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Lycium barbarum

Lycium barbarum


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Gogi, Wolfberry, Matrimony vine, Chinese boxthorn, Go Ji


While used for centuries in Asia, Goji berry or Lycium barbarum products have become prevalent in markets throughout the world in the past decade. It is promoted as a remedy for various conditions and as an energizing tonic.  There appears to be conflicting information as to the identification of similar species, typically referred to Tibetan L. barbarum.

L. barbarum is a deciduous perennial plant that grows from 1-3m high with the taller plants growing in the colder areas.  The plant is woody, with either alternate or groups of spear-shaped leaves that can be as long as 8cm.  The plant produces small lavender flowers in the summer that drop when the berry protrudes which usually occurs in the early fall

Origin / Habitat

L. barbarum is native to Asia, particularly the Himalayan mounts regions where it thrives in harsh conditions. It is presently cultivated globally. It requires well-drained soil, but can thrive in the harshest conditions.

Chemical Constituents

Polysaccharides, zeaxanthin, betaine, cerebroside, beta-sitosterol, p-coumaric acid, 2-O-(beta-D-glucopyranosyl)ascorbic acid [1],[2],[3],[4]

Plant Part Used

Fruit; fruit juice

Medicinal Uses


Improved well-being - tonic
Cancer protective
Immune enhancing
Improve eyesight
Blood sugar regulation

Most Frequently Reported Uses

Improved well-being - tonic
Cancer protective
Immune enhancing


Dosage Range 

Fruit Juice: 30-60mL (2 – 4 ounces) daily

Most Common Dosage

Fruit: 10g (2 teaspoonfuls) of the whole fruits (dried or fresh), three times daily before meals. It is recommended not to use fruits with added sugar or chemical preservatives.

Standardized To

No standardization known.



L. barbarum berry and juice has long been used as antioxidants. L. barbarum berry contains significant amounts of the well-studied antioxidant carotenoid zeaxanthin.[5] Lutein and zeaxanthin are the only carotenoids found in both the macula and lens of the human eye. It also has been found that carotenoid intake also reduces the risk of certain forms of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.[6]

Polysaccharides, isolated from L. barbarum berry, also have been reported to have antioxidant activity.[7],[8] Antioxidant polysaccharides from L. barbarum berry have been reported to help protect against liver damage by reducing oxidative stress in laboratory studies.[9]

Laboratory studies have also found that L. barbarum berry’s antioxidant activity may help protect against doxorubicin (chemotherapy)-induced toxicity and chemotherapy-induced myelosuppressive in mice.[10].[11]

L. barbarum berry is used traditionally in blood sugar regulation. To support this use, a laboratory animal study found that administration of L. barbarum berry polysaccharide for 3 weeks improved insulin resistance and lipid profile in rats that were non-insulin dependent diabetes mellitus (NIDDM).[12] The authors concluded that the mechanism of blood glucose balance might be involved in increasing cell-surface level of GLUT4, improving GLUT4 trafficking and intracellular insulin signaling.

Another 10 day laboratory animal study found that 3 different extracts of L. barbarum berry (a fruit/water decoction, crude polysaccharide extract and purified polysaccharide fraction) significantly reduced blood glucose levels and serum total cholesterol (TC) and triglyceride (TG) concentrations and at same time markedly increase high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels. Hypoglycemic effects in the animals were higher using the purified polysaccharide fraction, but the hypolipidemic effects seemed to be weaker than the water decoction and crude polysaccharide products. Total antioxidant capacity assay showed that all three L. barbarum extracts/fractions had antioxidant activity. However, water and crude fruit extracts had stronger antioxidant activity than purified polysaccharide fractions due to crude extracts being rich in antioxidant phytochemicals, like carotenoids and ascorbic acid.[13]

Laboratory studies have found that administration of L. barbarum berry extracts help improve immune responses, such as increasing the expression of interleukin-2 and tumor necrosis factor-alpha.[14] These immune responses may help protect the body against the risks of developing cancer. [15],[16],[17]

Laboratory studies have found that a polysaccharide-protein complex from L. barbarum berry can activate T cells of the immune system, contributing to one of its immuno-enhancement functions.[18],[19] In vitro studies report that L. barbarum extracts also seem to inhibit the growth of and cause apoptosis in certain cancer cell lines, increase macrophage phagocytosis, increase IL-2 expression reduce lipid peroxidation.[20],[21],[22],[23]

