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Goji Berry

Scientific Name(s): Lycium barbarum L., Lycium chinense Mill., Lycium halimifolium Mill., Lycium vulgare Dunal.
Common Name(s): Barbary wolfberry, Chinese desert thorn, Chinese wolfberry, Desert-thorn, Duke of Argyll's tea tree, Fructus Lycii Chinensis, Goji, Goji berry, Gou Qi Zi, Gouqizi, Himalayan goji, Kuko, LYCH, Matrimony vine, Ningxia, Red diamonds, Tibetan goji, Wolfberry

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Apr 1, 2022.

Clinical Overview


Clinical data suggest antioxidant, CNS, antidiabetic, and ophthalmic effects. A meta-analysis of 7 low-quality randomized controlled trials (N=548) suggested a reduction in cardiometabolic risk factors with supplementation for at least 3 months in healthy subjects at least 60 years of age. However, limited quality clinical trials exist to support goji berry therapeutic claims.


Data are lacking to guide dosing.


Contraindications have not been identified.


Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


Case reports exist of elevated international normalized ratio values in individuals taking warfarin.

Adverse Reactions

Information is limited. Anaphylaxis and varying degrees of hypersensitivity reactions have been reported. Clinical trials report few or no adverse reactions.


No data.

Scientific Family

  • Solanaceae (potato)


Two closely related species, L. barbarum and L. chinense, collectively produce the berries considered to be goji, wolfberries, or Gou Qi Zi. These are botanically related to the tomato and are deciduous woody perennials. Primarily cultivated in China, these species grow from 1 to 3 m in height; the L. barbarum tends to be the taller of the two.(USDA 2022) The 5-petaled flowers are lavender to light-purple in color, and the lanceolate/ovate leaves appear alternately or in bundles on the shoot. The tender, oblong berries, which must be picked carefully or shaken from the vine when ripe, are a bright orange-red color and contain between 10 and 60 yellow seeds. The berries ripen from July to October in the Northern Hemisphere. A process of slow drying is undertaken to preserve the fruit, which then appear similar in size and texture to a raisin.(Cheng 2005) The leaves are used to make tea, and the bark is extensively used in traditional Chinese medicines.(USDA 2022) Synonyms are Lycium halimifolium Mill. and Lycium vulgare Dunal.


Gou Qi Zi is listed in the Pharmacopoeia of the People's Republic of China (2000),(Adams 2006) and use of the berries dates back 2,300 years. Traditional use has included for prevention of conditions such as diabetes, hyperlipidemia, cancer, hepatitis, immune disorders, thrombosis, and male infertility.(Jung 2005, Li 2007) In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used for its anti-aging properties and tranquilizing and thirst quenching effects, as well as for increasing stamina. Goji is a core ingredient in most herbal eye remedies. Further uses have included nourishing the blood, enriching the yin, and as a tonic for the liver, kidneys, and lungs.(Chang 2008, Peng 2001, Yeh 2008, Yu 2005)


Major compounds isolated from the berries include carotenoids (beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin dipalmitate), polysaccharides (comprising 30% of the pulp), vitamins (ascorbic acid, glucopyranosyl ascorbic acid, tocopherol), fatty acids, betaine, and peptidoglycans.(Breithaupt 2004, Kim 2002, Peng 2001, Yu 2005, Zhao 2005b)

Neutral volatile compounds identified include steroids, glycolipids (including the cerebrosides), glycosides, glucopyranosides, and alkaloids (spermine alkaloid, polyhydroxylated alkaloids).(Asano 1997, Han 2002) Flavonoids, phenolic amides, cyclic peptides, and sesquiterpenes have also been described.(Han 2002) Additionally, rutin, chlorogenic acid, and lyciumosides have been identified in the leaf,(Toyoda-Ono 2004) and phenolic amides identified in the root bark.(Chin 2003, Lee 2004)

The berries contain dietary amounts of calcium, potassium, iron, zinc, and selenium, as well as riboflavin and vitamin C. There is concern regarding the amount of atropine present in the berries; only trace amounts have been found and at levels considered insignificant (up to a maximum of 19 ppb w/w).(Adams 2006)

