Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants 6(12): 437-445, December 2018
©2018 Academia Publishing
A review of Goji berry (Lycium barbarum) in Traditional Chinese medicine as a
promising organic superfood and superfruit in modern industry
Accepted 3rd December, 2018
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been used for thousands of years by
different generations in China and other Asian countries as foods to promote good
health and as drugs to treat disease. Goji berry (Lycium barbarum), as a Chinese
traditional herb and food supplement, contains many nutrients and
phytochemicals, such as polysaccharides, scopoletin, the glucosylated precursor,
amino acids, flaconoids, carotenoids, vitamins and minerals. It has positive effects
on anitcancer, antioxidant activities, retinal function preservation, anti-diabetes,
immune function and anti-fatigue. Widely used in traditional Chinese medicine,
Goji berries can be sold as a dietary supplement or classified as nutraceutical food
due to their long and safe traditional use. Modern Goji pharmacological actions
improve function and enhance the body ,s ability to adapt to a variety of noxious
stimuli; it significantly inhibits the generation and spread of cancer cells and can
improve eyesight and increase reserves of muscle and liver glycogens which may
increase human energy and has anti-fatigue effect. Goji berries may improve brain
function and enhance learning and memory. It may boost the body ,s adaptive
defences, and significantly reduce the levels of serum cholesterol and triglyceride,
it may help weight loss and obesity and treats chronic hepatitis and cirrhosi s. At
present, they are considered functional food with many beneficial effects, which is
why they have become more popular recently, especially in Europe, North America
and Australia, as they are considered as superfood with highly nutritive and
antioxidant properties. Geographical origin of Goji berries is one of the most
important quality parameters in TCM since the differences in climate, soil, and
cultivation methods cause differences in the chemical composition of the plants.
Goji berry has huge health benefits that attract good international markets. It is as
knows as the super fruit and super food in TCM for the claimed health benefits and
it should be part of daily diet.
Key words: Goji berry, TCM, superfood, superfruit.
Goji berry and its cultivation in China and other parts of
Goji, which is also called wolfberry has been used as
traditional medicinal foods in China and other Asian
countries for centuries (Potterat, 2010). They are very hard,
spiny, shrubby vines in the tomato-nightshade family
Solanacaea. Goji berry has different vernacular names; the
most common name, wolfberry, comes from the character
“gou” as it is related to the one that means wolf. The name
goji is an extrapolation of a number of native words, and it
was originally coined in 1973 by researchers at the
Tanaduk Botanical Research Institute (TBRI) (Amagase and
Farnsworth, 2011). Goji plants are native to China, where
Mohamad Hesam Shahrajabian1,2, Wenli
Sun1,2 and Qi Cheng1,2*
1Biotechnology Research Institute,
Chinese Academy of Agricultural
Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.
2Nitroegn Fixation Laboratory, Qi
Institute, Building C4, No.555
Chuangye County, Jiaxing 314000,
*Corresponding author. E-mail:
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 438
they are grown from the subtropics in the south to the cold,
dry climate on Inner Mongolia. Commercial fruit production
is concentrated near Inner Mongolia. The fruit are red like a
tomato, with a green calyx near the stem. Seeds are small
and edible, similar to tomato seeds. The flowers open a
purple colour which fades to yellow (CPC, 2010; Amagase
and Farnsworth, 2011; Amagase, 2014). It has been
observed that geographical origin is one of the most
important quality parameters for many foods, since the
differences in climate, soil and cultivation methods cause
differences in the chemical composition of the plants
(Bondia-Pons et al., 2014). Cao and Wu (2015) reported
that while Ningxia is recognized as the daodi region of Goji,
increasing market demands pushed the cultivation into new
regions in China and Goji fields now stretch over different
geographical and climatic environments between 82oE and
115oE, 30oN and 45oN. These include temperate monsoon
climate (Hebei), temperate continental semi-arid climate
(Ningxia, Gansu and Inner Mongolia), plateau continental
climate (Qinghai), and continental arid climate (Xinjiang)
(Li et al., 2017). These different environmental conditions
influence both the appearance and the metabolite profile of
Goji (e.g., amount of polysaccharides, flavonoids, betaine,
and carotenoids) (Zhang et al., 2012; Shen et al., 2016;
