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Updated 18 February 2013

Goji (Lycium spp.)

The dried ripe fruits of Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense, commonly called goji berry or wolfberry, have been consumed for medicinal purposes and as a functional food in China and throughout Asia for at least 2,000 years. Traditionally, goji berry has been used for its antiaging properties, vision-enhancing and immune system-enhancing effects, and support of kidney and liver function, and as a treatment for respiratory diseases. Goji berries contain significant quantities of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidant carotenoid pigments. The leaves, roots, and root bark of Lycium species have also been used medicinally.

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RELATED TERMS

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BACKGROUND

The dried ripe fruits of Lycium barbarum and Lycium chinense, commonly called goji berry or wolfberry, have been consumed for medicinal purposes and as a functional food in China and throughout Asia for at least 2,000 years. Traditionally, goji berry has been used for its antiaging properties, vision-enhancing and immune system-enhancing effects, and support of kidney and liver function, and as a treatment for respiratory diseases. Goji berries contain significant quantities of lutein and zeaxanthin, which are antioxidant carotenoid pigments. The leaves, roots, and root bark of Lycium species have also been used medicinally.

China is the world's main supplier of commercially grown goji berries. In the 21st Century, goji berries and juice have become increasingly popular "superfoods" in the Western world.

Although not well-studied in humans, Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) have demonstrated anticancer, antidiabetic, anti-infertility, antioxidant, blood pressure-lowering, cholesterol-lowering, and immune-stimulating properties. More human clinical studies are needed to investigate goji's potential therapeutic effects.

EVIDENCE TABLE

Conditions

Uses
disclaimer: These uses have been tested in humans or animals. Safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider.
Grade*

Asthma

Preliminary evidence suggests that a traditional Chinese medicine, "Invigorating Kidney," which contains seven herbs, including goji, may improve airway flow in asthmatics. More research is required to determine the effects of goji alone, as well as in combination with other herbs.

C

Cancer

Polysaccharides from goji may have immune-stimulating effects. In human research, cancer patients receiving goji plus immune system-stimulating biological drugs improved more than patients receiving the drugs only. Additional research is needed before firm conclusions can be made.

C

Vision

Goji berries contain high concentrations of antioxidants. Goji-containing dietary supplements are marketed as vision-improving agents. High-quality human clinical studies are required before goji's effect on vision can be evaluated.

C

*Key to grades: A: Strong scientific evidence for this use; B: Good scientific evidence for this use; C: Unclear scientific evidence for this use; D: Fair scientific evidence against this use (it may not work); F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likely does not work).

TRADITION

The below uses are based on tradition, scientific theories, or limited research. They often have not been thoroughly tested in humans, and safety and effectiveness have not always been proven. Some of these conditions are potentially serious, and should be evaluated by a qualified healthcare provider. There may be other proposed uses that are not listed below. Acne, age-related nerve damage, aging, alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, anemia, antiaging, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, antioxidant (free radical scavenging, hypoxia), antitumor, arthritis, athletic performance, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, chemotherapy adverse effects, chronic fatigue syndrome, cough, depression, diabetes, dizziness, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, fever, food uses, gastrointestinal reflux disease (acid reflux), heart muscle injury, high blood pressure (hypertension), hypoglycemic agent (lowers blood sugar), immune function, immune suppression, immune system enhancement, immune system stimulant, immunomodulation, improving circulation, infertility, irritability, kidney protection, leukemia, lipid-lowering effects, liver protection, liver toxicity (protection), low blood platelets, male infertility, muscle strength, neurodegeneration, neurologic disorders, neuroprotection, nosebleeds, oral hygiene, osteoporosis, ovulation disorders, periodontal disease, radioprotection, radiosensitization, respiratory disease, restless legs syndrome, sexual dysfunction, sweating, thirst, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), tonic, type 2 diabetes, well-being, wheezing.

DOSING

disclaimer: The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

Adults (18 years and older)

A dose of 6-15 grams of Lycium berries taken by mouth daily has been suggested. Three to four ounces of goji juice has been taken by mouth. A typical dose is one or more cups of tea daily, with its strength based on the condition being treated.

Children (under 18 years old)

There is no safe or effective dose for goji in children.

SAFETY

disclaimer: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

Allergies

Avoid in those with known allergy or hypersensitivity to goji berries, root bark, roots, leaves, goji components, or members of the Solanaceae family.

Avoid in those with known allergy or hypersensitivity to sulfites or in those with asthma, as undeclared sulfites have been detected in two separate dried goji berry products.

Side Effects and Warnings

Anecdotally, high doses of goji berry extract may cause alertness at bedtime and interfere with sleep, as well as cause nausea and vomiting.

Goji may increase the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in patients with bleeding disorders or those taking drugs, such as warfarin (Coumadin©), that may increase the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.

Goji may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in patients with diabetes or hypoglycemia, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

Use cautiously in patients with low blood pressure or in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that lower blood pressure.

Use caution in combination with radiation therapy, as the Lycium barbarum polysaccharide may enhance the effects of radiation.

Avoid in asthma patients and in patients with sulfite sensitivities. The New York Department of Agriculture detected the presence of undeclared sulfites, a food additive, in two dried goji berry products from China.

Avoid in patients who are allergic or hypersensitive to goji, any of its constituents, or members of the Solanaceae family.

Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women as goji may stimulate the uterus.

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Avoid in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Goji may stimulate the uterus.