Glutamate excitotoxicity is reported to be involved in many neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease (AD) and Parkinson’s disease. Glutamate levels in the brain can be increased by eating chemicals in foods like MSG or monosodium glutamate, and this can lead to neurochemical and hormonal imbalances that increase the risk of developing neurodegenerative diseases. Laboratory studies have found that a fraction of polysaccharides from L. barbarum fruit provide remarkable neuroprotective effects against beta-amyloid peptide-induced cytotoxicity in primary cultures of rat cortical neurons exposed to glutamate. [24] The studies showed that pretreatment using L. barbarum polysaccharides effectively protected neurons against A beta-induced apoptosis by reducing the release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) and by reducing the activity of both caspase-3 and -2, but not caspase-8 and -9.[25],[26]


In humans, a 30-day randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study using L. barbarum berry (120ml juice daily) in 50 Chinese healthy adults (aged 55-72) found significant antioxidant effects, including higher levels of superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px), and lipid peroxidation (indicated by decreased levels of malondialdehyde, MDA) affer L. barbarum administration.[27]

A 28 day study found that administration of whole L. barbarum berries (15gm daily) to 14 healthy patients markedly increased their plasma zeaxanthin levels.[28] Antioxidants, like those contained in L. barbarum berry, are reported to help with decreasing the effects of aging.[29]

A 14 day, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial examined the general effects of orally administered L. barbarum berry juice (120mL/day, standardized to polysaccharide content).[30] After taking the L. barbarum juice, the subjects reported increased ratings for energy level, athletic performance, quality of sleep, ease of awakening, ability to focus on activities, mental acuity, calmness, and feelings of health, contentment, and happiness. The juice also significantly reduced fatigue and stress, and improved regularity of gastrointestinal function.

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals taking blood-thinning medications, such as aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin).

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

L. barbarum fruit has been reported safe in recommended doses. L. barbarum berry has been thought to increase anticoagulant therapy in case reports, so use with caution if a bleeding disorder exists. [31],[32]  Discontinue if allergy occurs.