Dermesonlouoglou et al., 2018). Moreover, different species
and cultivars (e.g., Ningqi series) are widely cultivated while
L. chinese is only cultivated in Hebei (Cao and Wu, 2015).
Traditionally, a good Goji quality was defined as: Large
berries with red colour, mild texture, few seeds, and sweet
taste (Chinese Pharmacopoeia Commission, 1963). Goji
berry belongs to the division of Magnoliophyta, class of
Magnoliopsida, order of Solanales, family of Solanaceae and
Genus of Lycium. Goji berry or wolf berry is the common
name of the fruits Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinese,
which are two closely related species (Chang et al., 2010;
Redgwell et al., 2011). The genus Lycium (Solanaceae)
consists of about 80 species found worldwide in arid to
semi-arid environmental condition (Chen et al., 2013;
Huang et al., 2015). The main centers of diversity for this
genus are distributed between Argentina and Chile,
Southern Africa and Southwestern North America (Miller
and Venable, 2003; Miller et al., 2008). L. barbarum and L.
chinese have been domesticated and widely cultivated in
Northwest China for more than 600 years. Lycium
ruthenicum is endemic to northwestern China and is
regarded as a potential plant to control erosion because of
its high salt-tolerance (Chen et al., 2013). Some common
species of wolfberry in Arizona, California and Mexico are
Wolfberry or Frutilla (Lycium brevipes), Wolfberry or
Manzanita (Lycium andersonii), Wolfberry or Barchata
(Lycium berlandieri), Wolfberry or Frutilla (Lycium
californicum), Wolfberry or Frutilla (Lycium exsertum), and
wolfberry or Frutilla (Lycium fremontii). In recent years,
there has been a growing trend in introducing Goji
cultivation to different pedoclimates in Europe (Italy,
Romania, Bulgaria, Portugal), or even developing new
cultivars (Donno et al., 2015; Mocan et al., 2017; Protti et al.,
2017). Currently, Romania has the biggest cultivated area of
L. barbarum plants in the European Union (Mocan et al.,
2018). Goji plant can handle a wide range of conditions
(Patsilinakos et al., 2018). They prefer a moderately moist,
well-drained soil, but they are also fairly drought tolerant.
The berries will produce and ripen the best in full sun. Goji
berry shrubs have long, arching branches that hold up
better with some structural support. The famers can also
train Gojis onto a trellis, fence or any other solid structure.
Due to their vigorous growth habit, Gojis can be pruned
anytime to control their height and shape. Yao et al. (2018)
reported that it does not justify superiority of a specific
production area over other areas. Instead, it will be
essential to distinguish Goji from different regions based on
the specific morphological and chemical traits with the aim
to understand what its intended uses are. Liu et al. (2017)
postulated that environmental temperature play one of the
most and important factor influencing on the phenolic
compositions and contents in the leaves and stems. From an
agronomical point of view, each region produces specific
cultivars that may differ in chemical composition and
biological properties (Wojdylo et al., 2018). For example,
the differences between Goji berries growing in China and
Italy were previously evaluated by Rocchetti et al. (2018) or
in different localization in China (Dong et al., 2012).
Some important facts about Goji berry in China are:
1) The Goji berry is commonly used as a natural form of
erosion control in China.
2) L. barbarum is being researched for Alzheimer',s and
other neurodegenrative diseases.
3) L. chinese has shown evidence of growth-inducing effects
on probiotic cells.
4) Goji berries are celebrated each August in Ningxia during
an annual festival coinciding with the yearly berry harvest.
5) Theory of how L. barbarum came to bear so many
nutrients, due to Yellow River silty, mineral-rich loess
leftover from the last glaciations period.
Recently, numerous phytochemical and pharmacological
studies focus on its health benefits, and support its use as
functional food (often sold under the marketing concept of
an alleged “superfood) (Yao et al., 2011; Chang and So,
2015; Jatoi et al., 2017; Qian et al, 2017; Pedro et al., 2018).
It is also called “superfruit”in Europe and North America
due to their potentially health-promoting constituents
(Potterat, 2010; Hempel et al., 2017). Some problems,
identification and control treatment of Goji berries are
shown in Table 1.
Goji berry and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM)
Some of the first healers to recognize the power of the Goji
Berry were the Himalayan people, who utilized the berries
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 439
Table 1: Some problems, identification and control treatment of Goji berries.
