phytochemicals Phytochemicals

More plants with phytochemicals



Lycium chinense

What is wolfberry?

The wolfberry is a deciduous woody perennial plant, growing up to 1 m high. The thorny stem bear green lance shaped leaves. Wolfberry blooms with small purple flowers. The ripe wolfberry fruits turn orange red, have an oblong shape and are about 10 mm long.

Parts used

Mainly the wolfberry fruits are harvested and eaten raw or dried. Young wolfberry shoots and leaves are also grown commercially and eaten as leaf vegetable.


These are typical phytochemicals found in wolfberry: polysaccharides (lbp), betaine, zeaxanthin, physalien, cyptoxanthin, sesquiterpenoids, triterpenes, beta-sitosterol.

Benefits of wolfberry

Wolfberries are one of the most important traditional medicines in China. Wolfberry fruits have been used since ancient times in China as general tonic, to protect the liver, to improve vision, to strengthen weak legs and to promote longevity.

Immune system
Laboratory studies have shown wolfberry fruit improve lymphocyte transformation rate and macrophage phagocytic function.

Wolfberry fruits contain phytochemicals with antioxidant activity and could slow the ageing process. A study by Li Wei et al (Active Lymphocyte Effects Observed after Taking Lycium Barbarum Fruits, Zhong Cao Yao, 1991) showed that wolfberry fruit phytochemicals help to prevent oxidation of DNA and helps to restore damaged DNA.

Cancer prevention
Studies suggest that wolfberry extracts could inhibit DNA mutation and stop the growth of cancer cells. Cao GW et all showed in his study (Observation of the Effects of LAK/IL-2 Therapy Combined with Lycium Barbarum Polysaccharides in the Treatment of 75 Cancer Patients, Chunghua Chung Liu Tsa Chih, 1994) that regression of many types of cancer could be obtained with patients, treated with LAK/IL-2 and LBP.

Liver protection
The phytochemical zeaxanthin dipalmitate showed a hepaprotective effect on liver cells treated with carbon tetrachloride induced hepatotoxicity (Kim HP et al, Zeaxanthin Dipalmitate from Lycium Barbarum has Hepatoprotective Activity, Res. Commun Mol Pathol Pharmacol. 1997)

Vision improvement
Wolfberry fruits have traditionally been used in China to improve vision disorders such as cataracts, retinopathy and macular degeneration. Studies have shown that wolfberry reduce dark adapting time and improve vision under subdued light. This action may be attributed to the phytochemicals lutein and zeaxanthin, which neutralizes the free radicals formed by sunlight.

Other facts

Wolfberry is a wild bush found in the north west of China. Wolfberry has been used in China for thousand of years. During the Tang Dynasty (1000-1400 A. D) wolfberry was considered as Yin and used its health benefits, including strengthening the eyes, liver and kidney and nourishing the blood. Chinese people have been using wolfberry to make tea, soup, stew and wine or chewed them like raisins. In China, wolfberry fruits are used in different forms. Wolfberry fruits are used as fresh fruits, as tea or as ingredient in bread, wine, stews and soups.

Other names

Chinese wolfberry, Chinese boxthorn

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