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Lycium Fruit (gou qi zi)

What is lycium fruit? What is it used for?

Also known as the Chinese wolfberry, lycium comes from a medium-sized bush that is native to east Asia and Europe. In China, the best lycium grows and is cultivated in the Ningzia, Gansu and Qinghai provinces.

The fruit is bright red in appearance and about the size of a kidney bean. It is gathered during the summer, then dried in the shade. Lycium fruit contains a variety of chemicals and chemical compounds, including valine, glutamine, taurine, carotene, vitamins B1 and B2, vitamin C, and more than a dozen kinds of sterols.

In traditional Chinese medicine, lycium fruit has sweet and neutral properties, and is associated with the Liver, Kidney and Lung meridians. Its functions are to tonify the kidneys and promote the production of jing; to nourish the liver; and to moisten the lungs. The first recorded use of lycium as a form of herbal medicine is from the first century, AD, in which it was used as a tonic to treat the liver, kidneys and blood. Among the conditions lycium fruit is used to treat are coughs, dizziness, blurred vision and other vision problems, and soreness of the lower back and knees. Some studies have shown that lycium fruit can improve the immune system.

How much lycium fruit should I take?

Many practitioners recommend a dosage of lycium fruit of between five and 10 grams, taken with water as a decoction for oral administration. Larger amounts can be used as flavorings or side-dishes with meals.

What forms of lycium fruit are available?

Whole, dried lycium fruit can be found at many Asian markets and specialty stores. Some herbal shops also sell lycium powders, extracts, tinctures and decoctions.

What can happen if I take too much lycium fruit? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Lycium fruit should not be used by patients who are diagnosed with diarrhea due to spleen deficiency. In addition, high intake of lycium has been associated with a number of side-effects, including fever, nosebleeds and skin allergies. As always, make sure to speak with a licensed health care provider before taking lycium fruit or any other herbal remedy or dietary supplement.

References

  • Lu BY, et al. The chemical composition and clinical use of gou qi zi. Hebei Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy 1998;13(4):29-30.
  • Wang JT, et al. An overview of the research on gou qi zi's chemical composition and pharmacology. Journal of Tianjing Phamacy 1999;11(3):14-16.
  • Yang M, et al. Gou qi zi water decoction's anti-aging effect. China Journal of TCM Theories 1999;5:72.
  • Zhang GQ, et al. Long-term toxicity of gou qi zi. Journal of Hebei Medical University 1998;19(2):71-73.
  • Zhu W. An overview of recent chemical research on gou qi zi. Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine Material 1996;10(5):260-262.

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