Goji gall mite
Extremely small, difficult to see with naked eye. Pale
salmon and wormlike mites with six to seven
generations per year. Small bead-like galls from on
leaves. They are yellow/green on the bottom and
reddish on top. Each gall holds large numbers of
Sulfur, insecticidial soap, or horticultural oil (0.5%
solution) can be used to control. A spray application of 2%
horticultural oil, either in the fall (just before leaves drop)
or in the spring (just as leaves emerge) will be most
effective. Keep alternative hosts such as pepper, eggplant
and black nightshade, clear from the area.
Fungal disease that forms white patches of powder
on leaves and stems.
Prune to improve air circulation and minimize wet foliage.
Horticultural oils can help prevent further spreading once
present in field.
Blossom end rot
Calcium deficiency related abiotic disorder resulting
in a water-soaked spot on the end of fruit.
Control by careful irrigation to minimize extreme
fluctuations in soil moisture (particularly during bloom
and fruit sizing)
of the Goji vine which flourished in the valleys of the
Himalayas for thousands of years. Some sources state that
wolf berries have been used in traditional Chinese medicine
for at least 2000 years (Williamson et al., 2013). Their
undocumented legend, however, is considerably older, as
wolf berries are often linked in Chinese lore to Shen Nung
(Shennong), China ,s legendary First Emperor, mythical
father of agriculture, and herbalist who lived circa 2800 BC.
The book was named Shennong Ben Cao Jing and was
supposed to contain all of the emperor ,s knowledge on the
subject of agriculture. There is another important Chinese
book written by Li Shi-Zhen in the 16th century that also
included important information on the subject of the Goji
berry. From a TCM point of view, the nature of Goji berry is
calm, and its flavour is sweet. According to TCM theory and
practice, Goji berry can act on both the liver channel and the
kidney channel, and the major health benefits of Goji berry
are its ability to nourish and tonify liver and kidney
(Chinese Pharmacopoeia, 2005; Cieslik and gebusia, 2012).
It should be noted that Goji berry is used not only as a drug
in TCM prescriptions to treat diseases but also as a popular
food by Chinese people in their daily life for promotion of
general health. According to the regulations of the China
State Food and Drug Administration, it is one of the 87 TCM
ingredients that can be used as both normal food and
functional food (Bucheli et al., 2011; Fiorito et al., 2019).
Goji berry translates to wolfberry. One theory as to the
origin of the wolfberry name stems from speculation that
Chinese farmers saw wolves sheltering among the dense
Goji berry vines. Most of the world',s Goji berry production
centers around areas in Northwestern China, where there
are 200,000 acres of farmland dedicated to Goji berry
cultivation. Goji berry plantations can also be found in Inner
Mongolia and Shaanxi (Zhu et al., 2016). Wu et al. (2018)
also reported that northwest regions of China are the main
producing area of L. barbarum, including Xinjiang, Tibet,
Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Gansu. Goji berries
provide 8 essential amino acids that the body cannot
synthesize. One of the most important reason for the
popularity of Goji berries is the fact that they contain a high
concentration of an antioxidant called Zeaxanthin.
According to various studies, a diet that contains Goji
berries can increase a person's Zeaxanthin levels by as
much as 26%. Goji berry is frequently added to soups, hot
pots, and herbal teas, and is also popularly soaked in wines
alone or together with other TCM ingredients to make
functional wines (Bucheli et al., 2011; Zhang et al., 2015).
Red Goji (L. barbarum L.) is a perennial, deciduous shrub
growing northwest China and the Mediterranean region
(Zhao et al., 2015). Black Goji is a black colour small berry
fruit from (L. ruthenicum Murr.) natively growing in
northwest part of China (Xin et al., 2017). Tang and Giusti
(2018) reported that the fruit, known as black Goji, is
popular in traditional Chinese medicine. On the basis of
TCM view, Goji berry is mainly used in treating yin
deficiency in liver and kidney. The dried fruit (Figure 1) is
commonly used in TCM preparations at a dose of 6-15 g,
taken twice or thrice daily (Liu and Tseng, 2005). Goji berry
can also be a part of a mix of Chinese herbs that is ground to
a fine powder and used in honey pills (a traditional TCM
formulation in which honey is used as main excipient to
make pills) of 15 g each. One of these pills is taken with
bland soup in the morning and another at night on an
empty stomach (Liu and Tseng, 2005; Wang et al., 2018).
