune function, general well being, and safety. The GoChi group showed statistically significant increase in number of lymphocytes and levels of interleukin-2 and immunoglobulin G. The GoChi group also showed significant increase in general feelings of well-being, such as fatigue and sleep, and showed a tendency for increased short-term memory. Results suggest daily consumption of GoChi significantly increased several immunological responses and subjective feelings of general well-being without any adverse reactions. (27)
• Neuroprotective Effect in Retinitis Pigmentosa / Clinical Trial: A double-masked, placebo-controlled study evaluated if Lycium barbarum supplements in a 12-month intervention could help delay vision deterioration in 42 patients with retinitis pigmentosa through cone rescue method in measures of sensitivity changes of central visual field, amplitude of full-field electroretinogram (ffERG) including scotopic maximal response and photopic cone response and average macular thickness. Results showed LP supplementation provides neuroprotective effect for the retina. (28)
• Synergism with Doxorubicin Against Breast Cancer Cells / Fruit: Study evaluated the cytotoxic effect of Lycium barbarum fruit extract and its combination with doxorubicin on MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. Single treatment of doxorubicin exhibited significant cytotoxic effect on the cancer cell lines. The combination of LBE and doxorubicin on MCF-7 and MDA-MB-231 cells showed synergistic cytotoxic effect based on fractional effect analysis (FA) and calculated combination index (CI). Increasing the anticancer effect and reducing the risk of dose-dependent cardiotoxicity in anthracycline therapeutic regimen against breast cancer suggest L. barbarum fruits as chemosensitizing and chemoprotective at the same time. (29)
• Acute Hepatoprotective Effect / Methotrexate Toxicity / Fruits: Study evaluated the effect of goji berries fruit extract on hepatotoxicity induced by methotrexate inn rats. Administration of G. berries extract at doses of 200 and 400 mg/kg revealed significant (p<0.001) reduction in serum enzyme activities and anti-inflammatory cytokine levels, and increase in hepatic antioxidant status compared to MTX injected rats. Results revealed acute hepatoprotective effect which may be due to its ability to restore antioxidant status and suppress inflammatory responses. (31)
• Antibacterial / Radical Scavenging / Fruits: Study evaluated the phenolic compounds, free radical scavenging activity, and antibacterial activity of three goji berry biotypes (B1, B2, BUa). Biotype BUa yielded maximum total phenolic content (TPC) of 8.95 mM GAE/ml juice. Same biotype exhibited high levels of free radical inhibition rate of 40%. B1 showed best results with flavonoid content. All biotypes exhibited good antibacterial activity, the most susceptible being S. aureus, with B1 exhibiting highest inhibitory activity against E. coli. (32)
• Neuroprotective for Retinal Ganglion Cells / Polysaccharides: Protecting RGCs from secondary degeneration is a promising direction in glaucoma management. Study evaluated the neuroprotective effect of lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) for retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in different animal models. LBP appeared to exert protective effects by inhibiting oxidative stress and the JNK/c-jun pathway and by transiently increasing production of insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1). Results suggest LBP can delay secondary degeneration of RGCs and the effect may be linked to inhibition of oxidative stress and the JNK/c-jun pathway in the retina. (33)
• In the News: Antidepressant / Berries: In a 6-week RCT in China, supplementation of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide extracted from goji berries reduced subthreshold depression in 25 adolescents, age 12-18. The intervention group received 300 mg of LB polysaccharide per day. Results showed reduced depressive symptoms, mainly cognitive impairment, retardation, and sleep disturbances. Authors acknowledge that the generalizability of the findings were limited by small trial size and sample distribution. And the optimal dose was yet to be established. (34)
- Plants and seeds in the cybermarket.
- Berries processed into tinctures, powders, and tablets.