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The genus Lycium as food and medicine: A botanical, ethnobotanical and historical review

Yao, R; Heinrich, M; Weckerle, CS; (2017) The genus Lycium as food and medicine: A botanical, ethnobotanical and historical review. Journal of Ethnopharmacology , 212 pp. 50-66. 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010. Green open access

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Abstract

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 ", their use can be traced back over the last two millennia. Lycium fruits for anti-aging, improving eyesight and nourishment were documented already in 500C.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.

Type: Article
Title: The genus Lycium as food and medicine: A botanical, ethnobotanical and historical review
Location: Ireland
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010
Publisher version: http://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010
Language: English
Additional information: © 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Chinese medicine, Lycium, TCM, ethnobotany, pharmacopoeia, taxonomy, traditional medicine
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > UCL School of Pharmacy > Pharma and Bio Chemistry
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10025880
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