Goji berry is one of the most popular TCM herbs regulated
as a foodstuff that is used in nutricosmetic products in
China. Nutricosmetics are used for the promotion of skin
and hair health. Only angelica and pearl powder are more
frequently found in nutricosmetic products in China
(Bucheli et al., 2011). Wojcieszek et al. (2017) reported that
compounds identified in Goji berries are most likely to be
responsible for better bioaccessibility of elements such as
copper and zink to the human organism. The berries are
also used in traditional Korean medicine, traditional
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 440
Figure 1: Fresh and dried Goji berries. It appears red in colour with white seed inside.
Japanese medicine, and traditional Tibetan medicine (Wang
et al., 2010; Yao et al., 2011; Cho et al., 2016). Goji Berry
root bark is used for treating inflammation and certain skin
diseases. Song et al. (2011) concluded that the traditional
Chinese medicine, L. barbarum and its taurine component is
valuable medicinal herb for the prevention of diabetic
Composition, health beneficial and clinical aspects of
Goji berries can provide almost twice vitamin A that a
person needs in a day (Liu et al., 2018). It has almost a third
of the daily recommended vitamin C. Moreover, Goji berries
are rich in some important and essential minerals including
iron and potassium. Potterat (2010) and Endes et al. (2015)
reported that this crop includes essential oils, vitamins (A,
A, and C), amino acids, mineral elements (K, P, Ca, Mg, Fe,
and Na), and betaine. A diet that contains Goji berries can
help in the treatment and prevention of various health
issues, but the most important ones are:
High blood sugar: Goji berries are said to be able to lower
blood sugar in addition to helping to relieve insulin
resistance which can be able to reduce risk of developing
diabetes. Goji berries contain high levels of fibre and
protein, which means that they can help to provide a feeling
of fullness without the need to take in an inordinate amount
of calories. Regular consumption of Goji berries can
enhance lymphocyes, which are the red blood cells that
protect the body from harmful bacteria. The nutritional and
functional properties of Goji berries are provided by a rich
variety of components, including amino acids, polyphenols,
carotenoids, polysaccharides, organic acids and their
derivatives (Zhao et al., 2015; Ducruet et al., 2017; Zhou et
al., 2017; Bertoldi et al., 2019; Zhao et al., 2019). Mocan et
al. (2018) reported that Goji berries are a rich source of
bioactive compounds with functional properties that need
further risk/benefit evaluation when used in foods or
health promoting formulations. There are many varieties of
Goji Berry grown in many parts of the world. As the
popularity of the berry continues to grow, more and more
varieties will likely appear as the vine is cultivated for
commercial purposes. But it is said that the most powerful
and nutrient rich Goji Berries in China still come from the
vines of Himalayan valleys.
Goji is a good source of fiber, protein, carotenoids (Liu et
al., 2014), and polysaccharides (He et al., 2012). It also has a
lot of biological activities, including antidiabetes (Lin et al.,
2012), antiproliferative activity (He et al., 2012), preserving
retinal function (Chu et al., 2013), and antioxidant activity
(Luo et al., 2004; Amagase and Farnsworth, 2011; Song and
Xu, 2013; Magiera and Zareba, 2015; Zhang et al., 2016).
Donno et al. (2015) mentioned that Goji berry is identified
as a rich source of antioxidant compounds, with health
promoting properties as compared with other common
fruit species. Recent studies have shown that antioxidant
activities of some natural products are correlated with
defence against oxidative stress and different human
diseases including cancer, arteriosclerosis and aging
process (Willcox et al., 2004). Compounds of nutritional
value of Goji are very diverse, including polysaccharides,
carotenoids, polyphenols, essential oils, betaine, vitamins,
amino acids and oligo elements (Forino et al., 2016). Goji
berries are rich in sugars (Montesano et al., 2016) and
lipids (Blasi et al., 2016). Wojdylo et al. (2018) indicated
that apart from being natural, nontoxic colorants in drinks
and cosmetics, Goji carotenoids show biological activity, e.g.
they act as antioxidants or precursors of vitamin A. Xie et al.
