Home > Herbal Glossary > Chinese Herb List > Fructus Lycii
>>Where Does It Grow?
>>Nature and Flavor
>>Identified Active Components / Major Chemical
>>Drug actions in TCM
>>Traditional Uses in TCM
>>Pharmacological Actions
>>Administration and Dosage
Gou Qi Zi
Latin Name: Fructus Lycii
Common Name: Wolfberry / Goji
Scientific Name: Lycium barbarum L.
Chinese Name: 枸杞子
Pinyin Name: gou qi zi
Wolfberry is the ripe fruit of Lycium barbarum L., a deciduous shrub of the Solanaceae family.[1]
Where Does It Grow?
Wolfberry is mainly produced in Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Xinjiang, Gansu and Shanxi regions of China.[1]
Nature and Flavor
Wolfberry is sweet in flavor, neutral in nature, and mainly manifests its therapeutic actions in the liver and kidney meridians.[2]
Identified Active Components/ Major Chemical Constituents 
Major components in wolfberry includes Lycium barbarum glycoconjugates such as LbGp1, LbGp2, LbGp3, LbGp4 & PbGp5; Lycium barbarum polysaccharides such as LBP1a-1, LBP1a-2, LBP2a, LBP3a-1, LBP3a-2, LBPA3, LBPB1, LBPC2 & LBPC4; alkaloids such as betaine; carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, cryptosxanthin, and zeaxanthin dipalmitate; volatile compounds such as hexadecanoic acid, linoleic acid, β-sitosterol and myristic aicd. It also contains amino acids, trace elements, vitamins B & C, lyciumide A and scopoletin.[1]
Drug actions in TCM
Wolfberry nourishes the liver, promotes vision, invigorates the kidneys and replenishes essence.[18]
Traditional Uses in TCM

Wolfberry is usually used in liver and kidney deficiencies that present with lumbar soreness, sexual dysfunction, dizziness, blurred vision, poor vision, cataract and diabetic symptoms.[2][18]

For spermatic emission due to kidney weakness, wolfberry is usually combined with processed rhemannia rhizome, flat-stem milkvetch seed and dodder seed.
For poor vision due to yin deficiency of liver and kidney, it is usually combined with chrysanthemum and rehmannia root. A representative formula for this is the Rehmannia Pills Plus Wolfberry and Chrysanthemum.
For diabetic individuals, it is combined with rehmannia root, dwarf lily-turf tuber and snakegourd root.
For chronic coughs, it is combined with rehmannia root, anemarrhena rhizome, unibract fritillary bulb and lily bulb.

Since the therapeutic actions of wolfberry are mild, it is often used as a nutritional supplement for enhancing overall bodily functioning or restoration. The fruit can be decocted alone, or prepared as medicinal wine or syrup; it can also be added in everyday cooking.
Pharmacological Actions

Effects on immunity

In vitro and animal studies
Many studies have shown that a polysaccharide-protein (LBP) complex isolated from Lycium barbarum (LBP) can enhance the immunity through: induce functional maturation of Dendritic cells, activate macrophages, stimulate proliferation of T cells, and induce IL-2, IL-12p40, IFN-gamma and IL-12p70 production. Furthermore, LBP can significantly enhance macrophage endocytic and phagocytic capacities in vivo.[4][5][6]


Anti-oxidant effect

In vitro study
Polysaccharides were extracted from Lycium barbarum with boiling water, and the antioxidant activities of different polysaccharide fractions were evaluated. Most fractions were effective in scavenging DPPH and ABTS.+ free radicals, superoxide anion and hydroxyl radical at 1000 μg/mL.[7]


Anti-stress effect

Animal study
After a 30-day exhaustive exercise program, researchers determined the lipid peroxidation, glycogen level, and anti-oxidant enzyme activities in the skeletal muscle of male Wistar rats. Results showed that Lycium barbarum polysaccharides can significantly increase glycogen level and anti-oxidant enzyme activity, and decrease malondialdehyde (MDA) level and creatine kinase activity. These indicate that Lycium barbarum polysaccharides administration can decrease the oxidative stress induced by the exhaustive exercise.[8]


Neuro-protective effect

In vitro study
Study has been done to determine whether Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP) can elicit neuroprotection to neurons stressed by A-beta peptides. The results showed that pre-treatment of LBP to cultured neurons can effectively prevent A-beta peptide-induced apoptosis. Moreover, LBP-III, which was separated out from LBP, can markedly reduce the phosphorylation of double-stranded RNA-dependent protein kinase (PKR) triggered by A-beta peptide.[9]


Anti-tumor effects

Clinical study
Seventy nine advanced cancer patients were treated with LAK/IL-2 as well as Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP). 75 patients with malignant melanoma, renal cell carcinoma, colorectal carcinoma, lung cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma or malignant hydrothorax have shown a sign of cancer regression. This treatment had also led to a higher increase of cell activities in NK and LAK than that of LAK/IL-2 only. The results indicate that LBP can be used as an adjuvant in the biotherapy of cancer.[10]


