Lycium chinensis, Lycium barbarum
Wolfberry, the berry of the Lycium chinensis plant, have a long history of use in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Chinese herbal medicine is part of an ancient and complex medical system that analyzes the effects of treatments in terms of their effects on the "energy" of various organs. Within this system, lycium berry has the following effects: nourishing liver and kidneys, moistening the lungs and supplementing the yin. (For more information on these pre-scientific medical concepts, see the full Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine article.) Typical uses based on these actions include life extension and treatment of dry skin, dizziness, diminished sexual desire, low back pain and chronic dry cough.
The Tibetan Goji berry is closely related to Chinese lycium.
What Is Wolfberry Used for Today?
Wolfberry is a nutritious food, containing relatively high levels of numerous vitamins and minerals. However, other proposed uses of wolfberry have no meaningful supporting evidence.
For example, while wolfberry is widely marketed as a life extension aid, there is no scientific evidence that it offers this benefit. In fact, even within the framework of traditional Chinese herbal medicine, the herb's action is far more complex and it would not be expected to prolong life per se. Much the same can said regarding the proposed uses of wolfberry to enhance male or female sexual function.
Weak evidence from test tube studies, far too preliminary to rely upon at all, hints at potential liver protective,1-3 anti- Alzheimer's Disease,4anti-cancer,5 and cholesterol - and blood-sugar -lowering 6 effects.
Wolfberry tincture is typically taken in a dose of 3-4 tablespoons daily. For standardized extracts or other forms of the herb, follow label instructions.
As a widely used food, wolfberry is thought to be relatively safe. However, it has not undergone comprehensive safety testing. Maximum safe doses in pregnant or nursing women, young children, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
1. Ha KT, Yoon SJ, Choi DY et al. Protective effect of Lycium Chinese fruit on carbon tetrachloride-induced hepatotoxicity. J Ethnopharmacol. 2004;96:529-35.
2. Ram VJ. Herbal preparations as a source of hepatoprotective agents. Drug News Perspect. 2003;14:353-63.
3. Chin YW, Lim SW, Kim SH et al. Hepatoprotective pyrrole derivatives of Lycium Chinese fruits. Bioorg Med Chem Lett. 2002;13:79-81.
4. Yu MS, Leung SK, Lai SW et al. Neuroprotective effects of anti-aging oriental medicine Lycium barbarum against beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. Exp Gerontol. 2005;40:716-27.
5. Zhang M, Chen H, Huang J et al. Effect of lycium barbarum polysaccharide on human hepatoma QGY7703 cells: inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis. Life Sci. 2005;76:2115-24.
6. Luo Q, Cai Y, Yan J et al. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and antioxidant activity of fruit extracts from Lycium barbarum. Life Sci. 2004;76:137-49.
Last reviewed December 2015 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Last Updated: 12/15/2015
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