(2016) reported that L. barbarum can be utilized as
pharmaceutical for treatment and also as an ingredient in
Chinese cooking. Cheng et al. (2015) reported that Goji
berries have long been used to promote fertility and as
potent anti-aging and antioxidant agent. They are rich in
ascorbic acid (approx. 42 mg/100g) (Llorent-Martinez et
al., 2013), thiamine, riboflavin and vitamins E, B1, B2 and
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 441
B6 (Wojdylo et al., 2018). Further, they contain
carbohydrates (arabinose, rhamnose, xylose, galactose,
mannose and glucose) (Montesano et al., 2016), organic
acids (malic acid, citric acid, shikmic acid and fumaric acid)
(Mikulic-Petkovsek et al., 2012), and many minerals
(potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron, calcium,
zinc, and selenium) (Cieslik and Gebusia, 2012; Llorent-
Martinez et al., 2013; Nile and Park, 2014). Goji berries
comprise also fatty acids (hexadecanoic acid, linoleic acid
and myristic acid) (Blasi et al., 2017), and amino acids
(proline, betaine and taurine) (Potterat, 2010). Xin et al.
(2017) reported that the pulp of the Goji had the highest
concentration of phytochemicals [TPC (Total phenolic
content, TFC (Total flavonoid content, MAC (Monomeric
anthocyanin content, and CTC (Condensed tannin content)]
as compared with the seeds and whole fruits. They have
also found that the antioxidant activities order is like
Yan et al. (2014) in their experiment indicated that the
contents of nutritional components in the different tissues
were significantly different. The ratios of essential amino
acids/total amino acids and ratios of essential amino
acids/non-essential amino acids for the leaf, pollen, and
flower were all higher than the criteria provided by
FAO/WHO. The pollen and the fruit contained highly
unsaturated fatty acids. All the tissues were good sources of
mineral elements, polysaccharides and phenolic
compounds. Furthermore, they have found that Ningxia
wolfberry pollen, leaf and flower can be a potential
resource of nutrients for humans and animals. It has also
effectiveness in aging, increased metabolism, immune
system, liver function and glycemic control (Silva et al.,
2017). However, their benefits are attributed to the
bioactive component polysaccharide-protein complex 4
(LBP4), which is composed of six monosaccharides
(galactose, glucose, rhmnose, arabinose,
mannoseandxylose) (Amagase and Nance, 2008; Ming et al.,
2009; Amagase et al., 2009; Lu and Zhao, 2010; Carnes et
al., 2013). Soares deSousa et al. (2016) noted that Goji has a
complex rich vitamins and minerals that protect the central
nervous system, reduces the risk of glaucoma and has
antitumor activity, prevents chronic diseases such as
hypercholesterolemia, diabetes, hepatitis, and also helps in
reducing fatigue and greater resistance in exercise, being a
strong ally in the prevention of aging. It has been found that
the flavonoids from wolf berries protect the blood cells and
mitochnodria against oxidative damages (Luo et al., 2004).
Jin et al. (2013) demonstrated that L. barbarum
polysaccharides has various important biological activities,
such as antioxidant, immunomodulation, antitumor,
neuroprotection, radioprotection, anti-diabetes,
hepatoprotection, anti-osteoporosis and antifatigue. Gao et
al. (2008) also mentioned that Goji berries have a long
history of use for the treatment of eye problems, skin
rashes, psoriasis, allergies, insomnia, chronic liver disease,
diabetes, tuberculosis, and kidney disorders. Masci et al.
(2018) also concluded that the purified components of the
Goji berry may be potentially useful as adjuvants in the
treatment of diabetes and its correlated illnesses. Wolfberry
polysaccharides were reported to have shown antioxidant
activity in vitro. A glucopyranoside and phenolic amides
isolated from wolfberry root bark have also been found to
have an inhibitory activity in vitro against human
pathogenic bacteria and fungi. A human supplementation
trial showed that daily intake of wolfberries increased
plasma levels of zeaxanthin (Karioti et al., 2014; Hempel et
al., 2017). On the contrary, it is also reported in some
literature that in the west, none of this research has been
scientifically verified, confirmed in clinical studies, and
accepted by regulatory authorities. Some health benefits of
Goji berry are boosted immune system and flu protection,
potential weight loss aid, antioxidants for eyes and skin,
maintenance of blood sugar, increased testosterone,
restoration of body homeostasis and strengthening of body
energy (Chang et al., 2010; Chu et al., 2013; Protti et al.,
2017). The findings of Pehlivan Karakas et al. (2016) study
showed the methanol extract of L. barbarum on low levels
