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Goji (Lycium spp.)

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Also listed as: Wolfberry, Lycium chinense
Related terms
Background
Evidencetable
Tradition
Dosing
Safety
Interactions
Attribution
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • Arabinogalactan proteins, ascorbic acid, atropine, Barbary wolfberry, betaine, beta-sitosterol, boxthorn, carotenoids, Chinese boxthorn, Chinese matrimony vine, Chinese wolfberry, cortex Lycii radicis, Di Gu Pi, Digupi, dried wolfberries, fructus Lycii, fructus Lycii berry, fructus Lycium barbarum L., GoChiT, goji berry, goji juice, gou qi (Chinese), gou qi zi (Chinese), gouqi (Chinese), gouqizi (Chinese), Kei Tze, L. exsertum, L. fremontii, Lacto-Wolfberry, lutein, Lycii berries, Lyciichinensis, Lycii fructus, Lycii fruit, Lycium, Lycium barbarum, Lycium barbarum L., Lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP), Lycium californicum, Lycium chilense, Lycium chinense, Lycium chinense Miller, Lycium europeaum, Lycium halimifolium Mill., Lyciumnodosum, Lycium parishii, Lycium ruthenicum, Lyciumshawii, Lycium vulgare Dunal, matrimony vine, Ning Xia Gou Qi (Chinese), polysaccharides, scopoletin, Solanaceae (family), Tibetan goji berry, vitamin C, wolfberry, wolfberry fruit, zeaxanthin.
  • Select combination products: Runmushu oral liquid (rehmannia root, figwort, lilyturf root, dendrobium stem, wolfberry fruit, chrysanthemum, and sticktight).

Background
  • The origin of goji berries is unknown. Goji berries have been used as food and medicine for over 2,000 years in Asia. The common name, "wolfberry," is often used in science. There is some controversy as to whether goji and wolfberry are the same fruit. Most experts agree that they are similar, but not identical because they are grown in different parts of Asia. However, the health-food industry has adopted the name, "goji," which may come from the Mandarin name, "gouqi."
  • The leaves, roots, and root bark have been used as medicine. Goji berries have been used for kidney, liver, and eye health. They have also been used for immune enhancement, male infertility, and anti-aging purposes. Goji berries are rich in nutrients such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Goji berry is being studied for eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, vision loss with age.
  • Data is still limited, but there is a growing body of research on goji. Some compounds in goji berries have been studied for possible anticancer, antidiabetic, blood pressure-lowering, anti-infertility, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering, and immune-stimulating effects.

Evidence Table

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 *


In traditional Chinese medicine, an herbal combination product that contains wolfberry, has been used to treat asthma. Further study is needed to determine the effect of wolfberry alone.

C


Compounds in goji are found in a variety of plants and have been reported to have immune enhancing benefits. One study looked at the use of goji with powerful immune-stimulating drugs in the treatment of various cancers. Further study on wolfberry alone is needed.

C


Early study suggests a lack of effect of goji on cognition in healthy adults. Further research is needed.

C


Early research suggests that wolfberry may affect immune response. However, further study is needed in this area.

C


A combination treatment that includes goji berries has been found to have possible benefits for skin health and may reduce wrinkles. However, information is needed on the effect of goji berries alone.

C


Goji is a popularly marketed product for vision enhancement. Goji berry contains many nutrients, including vitamins A, C, and E, carotenoids, beta-carotene, lutein, and zeaxanthin. These compounds are believed to help prevent age-related eye diseases. Early research suggests that whole wolfberries may help improve zeaxanthin levels in the body. A combination product was found to improve tear production. More research is needed in this area.

C


Early study suggests that GoChiT fruit juice may help reduce waist circumference, but not body weight. More research is needed to confirm these results.

C


Early study has explored the possible effects of goji on well-being. The fruit juice GoChiT appears to improve some measures of well-being. Further study is needed in this field.

