SIDE EFFECTS AND BENEFITS OF Wolfberry (juice)
Wolfberry or goji berry is the common name for the fruit of two very closely related species: Lycium barbarum (寧夏枸
杞) and L. chinense (枸杞), two species of boxthorn in the family Solanceae. Other members of this family are potato,
tomato, eggplant, deadly nightshade, chili pepper and tobacco. [A]
These species produce a bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry 1–2-cm deep. The number of seeds in each berry varies
widely based on cultivar and fruit size, containing anywhere between 10–60 tiny yellow seeds.
Wolfberry contains zeaxanthin, carotene, polysaccharides, betaine, cerebroside, beta-sitosterol, p-coumaric, and
various vitamins. [3, 11]
Wolfberry has been used for nourishing the liver, and in turn, improving the eyesight in traditional Chinese medicine.
Despite the fact that wolfberry has been used for centuries, its beneficial effects to our bodies have not been
comprehensively studied with modern technology to unravel its therapeutic effects at the biochemical level. Preliminarily
lab studies of shows the anti-oxidative activities of wolfberry polysaccharides have anti-oxidative activities and thus, it is
believed that wolfberry extracts, wolfberry tea or juice may have biological effects or health benefits. More important,
wolfberrycontains zeaxanthin, zeaxanthin is a potent carotenoid antioxidant. Intake of wolfberry can lead to an
increased plasma levels of zeaxanthin. [A]
Wolfberry leaves are commonly used to prepare tea and wolfberry root bark is used in traditional Chinese medicine to
treat inflammatory skin diseases. According to a test-tube study, most polysaccharides from wolfberry were found to be
anti-oxidative.  Published studies also suggest the possible health benefits of wolfberry for cardiovascular and
inflammatory diseases, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cancers. [A]
Alzheimer's Disease and Glaucoma
Recently, laboratory has demonstrated wolfberry's neuroprotective effects to counter neuronal loss in
neurodegenerative diseases.  Polysaccharides extracted from wolfberry was able to protect neurons against beta-
amyloid peptide toxicity in neuronal cell cultures, and retinal ganglion cells in an experimental model of glaucoma. 
A test-tube study showed that a fraction of polysaccharide from Wolfberry exerted significant neuroprotective effects on
cultured cortical neurons exposed to glutamate. Glutamate excitotoxicity is involved in many neurodegenerative
diseases including Alzheimer's disease. This fraction of polysaccharide has also been shown to protect rat cortical
neurons against beta beta-amyloid.  Thus, it is reasonable to believe that wolfberry extract or its juice or tea may
benefit people at risk of certain neuronal diseases.
Researchers have even isolated the active component of polysaccharide which can attenuate stress kinases and pro-
apoptotic signaling pathways.  In a 30-day exhaustive exercise program, wolfberry polysaccharides administration
significantly increased glycogen level and anti-oxidant enzyme activities, and decreased malondialdehyde (MDA) level
and creatine kinase activities in rats. Thus, wolfberry was able to reduce the oxidative stress in rats during exhaustive
exercise.  While, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, 14-days clinical trial of 34 subjects showed that
wolfberry juice reduced fatigue and stress and improved regularity of gastrointestinal function.  Thus, wolfberry
extracts including its juice may benefit people under constant stress.
Cancer and Infection
Aglucopyranoside and phenolic amides isolated from wolfberry rook bark are found to have activities against
pathogenic bacteria and fungi in vitro studies. [A] Wolfberry polysaccharide was shown in vitro to inhibit the growth of
human leukemia HL-60 cells.  A study of 79 advanced cancer patient s demonstrated that Wolfberry polysaccharides
could enhance the anti-cancer effect of a chemotherapy on patients suffered from malignant melanoma, renal cell
carcinoma, colorectal carcinoma, lung cancer, nasopharyngeal carcinoma, malignant hydrothorax.  Wolfberry may
have some benefits for people at risk of certain cancers.
A study of estrogen receptor positive MCF-7 model suggested the use of gogi as an anti-cancer agent for estrogen
receptor positive human breast cancer. It may also have less side effects compared with certain types of
Though there are some basic supports for the proposed health benefits of wolfberry, clinical data are insufficient to
draw a conclusion.
Side Effects of Wolfberry or Goji
Prolonged large intake of wolfberry tea has been reported to increase bleeding. An in vitro study suggests that it may
interact with warfarin.  Atropine, a toxic alkaloid, is also found in wolfberry fruit, but its normal concentration in the
berries is far below the toxic level. [A] If you are on medicine, you must consult with your doctor about the side effects
of wolfberry and the potential interaction, before taking any wolfberry products including goji juice.
[A] Wikipedia, August 2009  Cao GW, Yang WG, Du P. Observation of the effects of LAK/IL-2 therapy combining with
Lycium barbarum polysaccharides in the treatment of 75 cancer patients. Zhonghua Zhong Liu Za Zhi. 1994 Nov;16(6):
428-31.  Huang L, Lin Y, Tian G, Ji G. Isolation, purification and physico-chemical properties of immunoactive
constituents from the fruit of Lycium barbarum L. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 1998 Jul;33(7):512-6.  Xie C, Xu LZ, Li XM, Li
KM, Zhao BH, Yang SL. Studies on chemical constituents in fruit of Lycium barbarum L. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi.
2001 May;26(5):323-4.  Gan L, Wang J, Zhang S. Inhibition the growth of human leukemia cells by Lycium barbarum
polysaccharide Wei Sheng Yan Jiu. 2001 Nov;30(6):333-5.  Ho YS, Yu MS, Yik SY, So KF, Yuen WH, Chang RC.
Polysaccharides from Wolfberry Antagonizes Glutamate Excitotoxicity in Rat Cortical Neurons. Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2009
Jun 5.  Lin CL, Wang CC, Chang SC, Inbaraj BS, Chen BH. Antioxidative activity of polysaccharide fractions isolated
from Lycium barbarum Linnaeus. Int J Biol Macromol. 2009 Aug 1;45(2):146-51. Epub 2009 May 3.  Li G, Sepkovic
DW, Bradlow HL, Telang NT, Wong GY. Lycium barbarum inhibits growth of estrogen receptor positive human breast
cancer cells by favorably altering estradiol metabolism. Nutr Cancer. 2009;61(3):408-14.  Amagase H, Nance DM. A
randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, clinical study of the general effects of a standardized Lycium barbarum
(Goji) Juice, GoChi. J Altern Complement Med. 2008 May;14(4):403-12.  Niu AJ, Wu JM, Yu DH, Wang R. Protective
effect of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides on oxidative damage in skeletal muscle of exhaustive exercise rats. Int J Biol
Macromol. 2008 Jun 1;42(5):447-9. Epub 2008 Feb 29.  Leung H, Hung A, Hui AC, Chan TY. Warfarin overdose
due to the possible effects of Lycium barbarum L. Food Chem Toxicol. 2008 May;46(5):1860-2. Epub 2008 Jan 15. 
Chang RC, So KF. Use of anti-aging herbal medicine, Lycium barbarum, against aging-associated diseases. What do
we know so far? Cell Mol Neurobiol. 2008 Aug;28(5):643-52. Epub 2007 Aug 21.
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