Lycium barbarum grows to about 2 to 4 meters in the form of a bush. It grows at an almost slow pace. You can find flowers on this bush from June to August and the development period of the seeds are from August to October. Flowers of lycium barbarum are hermaphrodite by nature which means that flowers contains both the male and female reproductive parts and is generally pollinated by bees.
Its requirements include light, medium or heavy soils which should be well-drained. What is more, it could grow well in even poor soil. As for nature, it could grow well in acidic, basic as well as neutral soil. You can either grow it in sun or in semi shade but the soil should be moist. It is very drought resistant and can withstand extremes of temperature. Just like Noni, Hoodia and Mangosteen, Lycium barbarum are now being sold as another big thing in the health food world. The best thing about it is that with all its wonderful properties, it is actually delicious to eat.
Chinese medicines have utilized lycium barbarum for centuries. It is thought to build immune system, improve vision and protect liver and kidneys. They describe wolfberries as something which tastes sweet and is neutral in nature. These work on the lungs, liver and kidneys. These could be eaten raw or could be taken as juice or wine. One could also brew it as tea or as tincture.
As for its nutritional components, lycium barbarum is very rich in carbohydrates, proteins, fat and fiber. On a percentage basis, dried wolfberries contain about 68% of carbohydrate, protein is 12% and fiber and fat 10% each. So, 100 gm of wolfberries gives you 370 kilocalories (270 from carbohydrates and 90 from fat). As for vitamins, they are very rich in Vitamins A, B1, B6, C and E.
The building blocks of proteins, amino acids are also found in wolfberries. All in all, it contains 19 amino acids containing 8 essential amino acids. As for trace minerals, it has about 21 types of trace minerals including iron, zinc, copper, selenium, germanium, calcium and phosphorus. Carrots are the best source of beta carotene. It has more beta carotene than carrots. Essential fatty acids help produce hormones and also helps in brain and nervous system functioning. Well, yes, lycium barbarum do have essential fats. They are the best sources of carotenoids, Z Beta Sitosterol, Zeaxanthin, Lutine, Betaine, Cyperone, Solavetivone, Physalin, etc.
But one thing must be understood. All these depend a lot on the extent to which the berries were ripened during picking, the soil in which they grew and also the region where they grew. Also, how it was handled after harvest, how was it stored and for how long, water content and also testing affect the nutritional content of lycium barbarum.
Various researches have been done and bulk of them in China that studies the effect of lycium barbarum in treating medical problems. Most of them have revealed that it contains antioxidants that help it to treat cardiovascular and other inflammatory diseases. That is why it is used to treat vision problems. Lycium barbarum has neuroprotective, anti-carcinogenic and immunomodulatory properties. It is true that these are not approved by regulatory authorities yet the researches are the steps in the right direction.
Decoction tasting sweet is prepared with lycium barbarum which helps lower blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol levels. It is also being used to treat vertigo, male sexual dysfunction, lumbago and problems related to menopause. The root bark is generally bitter but has cooling and anti-bacterial properties and could be used to treat coughs, fever, blood pressure and cholesterol. It could be taken internally to treat internal hemorrhages, chronic fevers, tuberculosis, nosebleeds, asthma and coughs and other related problems.
For genital itching, it could be applied externally. Harvesting season for bark is in the winters and is then dried to be used later. All the fruits of this genus are very rich sources of vitamins and minerals including Vitamin A, B, C and E, flavones and several other bio-active ingredients. Fruits generally dont contain essential fatty acids but lycium barbarum is an exception in this case.
Researches are on to check if it is really an anti-carcinogenic compound which could inhibit or even reverse cancerous growth. The intake of lycium barbarum is shown to increase plasma Zeaxanthin. Research has been on at the laboratory of Neurodegenerative Diseases, under the department of Anatomy, Hong Kong University. They are studying the anti-aging properties of lycium barbarum on humans.
It is a well known fact that old age is a disease in itself for many. A number of new diseases crop up with old age. Studies are on that show the effectiveness of lycium barbarum on anti-aging which could also combat Alzheimer’s disease.