No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation


  1. Inbaraj BS, Lu H, Hung CF, Wu WB, Lin CL, Chen BH. Determination of carotenoids and their esters in fruits of Lycium barbarum Linnaeus by HPLC-DAD-APCI-MS. J Pharm Biomed Anal. 5Aug2008;47(4-5):812-818.
  2. Tian M, Wang M. [Studies on extraction, isolation and composition of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides] Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. Oct2006;31(19):1603-1607.
  3. Toyoda-Ono Y, Maeda M, Nakao M, et al. 2-O-(beta-D-Glucopyranosyl)ascorbic acid, a novel ascorbic acid analogue isolated from Lycium fruit. J Agric Food Chem. 7Apr2004;52(7):2092-2096.
  4. Xie C, Xu LZ, Li XM, et al. Studies on chemical constituents in fruit of Lycium barbarum L. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. May2001;26(5):323-324.
  5. Krinsky, N et al. Biologic mechanisms of the protective role of lutein and zeaxanthin in the eye. Annu Rev Nutr 23.2003:171-201.
  6. Kritchevsky SB. Beta-carotene, carotenoids and the prevention of coronary heart disease. J Nutr. 1999; 129:5-8.
  7. Lin CL, Wang CC, Chang SC, Inbaraj BS, Chen BH. Antioxidative activity of polysaccharide fractions isolated from Lycium barbarum Linnaeus. Int J Biol Macromol. 1Aug2009;45(2):146-151.
  8. Li XM, Ma YL, Liu XJ. Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on age-related oxidative stress in aged mice. J Ethnopharmacol. 22May2007;111(3):504-511.
  9. Yu MS, Ho YS, So KF, Yuen WH, Chang RC. Cytoprotective effects of Lycium barbarum against reducing stress on endoplasmic reticulum.Int J Mol Med. Jun2006;17(6):1157-1161.
  10. Xin YF, Zhou GL, Deng ZY, et al. Protective effect of Lycium barbarum on doxorubicin-induced cardiotoxicity. Phytother Res. Nov2007;21(11):1020-1024.
  11. Gong H, Shen P, Jin L, Xing C, Tang F. Therapeutic effects of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP) on irradiation or chemotherapy-induced myelosuppressive mice. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. Apr2005;20(2):155-162.
  12. Zhao R, Li Q, Xiao B. Effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on the improvement of insulin resistance in NIDDM rats. Yakugaku Zasshi. Dec2005;125(12):981-988.
  13. Luo Q, Cai Y, Yan J, Sun M, Corke H. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and antioxidant activity of fruit extracts from Lycium barbarum. Life Sci. 26Nov2004;76(2):137-149.
  14. Gan L, Zhang SH, Liu Q, Xu HB. A polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum upregulates cytokine expression in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Eur J Pharmacol. 27Jun 2003;471(3):217-222.
  15. Li G, Sepkovic DW, Bradlow HL, Telang NT, Wong GY. Lycium barbarum inhibits growth of estrogen receptor positive human breast cancer cells by favorably altering estradiol metabolism. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(3):408-414.
  16. Yuan LG, Deng HB, Chen LH, Li DD, He QY. Reversal of apoptotic resistance by Lycium barbarum glycopeptide 3 in aged T cells. Biomed Environ Sci. Jun2008;21(3):212-217.
  17. Gan L, Wang J, Zhang S. [Inhibition the growth of human leukemia cells by Lycium barbarum polysaccharide] Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. Nov2001;30(6):333-335.
  18. Chen Z, Kwong Huat Tan B, Chan SH. Activation of T lymphocytes by polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum L. Int Immunopharmacol. 10Dec2008;8(12):1663-1671.
  19. Chen Z, Lu J, Srinivasan N, Tan BK, Chan SH. Polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum L. is a novel stimulus of dendritic cell immunogenicity. J Immunol. 15Mar2009;182(6):3503-3509.
  20. Gan L, Hua Zhang S, Liang Yang X, Bi Xu H. Immunomodulation and antitumor activity by a polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum. Int Immunopharmacol. Apr2004;4(4):563-569.
  21. Miao Y, Xiao B, Jiang Z, et al. Growth inhibition and cell-cycle arrest of human gastric cancer cells by Lycium barbarum polysaccharide. Med Oncol. 11Aug2009.
  22. Luo Q, Li Z, Yan J, et al. Lycium barbarum polysaccharides induce apoptosis in human prostate cancer cells and inhibits prostate cancer growth in a xenograft mouse model of human prostate cancer. J Med Food. Aug2009;12(4):695-703.
  23. Zhang M, Chen H, Huang J, Li Z, Zhu C, Zhang S. Effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on human hepatoma QGY7703 cells: inhibition of proliferation and induction of apoptosis. Life Sci.18Mar2005; 76(18):2115-2124.
  24. Ho YS, Yu MS, Yik SY, So KF, Yuen WH, Chang RC. Polysaccharides from Wolfberry Antagonizes Glutamate Excitotoxicity in Rat Cortical Neurons. Cell Mol Neurobiol.5Jun2009.
  25. Yu MS, Lai CS, Ho YS, et al. Characterization of the effects of anti-aging medicine Fructus lycii on beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. Int J Mol Med. Aug2007;20(2):261-268.
  26. Yu MS, Leung SK, Lai SW, et al. Neuroprotective effects of anti-aging oriental medicine Lycium barbarum against beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. Exp Gerontol. Aug-Sep2005;40(8-9):716-727.
  27. Amagase H, Sun B, Borek C. Lycium barbarum (goji) juice improves in vivo antioxidant biomarkers in serum of healthy adults. Nutr Res. Jan2009;29(1):19-25.
  28. Cheng CY, Chung WY, Szeto YT, Benzie IF. Fasting plasma zeaxanthin response to Fructus barbarum L. (wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a food-based human supplementation trial. Br J Nutr. Jan2005;93(1):123-130.
  29. Chang RC, So KF. Use of anti-aging herbal medicine, Lycium barbarum, against aging-associated diseases. What do we know so far? Cell Mol Neurobiol. Aug2008;28(5):643-652.
  30. Amagase H, Nance DM. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum (Goji) Juice, GoChi. J Altern Complement Med. May2008;14(4):403-412.
  31. Leung H, Hung A, Hui AC, Chan TY. Warfarin overdose due to the possible effects of Lycium barbarum L. Food Chem Toxicol. May2008;46(5):1860-1862.
  32. Lam AY, Elmer GW, Mohutsky MA. Possible interaction between warfarin and Lycium barbarum L. Ann Pharmacother. 2001;35(10):1199-1201.

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