INTERACTIONS

disclaimer: Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

Interactions with Drugs

Goji may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that increase the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants (blood thinners) such as warfarin (Coumadin©) or heparin, antiplatelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix©), and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen (Motrin©, Advil©) or naproxen (Naprosyn©, Aleve©).

Goji may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using medications that may also lower blood sugar. Patients taking insulin or drugs for diabetes by mouth should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.

Goji may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients who are taking blood pressuring-lowering drugs.

Goji may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of these drugs may be increased in the blood, and may cause increased effects or potentially serious adverse reactions. Patients using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.

Goji may also interact with antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidepressant agents (including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)), antifungals, antivirals, cholesterol-lowering and triglyceride-lowering drugs, drugs affecting the heart and blood vessels, drugs that are toxic to the liver, hormonal agents (including male sexual hormones), immunosuppressants, insulin, interleukins, and osteoporosis drugs.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

Goji may increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding. Multiple cases of bleeding have been reported with the use of Ginkgo biloba, and fewer cases with garlic and saw palmetto. Numerous other agents may theoretically increase the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.

Goji may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised when using herbs or supplements that may also lower blood sugar. Blood glucose levels may require monitoring, and doses may need adjustment.

Goji may lower blood pressure. Caution is advised in patients who are taking blood pressuring-lowering herbs or supplements.

Goji may interfere with the way the body processes certain herbs or supplements using the liver's cytochrome P450 enzyme system. As a result, the levels of other herbs or supplements may become too high in the blood. It may also alter the effects that other herbs or supplements possibly have on the P450 system.

Goji may also interact with antibacterials, anticancer agents, antidepressant agents (including monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)), antifungals, antivirals, cholesterol-lowering and triglyceride-lowering agents, herbs affecting the heart, herbs that affect the immune system, herbs toxic to the liver, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, iron-containing foods, osteoporosis agents, vitamin C, vitamin C-containing foods, zeaxanthin, zinc, and zinc-containing foods.

ATTRIBUTION

This information is based on a systematic review of scientific literature edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

  • Benzie IF, Chung WY, Wang J, et al. Enhanced bioavailability of zeaxanthin in a milk-based formulation of wolfberry (Gou Qi Zi; Fructus barbarum L.). Br J Nutr 2006;96(1):154-160. View abstract
  • Breithaupt DE, Weller P, Wolters M, et al. Comparison of plasma responses in human subjects after the ingestion of 3R,3R'-zeaxanthin dipalmitate from wolfberry (Lycium barbarum) and non-esterified 3R,3R'-zeaxanthin using chiral high-performance liquid chromatography. Br J Nutr 2004;91(5):707-713. View abstract
  • Cao GW, Yang WG, Du, P. [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 1994;16(6):428-431. View abstract
  • Cheng CY, Chung WY, Szeto YT, et al. Fasting plasma zeaxanthin response to Fructus barbarum L. (wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a food-based human supplementation trial. Br J Nutr 2005;93(1):123-130. View abstract
  • Fu JX. [Measurement of MEFV in 66 cases of asthma in the convalescent stage and after treatment with Chinese herbs]. Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 1989;9(11):658-9, 644. View abstract
  • Gan L, Hua Zhang S, Liang Yang X, et al. Immunomodulation and antitumor activity by a polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum. Int Immunopharmacol 2004;4(4):563-569. View abstract
  • Gan L, Zhang SH, Liu Q, et al. A polysaccharide-protein complex from Lycium barbarum upregulates cytokine expression in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Eur J Pharmacol 2003;471(3):217-222. View abstract
  • Gong H, Shen P, Jin L, et al. Therapeutic effects of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide (LBP) on irradiation or chemotherapy-induced myelosuppressive mice. Cancer Biother Radiopharm 2005;20(2):155-162. View abstract
  • Kim HP, Kim SY, Lee EJ, et al. Zeaxanthin dipalmitate from Lycium chinense has hepatoprotective activity. Res Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol 1997;97(3):301-314. View abstract
  • Lee DG, Jung HJ, Woo ER. Antimicrobial property of (+)-lyoniresinol-3alpha-O-beta-D-glucopyranoside isolated from the root bark of Lycium chinense Miller against human pathogenic microorganisms. Arch Pharm Res 2005;28(9):1031-1036. View abstract
  • Luo Q, Li Z, Huang X, et al. Lycium barbarum polysaccharides: Protective effects against heat-induced damage of rat testes and H2O2-induced DNA damage in mouse testicular cells and beneficial effect on sexual behavior and reproductive function of hemicastrated rats. Life Sci 2006;79(7):613-621. View abstract
  • 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(2):137-149. View abstract
  • Wu H, Guo H, Zhao R. Effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on the improvement of antioxidant ability and DNA damage in NIDDM rats. Yakugaku Zasshi 2006;126(5):365-371. View abstract
  • 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(8-9):716-727. View abstract
  • Zhao R, Li Q, Xiao B. Effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharide on the improvement of insulin resistance in NIDDM rats. Yakugaku Zasshi 2005;125(12):981-988. View abstract
disclaimer: Natural Standard Bottom Line Monograph, Copyright © 2011 (www.naturalstandard.com). Commercial distribution prohibited. This monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. You should consult with a qualified healthcare provider before making decisions about therapies and/or health conditions. disclaimer: While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy. disclaimer: The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)



Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)
 
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