The Medicinal Plant Garden

of Birmingham-Southern College

  • Lycium barbarum
  • Lycium barbarum

Common Name

Chinese Boxthorn, Wolfberry, Duke of Argyll’s Tea Tree, Gogi Berry, Matrimony Vine

Related Species

Lycium chinenese (Van Wyk and Wink, 2004)

Geographic Distribution and Habitat

Lycium barbarum originated in South Eastern Europe to Western China and is now widely cultivated in many countries including nearly all of the United States. This plant is resistant to various weather conditions but grows best in forest edge habitats in well-drained soil (USDA NRCS).

Description

L. barbarum is a perennial shrub of the Solanacae family (USDA NRCS). It grows anywhere from 1-3 meters tall and produces red or dark red fruit around 20 mm in length. Each plant usually produces anywhere from 20-50 berries. Berries are soft and fleshly and are uniformly flat and bent upward on one side. Leaves are ovate-lanceolate shape with broadest leaves in the middle (Van Wyk and Wink, 2004).

Portion of the Plant Used

Fresh or dried berries as well as the dried roots of L. barbarum are used. The bark is harvested for its useful physiological effects (Van Wyk and Wink, 2004).

Traditional Uses

The berries of L. barbarum serve an extensively important role in the traditional medicines of China, where they have been used as antipyretic, anti-inflammatory and anti-senility agents (Jin et al., 2013). The berries are normally consumed in stews and soups. Root infusions and extracts are used in treatment of high blood pressure (Van Wyk and Wink, 2004).

L. barbarum contains many active ingredients that improve physiological traits and produce pharmacological products. Large quantities of amino acids and carotenoids are present, which aid in nutritional balance and eyesight. The berries also contain many essential oils and sesquiterpenoids lactones, which have been thought to have anti-cancer activities. The bark is rich in polyamine kukoamine A, which aids in reducing blood pressure, as well as peptides Lyciumine A and B that produce antioxidant and immune enhancing effects (Van Wyk and Wink, 2004).

Research

A large amount of research has recently been conducted on L. barbarum. The active ingredients in the plant appear to be novel polysaccharides (See Jin et al., 2013 for a review), which have neuroprotective (Yang et al., 2012; Hongying et al., 2013), antitumor/anticancer and immunomodulatory (See Tang et al., 2012 for a review), antioxidant (See Potterat, 2010 for a review), anti-aging (See Chang and So, 2008 for a review), and anti-diabetic (Jin et al., 2013) activities among others.