Uses and Pharmacology

Antifungal/Antimicrobial effects

Experimental data

Antifungal (Candida albicans) and antimicrobial (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) properties have been described for extracts of the root bark.(Lee 2004, Lee 2005)

Antioxidant effects

Animal and experimental data

Potent superoxide anion scavenging activity has been demonstrated for a polysaccharide extract of goji berries.(Han 2002, Li 2007, Ni 2021, Wu 2004) Activity of polysaccharide extract 500 mg has been estimated to be greater than vitamin C 500 mg.(Li 2007)

In older mice, the decreased activity of enzymes in the brain, liver, and heart consequent to oxidative stress was enhanced by administration of polysaccharides extracted from Lycium fruits, lending support to the traditional anti-aging use of Gou Qi Zi.(Li 2007)

In mice with heat- and time-damaged seminiferous tubules, the polysaccharide extract of the berries inhibited apoptosis and reversed morphological damage.(Chang 2008, Luo 2006, Wang 2002) Protection against DNA-induced seminiferous tubule damage was also demonstrated in mice, with actions attributed to antioxidative activity.(Chang 2008) Doxorubicin-induced cardiac oxidative stress was decreased in rats pretreated with the aqueous extract of L. barbarum,(Xin 2007) and antioxidative effects on human dermal fibroblasts have been demonstrated.(Zhao 2005a)

Clinical data

A systematic review identified studies (N=35) that documented potent antioxidant activities resulting in reduced damage to DNA and improved DNA repair rates in participants who consumed L. barbarum polysaccharide.(Ni 2021)

Cardiometabolic risk factors

Clinical data

A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials investigating the effects of L. barbarum on cardiometabolic risk factors identified 7 trials (N=548) that met eligibility criteria. The majority of studies were of low quality and were conducted in healthy subjects in China; however, 2 were conducted in patients with type 2 diabetes. Interventions included L. barbarum fruit, fruit juice, and polysaccharide extract. Overall, no significant differences in risk factors of noncommunicable diseases were observed, but when stratified by age and duration of intervention, significant improvements were noted; when participant age was 60 years or older or when intervention duration was 3 months or longer, L. barbarum supplementation resulted in significant reductions in total cholesterol and triglycerides. Compared with healthy subjects, those with type 2 diabetes exhibited more of a reduction in fasting glucose.(Guo 2017) Another meta-analysis included 6 randomized controlled studies conducted in China (N=459) that evaluated dosages of L. barbarum polysaccharides 10 mg/day, 300 mg/day, and 100 mg/kg, as well as wolfberry juice 120 mL/day; intervention durations were 1 month (4 studies) and 3 months (2 studies). All participants were Asian, and except for one study conducted in subjects with diabetes and one in women with gestational diabetes, the remaining 4 studies enrolled healthy adults. Pooled data showed oral L. barbarum polysaccharides significantly improved triglycerides (pooled estimate, −0.455 mmol/L; 95% CI, −0.684 to −0.226; P=0), LDL (−0.525 mmol/L; 95% CI, −0.895 to −0.156; P=0.005), and HDL (+1.114 mmol/L; 95% CI, +0.505 to +1.724; P=0), but not total cholesterol. Heterogeneity was high for total cholesterol comparisons. Subgroup analysis revealed better results for patients at least 48 years of age and with treatment durations of 3 months.(Zhou 2021)

In a 16-week, single-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 41 healthy adults 50 to 75 years of age, consumption of 15 g/day of whole, dried wolfberries as part of a healthy diet significantly improved HDL and lowered Framingham predicted long-term cardiovascular disease risk and vascular age compared with control (P<0.05 each). However, no significant effects were found in other lipid parameters, blood pressure, vascular function, or other vascular health–related outcomes.(Toh 2021)

CNS effects

Animal and experimental data

Experiments investigating the effect of berry polysaccharides showed enhanced spontaneous electrical activity in the hippocampus, and a decreased stroke index and neurological score in ischemia and reperfusion models. Neuronal death and apoptosis have been prevented in animal experiments.(Chang 2008) In rats, beta-amyloid peptide neurotoxicity has been prevented, suggesting a role for the berry in Alzheimer disease.(Ho 2007, Yu 2005)

