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Lycium


What is it?

Lycium is a native Chinese deciduous shrub with bright red berries. The dried berries and root bark are used to make medicine.

Lycium is used for many conditions, but so far, there isn’t enough scientific evidence to determine whether or not it is effective for any of them.

Lycium is used for diabetes, high blood pressure, poor circulation, fever, malaria, and cancer. It’s also used for erectile dysfunction (ED), dizziness, ringing in the ears (tinnitus); and to reduce fever, sweating, irritability, thirst, nosebleeds, cough, and wheezing.

Some people use lycium as an eye tonic for blurred vision, for macular degeneration, and for other eye disorders. Lycium is also used to strengthen muscles and bone, and as a blood, liver, and kidney tonic.

In foods, the berries are eaten raw or used in cooking.

The use of lycium was first described in the first century AD in Chinese literature. Traditionally, lycium has been used to promote longevity. Legend claims that one herbalist who used lycium in combination with other tonic herbs lived 252 years.

How effective is it?

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate.

The effectiveness ratings for LYCIUM are as follows:

Insufficient evidence to rate effectiveness for...

  • Diabetes.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fever.
  • Malaria.
  • Cancer.
  • Blood circulation problems.
  • Sexual problems (impotence).
  • Dizziness.
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus).
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of lycium for these uses.

How does it work?

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Lycium contains chemicals that might help lower blood pressure and blood sugar.

Are there safety concerns?

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Lycium is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth. It can cause some side effects such as nausea and vomiting.

Special precautions & warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Taking lycium during pregnancy is LIKELY UNSAFE. It contains a chemical, betaine, which could cause miscarriage. Don’t use lycium if you are pregnant or breast-feeding.

Low blood pressure (hypotension): Lycium might lower blood pressure. If your blood pressure is already low, taking lycium might make it drop too much.

High blood pressure (hypertension): Lycium might lower blood pressure. It might cause blood pressure to drop too much if you are taking high blood pressure medications.

Diabetes: Lycium root bark might lower blood sugar. It might cause blood sugar to drop too much if you are taking medications for diabetes. Monitor your blood sugar levels carefully.

Are there interactions with medications?

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Moderate

Be cautious with this combination.

Medications changed by the liver (Cytochrome P450 2C9 (CYP2C9) substrates)
Some medications are changed and broken down by the liver. Lycium might decrease how quickly the liver breaks down some medications. Taking lycium along with some medications that are broken down by the liver can increase the effects and side effects of some medications. Before taking lycium, talk to your healthcare provider if you take any medications that are changed by the liver.

Some medications that are changed by the liver include amitriptyline (Elavil), diazepam (Valium), zileuton (Zyflo), celecoxib (Celebrex), diclofenac (Voltaren), fluvastatin (Lescol), glipizide (Glucotrol), ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), phenytoin (Dilantin), piroxicam (Feldene), tamoxifen (Nolvadex), tolbutamide (Tolinase), torsemide (Demadex), warfarin (Coumadin), and others.

Medications for diabetes (Antidiabetes drugs)
Lycium bark might decrease blood sugar. Diabetes medications are also used to lower blood sugar. Taking lycium bark along with diabetes medications might cause your blood sugar to go too low. Monitor your blood sugar closely. The dose of your diabetes medication might need to be changed.

Some medications used for diabetes include glimepiride (Amaryl), glyburide (DiaBeta, Glynase PresTab, Micronase), insulin, pioglitazone (Actos), rosiglitazone (Avandia), chlorpropamide (Diabinese), glipizide (Glucotrol), tolbutamide (Orinase), and others.

Medications for high blood pressure (Antihypertensive drugs)
Lycium seems to decrease blood pressure. Taking lycium along with medications for high blood pressure might cause your blood pressure to go too low.

Some medications for high blood pressure include captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), losartan (Cozaar), valsartan (Diovan), diltiazem (Cardizem), Amlodipine (Norvasc), hydrochlorothiazide (HydroDIURIL), furosemide (Lasix), and many others.

Warfarin (Coumadin)
Warfarin (Coumadin) is used to slow blood clotting. Lycium might increase how long warfarin (Coumadin) is in the body, and increase the chances of bruising and bleeding. Be sure to have your blood checked regularly. The dose of your warfarin (Coumadin) might need to be changed.

Are there interactions with herbs and supplements?

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Herbs and supplements that might lower blood pressure
Lycium root bark might lower blood pressure. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that lower blood pressure might lower blood pressure too much. Some of these products include danshen, ginger, Panax ginseng, turmeric, valerian, and others.

Herbs and supplements that might lower blood sugar
Lycium root bark might lower blood sugar. Using it along with other herbs and supplements that lower blood sugar might lower blood sugar too much. Some of these products include bitter melon, ginger, goat's rue, fenugreek, kudzu, willow bark, and others.

Are there interactions with foods?

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There are no known interactions with foods.

What dose is used?

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The appropriate dose of lycium depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for lycium. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Other names

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Baies de Goji, Baies de Lycium, Barberry Matrimony Vine, Chinese Boxthorn, Chinese Wolfberry, Di Gu Pi, Digupi, Épine du Christ, Fructus Lychii Chinensis, Fructus Lycii, Fructus Lycii Berry, Fruit de Lycium, Goji, Goji Berry, Goji Chinois, Goji de l’Himalaya, Goji Juice, Gou Qi Zi, Gouqizi, Jus de Goji, Kuko, Lichi, Licium Barbarum, Litchi, Litchi Chinensis, Lychee, Lyciet, Lyciet Commun, Lyciet de Barbarie, Lyciet de Chine, Lycii Berries, Lycii Chinensis, Lycii Fruit, Lycium barbarum, Lycium chinense, Lycium Fruit, Matrimony Vine, Ning Xia Gou Qi, Wolfberry.

Methodology

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To learn more about how this article was written, please see the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database methodology.methodology (http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/methodology.html).

References

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To see all references for the Lycium page, please go to http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/1025.html.

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Page last updated: 08 September 2014