Lycium spp


Lycium spp


There are currently 23 species classified in the Lycium genus, however just 2 species, L. barbarum and L. chinense, have the honor of being referred to as Goji, Gouqi, Matrimony Vine, or Wolfberry. Goji belongs to the Solanaceae or nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers, and the herbs ashwagandha, mandrake, and belladonna. Goji is native throughout China and Asia, ranging from Russia to Thailand. While L. chinense and L. barbarum are known as Goji and are the species used in commerce, there are numerous Lycium species native to the deserts of the American West. These North American species were utilized as both food and medicine by Southwestern tribes including the Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi. Goji berries are most popular plant part consumed; however, the whole plant has been utilized medicinally. Both the berry and bark are commonly used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), though the leaves and shoots can be eaten the and the flowers can also be used medicinally. The Lycium plant was also a recorded component of the formulas taken by the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty ~221 BC, and appeared in Shennong Bencao Jing, the first whole materia medica in ~200 CE. Prior to this, the use of Lycium in the mountains of the Ningxia Province was recorded in the Shijing, a collection of poems dating back to 1100 BC.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Goji

Immune Support

What is Goji Used for?

While still considered exotic in the western world, Goji berries are widely consumed in China as a nourishing convalescent food. Goji berries can be consumed as snacks and in soups, and can be prepared medicinally as tea, juice, and wine. A honey is made by bees collecting nectar from Lycium flowers, and Lycium berry seeds can undergo supercritical CO2 extraction to produce an oil. All preparations are used as tonics to promote general health. In TCM, Goji berry is used specifically to support the liver, kidneys, eyes, and lungs. Energetically, Goji berries (often referred to as Fructus Lycii in TCM literature) are sweet, neutral, nourishing and balancing. They are said to tonify liver yin, tonify kidney yin, moisten lung yin, and brighten the eyes. The root bark is used for similar purposes, but considered energetically cold and is used to clear heat. The root is used to support the liver. As more clinical trials are performed, modern medicine continues to validate the traditional knowledge and use of the Lycium plant. In a study done on healthy adults, markers of blood serum antioxidant capacity were shown to increase following supplementation of Goji berry juice, demonstrating the bioavailability of constituents and their ability to support tissues and organs. In another study done on healthy volunteers, supplementation with Goji berry juice was found to increase overall feelings of wellbeing and to support immunological markers lymphocytes and interleukins. Regarding eye health, supplementation with Goji berries was shown to increase plasma levels of zeaxanthin, a macular supporting antioxidant. While the mechanism of action has yet to be elucidated, a study done on healthy, elderly adults, showed that supplementation of a goji berry powdered beverage blend increased plasma antioxidant levels and supported macular health.

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Active Constituents of Goji

Carotenoids (most prominently zeaxanthin), phenolic acids, flavonoids, lignans, triterpenoids

Parts Used


Additional Resources

1. Integrated Taxonomic Information System. “Lycium L. Taxonomic Serial No.: 30531.” ITIS Standard Report - Error, 1996, 2. American Herbal Pharmacopoeia and Therapeutic Compendium. Lycium (Goji) Berry Gougizi Lycium barbarum L., L. chinense Miller: Standards of Identity Analysis, Quality Control, and Therapeutics. 2019 American Herbal Pharmacopoeia Scotts Valley, CA. 3. Karioti, Anastasia, et al. “Validated Method for the Analysis of Goji Berry, a Rich Source of Zeaxanthin Dipalmitate.” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, vol. 62, no. 52, 2014, pp. 12529–12535., doi:10.1021/jf503769s. 4. Qian, Dan, et al. “Systematic Review of Chemical Constituents in the Genus Lycium (Solanaceae).” Molecules, vol. 22, no. 6, 2017, p. 911., doi:10.3390/molecules22060911. 5. Pires, Tânia C.s.p., et al. “Phenolic Compounds Profile, Nutritional Compounds and Bioactive Properties of Lycium Barbarum L.: A Comparative Study with Stems and Fruits.” Industrial Crops and Products, vol. 122, 2018, pp. 574–581., doi:10.1016/j.indcrop.2018.06.046. 6. Potterat, Olivier. “Goji (Lycium Barbarum and L. Chinense): Phytochemistry, Pharmacology and Safety in the Perspective of Traditional Uses and Recent Popularity.” Planta Medica, vol. 76, no. 01, 2009, pp. 7–19., doi:10.1055/s-0029-1186218. 7. Kulczyński, Bartosz, and Anna Gramza-Michałowska. “Goji Berry (Lycium Barbarum): Composition and Health Effects – a Review.” Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences, vol. 66, no. 2, 2016, pp. 67–75., doi:10.1515/pjfns-2015-0040. 8. Li, SZ 1593. Ben cao gang mu (compendium of materia medica). Volume V. Beijing. Foreign Language Pr. 9. Wang, Ying, et al. “Chemical and Genetic Diversity of Wolfberry.” Lycium Barbarum and Human Health, 2015, pp. 1–26., doi:10.1007/978-94-017-9658-3_1. 10. Wang, ZG, Wang, X. 2007. The magic Ningzia goji. Translator: Yun Qi, Zhi Chao Zhou, Schell CJ. Hong Kong; China Pub House. P. 304 11. Duke, J.A., Ayensu, E.S. Medicinal Plants of China Volume 2. 1985. Reference Publications, Inc. Algonac, Michigan 12. Chen, J.K., & Chen, T.T. Chinese Medical Herbology and Pharmacology. 2004. Art of Medicine Press. City of Industry, CA. P. 248, 805, 957 13. Amagase, Harunobu, et al. “Lycium Barbarum (Goji) Juice Improves in Vivo Antioxidant Biomarkers in Serum of Healthy Adults.” Nutrition Research, vol. 29, no. 1, 2009, pp. 19–25., doi:10.1016/j.nutres.2008.11.005. 14. Amagase, Harunobu, et al. “Immunomodulatory Effects of a Standardized Lycium Barbarum Fruit Juice in Chinese Older Healthy Human Subjects.” Journal of Medicinal Food, vol. 12, no. 5, 2009, pp. 1159–1165., doi:10.1089/jmf.2008.0300. 15. Cheng, Chung Yuen, et al. “Fasting Plasma Zeaxanthin Response to Fructus Barbarum L. (Wolfberry; Kei Tze) in a Food-Based Human Supplementation Trial.” British Journal of Nutrition, vol. 93, no. 1, 2005, pp. 123–130., doi:10.1079/bjn20041284. 16. Bucheli, Peter, et al. “Goji Berry Effects on Macular Characteristics and Plasma Antioxidant Levels.” Optometry and Vision Science, vol. 88, no. 2, 2011, pp. 257–262., doi:10.1097/opx.0b013e318205a18f.

Important Precautions

If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

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