In rat brain homogenates, inhibition of monoamine oxidase B, which is elevated in neurodegenerative disease and aging, has been demonstrated with L. chinense.(Lin 2003)

Clinical data

In an interim analysis of a 6-week, randomized, placebo-controlled study conducted in 29 adolescents (mean age, 15 years) with subthreshold depression, a significant reduction in depressive symptoms (P=0.014) and higher remission rate (P=0.03) was observed in the goji berry extract (L. barbarum polysaccharide) group compared with the placebo group. Additionally, the goji berry extract group demonstrated significant improvements in cognition (P=0.007), retardation (P=0.035), and hopelessness (P=0.027).(Li 2022)


Animal studies

Healthy mice fed L. barbarum extract maintained normal blood glucose levels, while rats and rabbits with streptozocin- and alloxan-induced diabetes showed decreases in blood glucose levels.(Chan 2007, Luo 2004) A hypolipidemic effect was also observed, with polysaccharides and vitamin antioxidants from L. barbarum fruits being the possible active principles.(Luo 2004)

Improved insulin resistance has been demonstrated in noninsulin-dependent diabetic rats.(Wu 2006, Zhao 2005b)

Clinical data

Pooled data from 6 randomized, controlled studies conducted in China (N=459) demonstrated significant improvements in fasting blood glucose (−0.707 mmol/L; 95% CI, −1.37 to −0.043; P=0.037) in adults taking oral L. barbarum polysaccharide supplementation from 1 to 3 months. However, heterogeneity was significant among the trials, and dosages were highly variable.(Zhou 2021)

A double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial enrolling 67 adults with type 2 diabetes was conducted by the Nanjing Center for Disease Control and Prevention in China to evaluate the hypoglycemic effect of L. barbarum polysaccharide, used traditionally in Chinese medicine to treat various diseases that manifest with frequent drinking and urination. Administration of L. barbarum polysaccharide 300 mg/day for 3 months resulted in significant improvements in glucose AUC, insulinogenic index, serum glucose, and HDL levels; however, these effects were only significant in patients not currently taking hypoglycemic medications. Insulin response to a meal was not changed, and no significant changes were noted for other lipid parameters or adipokines (ie, toxic necrosis factor alpha [TNF-alpha], leptin, interleukin-6). No adverse events were reported.(Cai 2015)

GI effects

Animal data

In a mouse model of inflammatory bowel disease, colitis symptoms and colonic epithelial integrity were significantly improved with oral supplementation of goji berry (1% of dry feed weight) for 10 weeks compared with controls (P<0.05). A strong prebiotic effect was observed.(Kang 2018)

Goji berry supplementation significantly modulated gut microbiome composition in an animal study.(Cremonesi 2022)

Hepatoprotective effect

Animal and experimental data

Pretreatment with an aqueous extract of the L. chinense fruits decreased hepatic enzyme levels (AST, ALT, and alkaline phosphatase) in rats with carbon tetrachloride–induced hepatic injury. Histological changes were also decreased.(Ha 2005) Similar results were obtained for zeaxanthin extract against induced hepatic fibrosis in rats.(Kim 2002) Lycium compounds with potential hepatoprotective (possibly antioxidant) effects have been identified.(Chin 2003, Ha 2005, Jung 2005)


Animal data

In a rat model of late-onset hypogonadism, oral administration of an ethanolic goji berry extract significantly increased testosterone levels (P<0.05) but had no effect on sperm counts or motility. The mechanism of action appeared to involve a reduction in oxidative stress and inhibition of apoptosis.(Jeong 2020)

Immune/Anticancer activity

Animal and in vitro data

Experiments investigating the potential of L. barbarum and L. chinense in cancer treatment focus on immune-enhancing and direct effects. The weight of the thymus and spleen in rats was increased, as was macrophage activity, with administration of a polysaccharide extract.(Gan 2003, Gan 2004, Li 2007) Increased cytotoxic T-lymphocyte and TNF activity has occurred in animal experiments and in human mononuclear cells in vitro.(Chang 2008, Gan 2003, Lycium 2007) Protection from the effects of myelosuppression has been reported.(Hai-Yang 2004)

