Editor's Note
A botanical, ethnobotanical, and historical review of gogi, wolfberry, and other species of Lycium that have been used traditionally is presented. The authors investigate how uses differ among regions with different cultural backgrounds and how traditional and current therapeutic and preventive health claims correlate with pharmacological findings. The study concludes that the focus so far has only been on two species and that the genus can potentially yield a wide range of other products with different properties.
February 15, 2018
Journal of Ethnopharmacology
DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010

Ethnopharmacological relevance
Lycium  is widely distributed in the arid to semi-arid environments of North and South America, Africa, and Eurasia. In recent years, Lycium barbarum  and  L. chinense  have been advertised as “superfood” with healthy properties. Despite of its popularity, there is a lack of an integrated and critical appraisal of the existing evidence for the use of  Lycium .

Aim of the study
There is a need to understand: 1) Which species were used and how the uses of  Lycium developed spatially and over time, 2) how uses differ among regions with different culture backgrounds, and 3) how traditional and current therapeutic and preventive health claims correlate with pharmacological findings.

Methods
Information was retrieved from floras, taxonomic, botanical, and ethnobotanical databases, research articles, recent editions of historical Chinese herbals over the last 2000 years, and pharmacopoeias.

Results
Of totally 97 species, 31 have recorded uses as food and/or medicine worldwide. Usually the fruits are used. While 85% of the Lycium species occur in the Americas and Africa, 26% of them are used, but 9 out of 14 species in Eurasia. In China, seven species and two varieties of the genus  Lycium  occur, of which four species have been used by different ethnic groups. Only L. barbarum and L. chinense have been transformed into globally traded commodities. In China, based on the name “枸杞”, their use can be traced back over the last two millennia. Lycium  fruits for anti-aging, improving eyesight and nourishment were documented already in 500 C.E. ( Mingyi Bielu ). Recent findings explain the pharmacological foundations of the traditional uses. Especially polysaccharides, zeaxanthin dipalmitate, vitamins, betaine , and mixed extracts were reported to be responsible for anti-aging, improving eyesight, and anti-fatigue effects.

Conclusions
The integration of historical, ethnobotanical, botanical, phytochemical and pharmacological data has enabled a detailed understanding of  Lycium  and its wider potential. It highlights that the focus so far has only been on two species and that the genus can potentially yield a wide range of other products with different properties.