Effects on liver

In vitro study
In order to determine the effects of zeaxanthin dipalmitate (constituents of Lycium chinense) on liver cells, the uptake of [3H]thymidine by cultured rat Ito cells was measured. Moreover, the effects of zeaxanthin dipalmitate on the formation of nitric oxide (NO) from Kupffer cells and peritoneal macrophages were also assayed. The results show that zeaxanthin dipalmitate can significantly inhibit the uptake of [3H]thymidine and collagen synthesis by Ito cells, and the formation of NO in both Kupffer cells and peritoneal macrophages are also significantly decreased. From these results, we can conclude that zeaxanthin dipalmitate exerts a potent hepatoprotective activity by inhibiting Ito cell proliferation and collagen synthesis as well as inhibiting certain functions of Kupffer cells.[11]


Effects on eyes

Animal study
Using an ocular hypertension (OH) model in rat, researchers attempted to find out whether Lycium barbarum can prevent cell death of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) induced by elevated intraocular pressure. Although the intraocular pressure was not significantly changed, ingestion of Lycium barbarum in Sprague-Dawley rats can significantly prevent the loss of RGCs.[12]


Effects on male-fertility

In vitro study
Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) possess the ability to inhibit time- or hyperthermia-induced structural damages in murine seminiferous epithelium, and delay the apoptosis of them. LBP can also inhibit the ultraviolet light-induced lipid peroxidation, and cytochrome c reduction and thus provides anti-oxidative effects to seminiferous epithelium.[13]


Effects on glycemia level and hyperlipidemia

Animal study
The hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of Lycium barbarum water decoction, crude polysaccharide extracts, and purified polysaccharide fractions in diabetic or hyperlipidemic rabbits were determined. The blood glucose and serum lipid levels were measured after 10 days treatment. The results show that the three Lycium barbarum fruit extracts can significantly reduce the blood glucose, serum total cholesterol and triglyceride concentrations, at the same time increase the high density lipoprotein cholesterol levels.[14]


Effect on blood pressure

Animal study
The effects of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP) on endothelial function in the two-kidney, one clip model of hypertension rats were observed. The results show that by treating with LBP, the increase of blood pressure in hypertension rats can be inhibited significantly. The results also suggest that the decrease of vasoconstriction to phenylephrine may be mediated by increasing the effects and production of endothelium-derived relaxation factor.[15]

Many animal studies had proved that wolfberry is safe to eat; it does not contain any toxins and can consume in long-term. [16] However, there is a report mentioned the potential herbal-drug interaction between warfarin and wolfberry.[17]
Administration and Dosage
10-15g each time for decoction.[3]

1. 趙中振,蕭培根主編《當代藥用植物典》香港賽馬會中藥研究院有限公司,2006年8月.
2. 歐明主編《漢英常用中藥手冊》廣東科技出版社,1992年.
3. 雷載權主編《中藥學》上海科學技術出版社,2000年6月.
4. Chen Z, et al. Polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum L. is a novel stimulus of dendritic cell immunogenicity. J Immuno, 2009 Mar 15; 182(6): 3503-3509.
5. Chen Z, et al. Activation of macrophages by polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum L.. Phytother Res, 2009 Aug; 23(8): 1116-1122.
6. Chen Z, et al. Activation of T lymphocytes by polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum L.. International Immunopharmacology ; 8: 1663-1671.
7. Lin CL, et al. Antioxidative activity of polysaccharide fractions isolated from Lycium barbarum Linnaeus. Int J Biol Macromol, 2009 Aug 1; 45(2): 146-151.
8. Niu AJ, et al. Protective effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on oxidative damage in skeletal muscle of exhaustive exercise rats. International journal of biological macromolecules; 42(5): 447-449..
9. Yu MS, et al. Characterization of the effects of anti-aging medicine Fructus lycii on beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity. International Journal of Molecular Medicine; 20(2): 261-268.
10. Cao GW, et al. Observation of the effects of LAK/IL-2 therapy combining with Lycium barbarum polysaccharides in the treatment of 75 cancer patients. Zhonghua Zhong Liu Za Zhi; 16: 428-431.
11. Kim HP, et al. Zeaxanthin dipalmitate from Lycium chinense has hepatoprotective activity. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol, 1997 Sep; 97(3): 301-314.
12. Chan HC, et al. Neuroprotective effects of Lycium barbarum Lynn on protecting retinal ganglion cells in an ocular hypertension model of glaucoma. Experimental Neurology; 203(1): 269-273.
13. Wang Y, et al. Protective effect of Fructus Lycii polysaccharides against time and hyperthermia-induced damage in cultured seminiferous epithelium. Journal of Ethnopharmacology; 82(2-3): 169-175.
14. Luo Q, et al. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and antioxidant activity of fruit extracts from Lycium barbarum. Life Sci; 76: 137-149.
15. Jia YX, et al. The effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on vascular tension in two-kidney, one clip model of hypertension. Sheng Li Xue Bao; 50(3): 309-314.
16. 華夏中醫藥網. 枸杞的功效和用法. Retrieved from the World Wide Web: http://data.zyy123.com/Fruit/Wolfberry/55157.html
17. Leung H, et al. Warfarin overdose due to the possible effects of Lycium barbarum L. Food Chem Toxicol; 46(5): 1860-1862.
18. 沈丕安編著《補益中藥的臨床運用》第二軍醫大學出版社,2008年8月