Lycium, or Lycium barabarum, also known as Chinese wolfberry or goji berry, is a bright red berry from a rangy shrub native to southeastern Europe and Asia. Chinese lycium is prized for its high levels of certain phytonutrients that provide potential health benefits. However, Chinese lycium is not a replacement for appropriate care for a medical condition.
Chinese lycium may help prevent diabetic retinopathy, a complication of diabetes that leads to vision impairment, according to a study published in the April 2011 issue of the journal "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine." The tissue culture study demonstrated that the amino acid taurine, which is found in high concentrations in Lycium barbarum, protected retinal cells from damage and early death induced by high glucose levels. Chinese Lycium also decreased levels of cell-destroying enzymes. Researchers concluded that its high taurine levels are responsible for the berry's protective benefits to retinal cells and preventing diabetic retinopathy. Further studies are needed to determine whether these preliminary results extend to humans.
Lycium berry juice may help prevent skin cancer, according to a study published in the April 2010 issue of the journal "Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences." In the laboratory animal study, Chinese lycium juice protected against skin damage associated with exposure to ultraviolet radiation. Concentrations of 5 percent lycium berry juice significantly decreased oxidation of lipids in the skin. Researchers ruled out vitamin C and other common ingredients among Chinese lycium, pear and apple juices as being responsible for the observed benefits and concluded that the protective effects were due to a property of lycium berry not present in the other fruits.
A clinical study published in the January 2009 issue of the journal "Nutrition Research" found that Chinese lycium exhibits significant antioxidant activity, primarily by stimulating the body's antioxidant enzymes. Participants between the ages of 55 and 72 years consumed a commercial Lycium barbarum product each day for 30 days. Results showed that levels of the antioxidant enzymes superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase increased by 8.4 percent and 9 percent, respectively, while levels of oxidized lipids declined by 6 percent. Researchers predicted that continued use of the Lycium berry product would likely help prevent or treat health conditions caused by oxidation -- cellular damage due to accumulation of toxins and waste products.
Chinese lycium may help you lose weight, according to a study published in the October 2011 issue of the "Journal of the American College of Nutrition." A remedy for diabetes in traditional Asian herbalism, Chinese lycium demonstrated the ability to increase metabolic rate. Some participants took a single, 120-milliliter dose of a commercial lycium product, while others consumed 120 milliliters of the commercial lycium product per day for 14 days. The single dose resulted in higher energy expenditure for four hours. The 14-day trial led to a 5.5 centimeter decrease in waist circumference.
Goji berry's delicate structure makes shipping the fresh fruit a challenge. Instead, goji berry is most commonly available in dried or juice form. James Wong, ethnobotanist and author of the book "Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy Recipes for Natural Remedies and Beauty Fixes" recommends using goji berry together with shiitake mushroom to make an immune-boosting soup. You can also add goji juice to your favorite smoothie recipe, sprinkle dried goji berries onto cereal or over a salad, or incorporate them into a trail mix of dried fruits and nuts.
- Evidenced-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Reversal of the Caspase-dependent Apoptotic Cytotoxicity Pathway by Taurine from Lycium Barbarum (Goji Berry) in Human Retinal Pigment Epithelial Cells: Potential Benefit in Diabetic Retinopathy
- Photochemical and Photobiological Sciences: Mice Drinking Goji Berry Juice (Lycium Barbarum) Are Protected from UV Radiation-Induced Skin Damage Via Antioxidant Pathways
- Nutrition Research: Lycium Barbarum (Goji) Juice Improves in Vivo Antioxidant Biomarkers in Serum of Healthy Adults
- Journal of the American College of Nutrition: Lycium Barbarum Increases Caloric Expenditure and Decreases Waist Circumference in Healthy Overweight Men and Women: Pilot Study
- Grow Your Own Drugs: Easy Recipes for Natural Remedies and Beauty Fixes; James Wong
Tracey Roizman, DC is a writer and speaker on natural and preventive health care and a practicing chiropractor. She also holds a B.S. in nutritional biochemistry.