of anxiety and depression like behaviours. Their results also
indicating that females seem to benefit from the methanol
extract of L. barbarum more than males in terms of anxiety
and depression like behaviours, as well as spatial learning
behaviour (Pehlivan Karakas et al., 2016). Some researchers
reported that the carotenoid profile of Goji berries is the
subject of different reports, where zeaxanthin-dipalmitate
was confirmed as the major carotenoid of Goji berries (Peng
et al., 2005; Inbaraj et al., 2008; Hempel et al., 2017;
Fratianni et al., 2018). Fratianni et al. (2018) mentioned
that the dried samples of Goji berries could be used as a
dietary source of carotenoid and be worthy of development
Dried fruits can be eaten raw and used in confectionary
goods or in bakery products, added to trail mix, cereals,
muffins, energy bars or soups (Gao et al., 2008; Rosa et al.,
2017). According to the findings, the dried fruits are red-
orange, seeded, rich in vitamins of group B, C, E, contain 21
microelement including anticancer germanium (Llorent-
Martinez et al., 2013), 18 amino acids, 8 of which the
human body does not produce, and 4 irreplaceable
polysaccharides which do not exist in products of food. Goji
berries contain not only high amounts of antioxidants,
carotenoids, vitamin A and zeaxanthin, but also rich in
vitamins B and C and polysaccharides (Ionica et al., 2012;
Senica et al., 2018; Skenderidis et al., 2018). In addition,
flavonoids such as rutin, gentistic acid and quercetin are the
main active compounds present in the leaves of L. barbarum
(Dong et al., 2009; Duan et al., 2010; Chen et al., 2013;
Dermesonlouoglu et al., 2018). Lopatriello et al. (2017)
found L. barbarum flowers and pruned stems as sources of
beneficial compounds. The most important health benefits
of Goji berry are shown in Table 2.
L. barbarum extracts were proven to possess prosperity
biological activities, e.g. anti-ageing effects, increased
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 442
Table 2: The most important health benefits of Goji berry.
Helps to slow down the growth of cancer cells
Helps to improve gastrointestinal functions
Aids in improving eyesight and protects skin against UV rays
Effective in increasing semen quantity and improving sperm quality
Beneficial in reducing stress and fatigue
Reduces risk of cardiovascular diseases
Contains high level of anti-oxidant
Helps to protect liver against infections
Helps to reduce high cholesterol
Aids in controlling diabetes
Protects brain cells from damage
Help lower blood sugar level
Boosts immune system
Promote restorative sleep
metabolism, antioxidant properties, anti-diabetes and
glucose control, immunomodulation, anti-glaucoma,
neuroprotection, anti-fatigue/endurance, cytoprotection
and antitumour activity (Potterat, 2010). Numerous studies
indicated the powerful antioxidant potentialities achieved
from L. barbarum molecules, to act as promotions
forvarious health protective effects (Wu et al., 2004;
Abdennacer et al., 2015). It is well documented that several
traditional herb and plant extracts have antioxidant
properties and are potential candidates for the prevention
and treatment of ROS-induced diseases (reactive oxygen
species) (Li et al., 2007; Leontopoulos et al., 2017). Dried
Goji fruits (L. Chinese) has the highest content of total
polyphenols and vitamin C based on the cellular juice
concentration due to fruits dehydration. Extraction with
alcohol 80% as well as with hydrochloric acid 2% have
resulted in the highest values of the polyphenols content
while the highest antioxidant activity was found by using as
solvent the hydrochloric acid 2%, normally used for vitamin
C determination. The DPPH method was affected by the
content of vitamin C (Ionica et al., 2012; Rocchetti et al.,
2018). Yu et al. (2006) mentioned that the pharmacological
activities associated with L. barbarum include
hypoglycemic, immunomodulation, anti-hypertension,
lipotropic, protecting hepatic function, anti-aging, anti-
fatigue, antioxidant and so on. Some Researches indicated
that components of berry fruits especially Goji berry may
inhibit replication of the virus both directly and indirectly,
e.g. by blocking surface flycoproteins of influenza virus and
stimulating immune system of the organism; in
consequence to its properties, Goji berry are raw materials
of potential use in the prevention and treatment of
influenza (Gramza-Michalowska et al., 2017).
Macronutrients include carbohydrates, protein, fat, and
dietary fiber. 68% of the mass of dried wolf berries exists as
carbohydrate, 12% as protein, and 10% each as fiber and
fat, giving a total caloric value in a 100 g serving of 370
(kilo) calories, of which 272 come from carbohydrates and
90 of which come from fat.
