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 have not been established.

The berries of Lycium barbarum are used in traditional medicine to treat inflammation, skin irritation, 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 showed that lycium may improve the effects of some cancer treatments. However, well-designed clinical trials are needed to determine the anticancer potential of lycium.

Purported Uses

  • To treat aches and pains
    Evidence is lacking to support this claim.
  • To prevent and to treat cancers
    Clinical studies have not been conducted to evaluate the anticancer potential of lycium.
  • To improve the effects of a specific cancer therapy
    A small observational study showed benefits, but further well designed trials are necessary.
  • As a sedative
    Evidence is lacking to support this claim.
  • To reduce nose bleeds
    Evidence is lacking to support this claim.

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.

A 65-year-old man on warfarin experienced elevated INR with associated bleeding after drinking goji berry wine. His INR values returned to normal after discontinuing the wine.

You are taking drugs that are substrates of cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A4, 2C9 and 2C19: 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.