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 for this use (it may not work)
F: Strong scientific evidence against this use (it likley does not work)


Tradition / Theory

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, ADHD, aging, alcohol abuse, Alzheimer's disease, anemia, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, antioxidant, arthritis, athletic performance, autism, bowel health, chemotherapy side effects, chronic fatigue syndrome, clogged arteries, cough, depression, diabetes, dizziness, fatigue, fever, food uses, gastrointestinal reflux disease (acid reflux), gum disease, heart muscle injury, high blood pressure, improving circulation, infertility, irritability, kidney protection, lipid lowering effects, liver protection, low blood platelets, muscle strength, nerve disorders, nosebleeds, oral hygiene, osteoporosis, radiation therapy side effects, respiratory disease, restless legs syndrome, ringing in the ears, stress, sweating, thirst, tonic.

Dosing

Adults (18 years and older)

  • Doses of 6-15 grams daily of goji berries are commonly used. Doses of 3-4 ounces of goji juice have been used for a variety of conditions. Traditionally, goji has been taken in the form of one or more cups of tea daily.
  • 120 milliliters of goji juice (GoChiT) has been taken by mouth daily for up to 30 days has been taken to improve cognition, enhance the immune system, improve vision, and to improve well being.
  • For weight loss, 120 milliliters of goji juice (GoChiT) has been taken by mouth daily (90 milliliters at breakfast and 30 milliliters at bedtime) for 14 days, along with exercise and calorie restriction.

Children (under 18 years old)

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

Safety

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 if allergic or sensitive to goji berries, root bark, roots, leaves, their parts, or to members of the Solanaceae family. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to sulfites, as dried goji berry products may contain sulfites. There may be cross-sensitivity to peaches, tomatoes, tobacco, and nuts.

Side Effects and Warnings

  • Goji may affect the risk of bleeding. Caution is advised in people with bleeding disorders or taking drugs that may affect the risk of bleeding. Dosing adjustments may be necessary.
  • Goji may lower blood sugar levels. Caution is advised in people with diabetes or low blood sugar, and in those taking drugs, herbs, or supplements that affect blood sugar. Blood sugar levels may need to be monitored by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, and medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Goji may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs or herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Use cautiously in people undergoing radiation therapy. Goji may increase sensitivity to radiation.
  • Use cautiously in pregnant or breastfeeding women. Goji may stimulate the uterus.
  • Use cautiously in people who have skin conditions. Goji may cause skin reactions and sun sensitivity.
  • Use cautiously in people who have stomach disorders. Goji consumption may cause nausea, and vomiting.
  • Use cautiously in people who are allergic or sensitive to peach, tomatoes, tobacco, and nuts. Goji may have cross-sensitivity with these items.
  • Goji may interfere with the way the body processes certain drugs using the liver's "cytochrome P450" enzyme system.
  • Drowsiness or sedation may occur. Use caution if driving or operating heavy machinery.
  • Avoid in people who have asthma.
  • Avoid if allergic or sensitive to goji berries, root bark, roots, leaves, their parts, or to members of the Solanaceae family. Avoid if allergic or sensitive to sulfites, as dried goji berry products may contain sulfites.
  • Goji may also cause fever, liver problems, or sleep problems (in high doses).

Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

  • There is a lack of scientific evidence on the use of goji during pregnancy or breastfeeding. Goji may stimulate the uterus.

Interactions

Interactions with Drugs

  • Goji may affect the risk of bleeding when taken with drugs that affect the risk of bleeding. Some examples include aspirin, anticoagulants ("blood thinners") such as warfarin (Coumadin®) or heparin, anti-platelet drugs such as clopidogrel (Plavix®), and non-steroidal 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. People taking drugs for diabetes by mouth or insulin should be monitored closely by a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist. Medication adjustments may be necessary.
  • Goji may cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking drugs that lower blood pressure.
  • 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. People using any medications should check the package insert, and speak with a qualified healthcare professional, including a pharmacist, about possible interactions.
  • Goji may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some drugs. Examples include benzodiazepines such as lorazepam (Ativan®) or diazepam (Valium®), barbiturates such as phenobarbital, narcotics such as codeine, some antidepressants, and alcohol. Caution is advised while driving or operating machinery.
  • Goji may also interact with agents that affect the immune system, agents toxic to the liver, agents that improve cognition, agents that treat heart disorders, antibiotics, anticancer agents, antidepressants (monoamine oxidase inhibitors [MAOIs]), antifungals, antivirals, cholesterol-lowering agents, exercise agents, eye agents, hormonal agents, insulin preparations, interleukins, lung agents, osteoporosis agents, sedatives, skin agents, and weight loss agents.