Micronutrients include the following:
1). 11 essential and 22 trace dietary minerals
2). 18 amino acids
3). 6 essential vitamins
4). 5 unsaturated fatty acids, including the essential fatty
acids, linoleic acid, and alpha-liolenic acid
5). Beta-sitosterol and other phytosterols
6). 5 carotenoids, including beta-carotene and zeaxanthin
(below), lutein, lycopene and cryptoxanthin, a xanthophyll
7). Numerous phenolic pigments (phenols) associated with
It is also reported that 100 grams of dried contain the
1). Calcium: Wolfberries contain 112 mg/100 g serving,
providing about 8-10% of the Dietary Reference Intake
2). Potassium: Wolfberries contain 1132 mg/100 g dried
fruit, giving about 24% of the DRI.
3). Iron: Wolfberries have 9 mg iron/100 g (100% DRI).
4). Zinc: 2 mg per 100 g dried fruit (18% DRI)
5). Selenium: 100 g of dried wolfberries contain 50
micrograms (91% DRI).
6). Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)- At 1.3 mg, 100 g of dried
wolfberries provide 100% of DRI.
7). Vitamin C: Vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a
wide range (from different sources) from 29 mg/100 g to as
high as 148 mg/100 g (respectively, 32 and 163% DRI).
Wolfberries also contain numerous phytochemicals, such
1). Beta-carotene: 7 mg/100 g dried fruit.
2). Zeaxanthin: Reported values for zeaxanthin content in
dried wolfberries vary considerably, from 25 to 200
mg/100 g. The higher values would make wolfberry one of
the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin
content. Up to 77% of total carotenoids present in
wolfberry exist as zeaxanthin (Fratianni et al., 2018).
Academia Journal of Medicinal Plants; Shahrajabian et al. 443
Known in Asia as an extremely nutritious food, Goji berry
fruits have been extensively eaten raw, consumed as juice or
wine, brewed into herbal tea or prepared as a tincture,
eaten as salads and used widely in other culinary
preparations. Its leaves are made into tea. Besides its uses
in food and culinary, wolfberries have long played
important roles in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM),
where they are believed to enhance immune system
function, improve eyesight, protect liver, boost sperm
production and improve circulation, among other effects. It
has been widely used in Asian countries such as China,
Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand for many years. Goji
berry is widely distributed in the arid and semi-arid regions
of China, Japan, Korea, Europe, North America and the
Mediterranean. The northwest regions of China are the
main producing areas of L. barbarum, including Xinjiang,
Tibet, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai and Gansu.
Currently, China is the major supplier of L. barbaru products
in the world. TCM calls for Goji berries to be prepared as a
decoction or ground into a powder and mixed with other
herbs. Goji berry is being widely used as a functional food,
mainly for their antioxidant action due to a high content of
vitamin C. Anti-aging, antioxidant, immunomodulating,
hypotensive, antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, anti-
diabetic, neuroprotective, and anticancer properties have
been associated with L. barbarum. In TCM science, it has
been reported that this crop is also good to improve
eyesight and to strengthen the liver and kidney. L. barbarum
contains polysaccharides, carotenoids, including
zeaxanthin, vitamins, and flavonoids. The roots contain
alkaloids, flavonoids, betaine, and vitamins E, B1, B2 and
B6. Additionally, Goji berries are rich in ascorbic acid,
thiamine and riboflavin. Moreover, they contain
carbohydrates (arabinose, rhamnose, xylose, galactose,
mannose and glucose), organic acids (malic acid, citric acid,
shikimic acid, and fumaric acid), and so many minerals such
as potassium, sodium, phosphorus, magnesium, iron,
calcium, zinc and selenium. At present, the Goji is enjoying
the enormous popularity worldwide by being made into
Goji berry tea, bars, beer, cookies, cuttings, dessert, drinks,
eye cream, extract, powder, essential oil, facial cream, face
mask, jelly, smoothie, jam, muffin, supplement, tablets and
etc. Although, TCM in China is partly integrating with
western medicine science, researchers should learn more
from TCM and carry out more studies. This review article
allowed verifying that Goji berries are sources of
compounds with valuable nutritional and bioactive
properties and, therefore, they could be useful for
incorporation into foods with functional properties. They
can also provide industrial sustainability and could be
considered as organic superfood and superfruit in not only
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Cite this article as:
Shahrajabian MH, Sun W, Cheng Q (2018). A review of Goji berry
(Lycium barbarum) in Traditional Chinese medicine as a promising
organic superfood and superfruit in modern industry. Acad. J. Med.
Plants. 6(12): 437-445.
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