Chinese Name : 枸杞子
Latin Name : Fructus lycii
This herb is the dried, red, ripe fruit of Lycium barbarum L., or L. chinesis Miller of the family Solanaceae. It grows abundantly in northwest China, especially in the Gansu, Ningxia, and Qinghai provinces, and the Inner Mongolia region of China, and is naturalized in the United States. It is harvested in summer and autumn, dried in the shade until the skin is shrunk, then further dried in the sun, and used unprocessed. The top grade lycium fruit is a bright red color and soft to the touch with a sweet taste. Lycium fruit is traditionally used to replenish the Vital Essence of the liver and kidneys, and to improve immunity and eyesight, and is a blood tonic herbal remedy. It is nicknamed wolfberry fruit and is a good antiaging medicinal herb.
Use of Lycium Fruit in TCM
Sweet in taste and neutral, it acts on the liver, kidney, and lung meridians.
Effects, Medicinal Uses, and Combinations
- Nourishes the liver yin and improves acuity of vision: for blurred vision, dizziness, darkness adaption, and disturbed eyesight, lycium fruit is prescribed alone as a decoction or with chrysanthemum, processed rehmannia root, cornus (shan zhu yu), and Chinese yam, as in the patent medicine Qi Ju Di Huang Wan (R-25). Lycium fruit is also combined with glehnia root, Chinese angelica root, ophiopogon, and dried rehmannia root, as in Yi Guan Jian (R-11) for treating symptoms due to kidney-yin and liver-yin deficiency.
- Strengthens the kidneys and replenishes the Vital Essence: for weariness of the loins and legs due to deficiency of the kidney Essence, lycium fruit is blended with polygonatum root (huang jing) and astragalus root.
- Strengthens the liver and kidneys: for antiaging and to prevent premature aging, lycium fruit is mixed with poria, cuscuta seed, achyranthes root, psoralea root, and other herbs, as in Qi Bao Mei Ran Dan (R-26). For lassitude of the loins and legs, fatigue, dizziness, tinnitus, and arteriosclerosis, lycium fruit is commonly used with processed rehmannia root and asparagus, as in Qi Ju Wan.
- Nourishes the kidney and relieves chronic diabetes: to treat the symptoms of diabetes, polyuria, and fatigue, lycium fruit is prescribed with trichosanthes fruit, mantis cocoon, and astragalus root in a decoction.
- Treats the damaging side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.
In a decoction, in wine, or a tincture preparation of 6 to 15 g
People with yin deficiency, hyperactivity of liver yang, or those with profuse diarrhea should use lycium fruit with care.
Side Effects and Toxicity
A therapeutic dose does not produce side effects. The LD50 of water extract of lycium fruit is 8.03 g/kg in mice by subcutaneous administration.
Lycium fruit (Ningxia gou qi zi) contains a large amount (8 to 10 percent) of amino acids: aspartic acid, proline, glutamic acid, alanine, arginine, serine, and nine others. Other constituents include pigments (zeaxanthin, physalien, and cryatoxanthin), betaine, beta-carotene, vitamins B1, B2, and C, nicotinic acid, sugars, scopoletin, taurine, and gama-aminobutyric acid, cinnamic acid, fats, proteins, and different trace minerals.
- Hypoglycemic: the lycium fruit extract significantly prolonged a decrease in blood sugar and increased the carbohydrate tolerance in rats.
- A daily oral administration of 0.4 ml of 100 percent water decoction of lycium fruit for three days, or one intramuscular injection of 0.1 ml of the same decoction in mice significantly increased phagocytosis of the reticuloendothelial system.
- In mice, lycium barbarum polysaccharides (LBP) at an intraperitoneal dose of 5 or 10 mg/kg increased T-lymphocyte proliferation.
- Hematopoietic: oral administration of 0.5 ml of a 10 percent decoction of lycium fruit for ten days promoted the hematopoietic effect in mice, increasing the number of leukocytes.
- Lycium is hypolipemic, hypotensive, hypnotic, antimicrobial, and sedative, prevents fatty liver, increases weight gain in mice, increases uterine muscle contraction, and enhances vision.
- Antitumorous: immunopharmacological studies on effects of lycium fruit polysaccharides on t lymphocytes, cytotoxic t lymphocytes (ctl), and natural killer cells (nk) in normal and tumor-bearing mice were conducted. Lbp had multiple effects on the immune system, on T lymphocytes, ctls, nks, macrophages, and b lymphocytes. These cells form a closely linked network of immune signals, releasing different lymphokines and activating factors to coordinate the defense system againt tumor cells.
- Lycium invigorates the immune system. Oral administration of 50 g per day of lycium fruit extract for ten days raised significantly the value of lysozyme, IgG, IgA, lympocyte blastogenesis, cyclic AMP, and testosterone in thirty patients.
- In a double-blind placebo-controlled study, oral administration of lycium fruit extract to normal subjects, ages fifty-six to eight-one, significantly improved their immune functions, reduced senility symptoms, and increased the total peripheral white blood cell count and neutrophils.
- Recent clinical studies indicate that polysaccharides are responsible for most of the biological activities of lycium fruit. Also, in recent years, lycium fruit was used to treat the damage caused by the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. The fruit has also shown antiperoxidative effects on cell membranes of Xenopus oocytes, with activity comparable to that of superoxide dismutase (SOD), preventing physical stress and carbon tetrachloride-induced lipid peroxidation in the liver, spleen, and brain tissues of rats and mice.