Interactions with Herbs and Dietary Supplements

  • Goji may affect the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to affect 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 affect the risk of bleeding, although this has not been proven in most cases.
  • 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 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 cause low blood pressure. Caution is advised in people taking herbs or supplements that lower blood pressure.
  • Goji may increase the amount of drowsiness caused by some herbs or supplements.
  • Goji may also interact with antibacterials, anticancer herbs and supplements, antidepressants (monoamine oxidase inhibitors [MAOIs]), antifungals, antioxidants, antivirals, cholesterol-lowering herbs and supplements, herbs and supplements that affect the immune system, herbs and supplements toxic to the liver, herbs and supplements that improve cognition, herbs and supplements that improve exercise performance, herbs and supplements that treat eye disorders, herbs and supplements that treat heart disorders, herbs and supplements that treat lung disorders, herbs and supplements that treat osteoporosis, herbs and supplements that treat skin disorders, hormonal herbs and supplements, iron, sedatives, vitamin C, weight loss herbs and supplements, zeaxanthin, and zinc.

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).

Bibliography
  1. Amagase H and Nance DM. Lycium barbarum increases caloric expenditure and decreases waist circumference in healthy overweight men and women: pilot study. J.Am.Coll.Nutr. 2011;30(5):304-309.
  2. Arroyo-Martinez Q, Saenz MJ, Arguelles Arias F, et al. Lycium barbarum: a new hepatotoxic "natural" agent? Dig.Liver Dis. 2011;43(9):749.
  3. Bucheli P, Vidal K, Shen L, et al. Goji berry effects on macular characteristics and plasma antioxidant levels. Optom.Vis.Sci. 2011;88(2):257-262.
  4. Carnes J, de Larramendi CH, Ferrer A, et al. Recently introduced foods as new allergenic sources: sensitisation to Goji berries (Lycium barbarum). Food Chem. 4-15-2013;137(1-4):130-135.
  5. Franco M, Monmany J, Domingo P, et al. [Autoimmune hepatitis triggered by consumption of Goji berries]. Med.Clin.(Barc.) 9-22-2012;139(7):320-321.
  6. Gomez-Bernal S, Rodriguez-Pazos L, Martinez FJ, et al. Systemic photosensitivity due to Goji berries. Photodermatol.Photoimmunol.Photomed. 2011;27(5):245-247.
  7. Ho YS, So KF, and Chang RC. Anti-aging herbal medicine--how and why can they be used in aging-associated neurodegenerative diseases? Ageing Res.Rev. 2010;9(3):354-362.
  8. Larramendi CH, Garcia-Abujeta JL, Vicario S, et al. Goji berries (Lycium barbarum): risk of allergic reactions in individuals with food allergy. J.Investig.Allergol.Clin.Immunol. 2012;22(5):345-350.
  9. 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. 2010;27(3):785-790.
  10. Monzon Ballarin S, Lopez-Matas MA, Saenz Abad D, et al. Anaphylaxis associated with the ingestion of Goji berries (Lycium barbarum). J.Investig.Allergol.Clin.Immunol. 2011;21(7):567-570.
  11. Paul Hsu CH, Nance DM, and Amagase H. A meta-analysis of clinical improvements of general well-being by a standardized Lycium barbarum. J.Med.Food 2012;15(11):1006-1014.
  12. Rivera CA, Ferro CL, Bursua AJ, et al. Probable interaction between Lycium barbarum (goji) and warfarin. Pharmacotherapy 2012;32(3):e50-e53.
  13. Sin HP, Liu DT, and Lam DS. Lifestyle modification, nutritional and vitamins supplements for age-related macular degeneration. Acta Ophthalmol. 2013;91(1):6-11.
  14. Tang WM, Chan E, Kwok CY, et al. A review of the anticancer and immunomodulatory effects of Lycium barbarum fruit. Inflammopharmacology. 2012;20(6):307-314.
  15. Vidal K, Bucheli P, Gao Q, et al. Immunomodulatory effects of dietary supplementation with a milk-based wolfberry formulation in healthy elderly: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Rejuvenation.Res. 2012;15(1):89-97.

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


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.

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