Other Common Names:
Matrimony vine, Chinese wolfberry, Tibetan goji berry, Gou Qi Zi. Another closely related species, L. chinense Mill., is also used therapeutically.
Parts of the plant used:
Fruit (berry), root bark, and sometimes the leaves.
How is it used?
The berries can be eaten alone, but are also processed into juices and tablets. The fruit has a mildly sweet licorice-type flavor and may be eaten raw or cooked. Only the fully ripe fruits should be eaten. The leaves are a tea substitute. The root bark is known in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Di Gu Pi and Gou Qi Gen Pi. It is used primarily against coughs, as well as bleeding disorders. Animal studies have shown the Lycium root bark has antibiotic actions as well as the potential to lower blood pressure. Limited studies in humans show that the root bark may be of therapeutic value in the treatment of diabetes. For this reason, caution should be exercised if taking root bark preparations along with medications to treat diabetes.
What is it used for?
The plant has a long history of medicinal use in China and other parts of the Orient, both as a general, energy restoring tonic and also to cure a wide range of ailments from skin rashes and eyesight problems and diabetes. A tonic tea is made from the leaves. The fruit of many members of the genus Lycium is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavonoids as well as other compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids (EFA), which is somewhat unusual for a fruit. Go ji is valued in Chinese traditional medicine for its benefits to anti-aging, vision, kidney and liver. Recent studies showed that extracts from L. barbarum possess biological activities including anti-aging, anti-tumor, immune-stimulatory effects, as well as protecting cells from free-radical damage. Most of the studies emphasized that the protective function of a L. barbarum extract is due to its anti-oxidant effects. In animal studies, both Lycium barbarum and L. chinense have been shown to lower blood glucose levels, improve glucose tolerance, promote weight loss, and reduce fatigue. The active ingredients in the plant also have lipid (fat) modifying effects such as decreased total cholesterol and triglycerides, and increased high density lipoprotein or HDL, also known as “good cholesterol”. Laboratory (in vitro) analysis of Go ji fruits showed that multiple active ingredients are responsible for its antioxidant properties. The fruits are rich in various plant chemicals (known as phytochemicals) such as carotene, riboflavin, ascorbic acid, thiamine, nicotinic acid, betaine, coumarin, zeaxanthin, crytoxanthin, as well as numerous minerals including copper, iron, zinc, manganese, magnesium, selenium, and calcium. Natural antioxidants may theoretically have the potential for use in retarding the aging process and preventing damage to the nervous system in Alzheimer’s disease. Laboratory studies undertaken in animals have shown that Go ji berry possesses antitumor effects and may stimulate the immune system. Further clinical research is needed in order to establish this herb’s usefulness in the treatment of certain types of cancer and arthritis. The active ingredients in the Goji berry may also protect the liver from certain toxins, but mote clinical studies are necessary. A sweet tonic decoction made from the fruits is used to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels and seems to act principally on the liver and kidneys. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the fruit is taken internally for the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, poor eyesight, vertigo (dizziness), lumbago (lower back pain), impotence (erectile dysfunction) and menopausal complaints. The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. The root bark is a bitter, cooling, antibacterial herb that is used to treat coughs and lower fevers, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. Go ji berry is also taken internally in the treatment of chronic fevers, internal hemorrhages, nosebleeds, tuberculosis, coughs and asthma. It is applied externally to treat genital itching. The bark is harvested in the winter and dried for later use and has diuretic and purgative actions.
Further studies are needed on the mechanisms of Go ji’s effects, and additional studies are needed to determine its clinical usefulness in humans. Products made from Go ji have not been thoroughly evaluated in pregnancy and lactation. Potential herb-drug interactions may exist certain medications known as blood thinners, such as warfarin, for example, which may increase bleeding, as well as for medications used to treat diabetes (the interaction could theoretically result in abnormally low blood glucose levels). Commercially available products containing Go ji berry juice may also contain various amounts of orange and / or grape juice, which are usually high in sugar.
Before you decide to take any medicinal herb or herbal supplement, be sure to consult with your health care professional first. Avoid self-diagnosis and self-medication: Always be on the safe side!