Aqueous extracts inhibited proliferation and induced apoptosis in hepatocellular cancer in rats and human hepatoma cell lines.(Chao 2006, Zhang 2005) Growth of sarcoma was suppressed in mice treated orally with a polysaccharide-protein complex from L. barbarum.(Gan 2004, Lycium 2007)

Clinical data

An observational study suggested a benefit for cancer patients taking L. barbarum polysaccharides.(Lycium 2007)

Ophthalmic effects

Animal and experimental data

Ocular effects of L. barbarum are thought to be related to antioxidant activity.(Chan 2007, Chang 2008) The berries are rich in zeaxanthin, and increased plasma zeaxanthin levels have been demonstrated with berry consumption.(Chang 2008, Cheng 2005) Lutein content in the berries is somewhat lower.(Cheng 2005, Peng 2001)

Increased survival of retinal ganglion cells has been demonstrated in rats with induced glaucoma.(Chan 2007) No effect on ocular pressure was found. The effect did not appear to be dose dependent, and a prolonged effect (4 weeks) was demonstrated.(Chang 2008)

In a rat model of dry eye disease, oral consumption of aqueous goji berry extract significantly (P<0.01) improved dry eye symptom scores at low (250 mg/kg), medium (350 mg/kg), and high doses (500 mg/kg), with the high dose completely normalizing test scores by week 3.(Chien 2018)

Clinical data

In a food-based supplementation trial, 14 participants receiving wolfberry 15 g/day (estimated to contain almost 3 mg of zeaxanthin) for 28 days showed increased total and lipid-standardized plasma zeaxanthin levels.(Cheng 2005) Bioavailability of zeaxanthin is variable; clinical experiments have been conducted to increase the availability using milk-based and emulsion formulations.(Benzie 2006, Breithaupt 2004)

In a randomized, controlled trial in patients with early age-related macular degeneration (N=114), dietary goji berry supplementation (25 g/day) for 90 days significantly improved macular pigment optical density compared with control (no supplementation) (P=0.007), as well as best-corrected visual acuity compared with baseline (P=0.02), whereas no change was observed in control patients. Additionally, serum levels of zeaxanthin were significantly higher with goji berry supplementation compared with controls (P<0.001), but no difference was observed between groups in serum lutein. No correlation was found between serum zeaxanthin and macular pigment optical density.(Li 2018)

In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study of adults with retinitis pigmentosa (N=50), oral administration of L. barbarum extract (5 g twice daily) for 12 months significantly improved visual acuity compared with placebo at both the 6- and 12-month follow-ups. At 12-months, respective extract and placebo high-contrast visual acuity results were 0.25 and 0.64, while low-contrast results were 0.27 and 0.75, respectively (P=0.004 for each). Additionally, a significant improvement in macular thickness was observed at 12 months with the extract compared with placebo (P=0.008). In contrast, no significant differences were found between groups in the visual field or full-field electroretinogram. Mild epistaxis was experienced by one patient in the extract group.(Chan 2019)


Data are lacking to guide dosing. Various goji berry formulations, dosages, and treatment durations have been used in clinical studies evaluating various effects.

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


Case reports exist of elevated international normalized ratio values in individuals taking warfarin.(Leung 2008, Lycium 2007) In these reports, herbal tea made from the berries or bark of L. barbarum (estimated to equate to 6 to 18 g of berries/day) had been consumed.(Leung 2008)

In vitro experiments suggest the potential for monoamine oxidase B inhibition, the clinical importance of which is unknown.(Lin 2003)

Adverse Reactions

Information is limited. Clinical trials report few or no adverse reactions.(Amagase 2008, Benzie 2006, Breithaupt 2004, Cheng 2005)

Varying degrees of hypersensitivity reactions have been reported, including a case report of anaphylaxis. A 37-year-old Italian man with known allergies to pollen since childhood experienced goji berry–dependent, exercise-induced anaphylaxis that was effectively treated with epinephrine, fluids, and corticosteroids. Subsequent skin prick tests were positive for grass, ragweed, mugwort, pellitory, birch, olive tree, tomato, peanut, and hazelnut.(Zauli 2015)


Data are lacking.

Index Terms

  • Lycium halimifolium Mill
  • Lycium vulgare Dunal



This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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Further information

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