This information describes the common uses of Lycium, how it works, and its possible side effects.

Common Name

Gou qi zi, Goji, Wolfberry, Bastard jasmine, Box thorn, Matrimony vine

How It Works

The safety and efficacy of lycium products for cancer prevention and treatment in humans have not been established.

The berries of Lycium barbarum are used in traditional medicine to treat inflammation, skin irritations, nose bleeds, aches, and pains and as a sedative. Lycium is also commonly used with other botanicals in Chinese medicine for poor vision, anemia, and cough. Polysaccharides isolated from the plant have been shown to improve immune response, improve the effects of radiation therapy, and inhibit growth of some cancer cells in laboratory and animal studies. An observational study conducted in China showed that lycium may improve the effects of certain therapy in humans. However, more well-designed studies are needed.

Purported Uses

  • To treat aches and pains
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To treat burns
    This use is not backed by research.
  • To prevent and to treat cancers
    No clinical studies have been conducted to show that lycium is effective for cancer treatment.
  • To improve the effects of a specific cancer therapy
    A small observational study showed benefits, but further well designed trials are necessary.
  • To reduce inflammation
    No scientific evidence supports this use.
  • To reduce skin irritation
    There are no studies to support this.
  • As a sedative
    This claim is not backed by research.
  • To reduce nose bleeds
    No scientific evidence supports this use.

Do Not Take If

You are taking warfarin or other anticoagulants: A few cases of elevated INR were reported in patients on anticoagulant therapy following consumption of concentrated Chinese herbal tea made from lycium.

You are taking cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4 substrate drugs: Lycium extract may influence how these drugs are metabolized.

Side Effects

  • Allergic reactions have been reported after eating Lycium berries in people with food allergies.