Monday, 12 February 2018

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

J Ethnopharmacol. 2018 Feb 15;212:50-66. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010. Epub 2017 Oct 16. Yao R1, Heinrich M2, Weckerle CS3. Author information 1 Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, Zurich 8008, Switzerland. Electronic address: 2 Research Cluster Biodiversity and Medicine / Centre for Pharmacognosy and Phytotherapy, UCL School of Pharmacy, University of London, 29-39 Brunswick Square, London WC1N1AX, United Kingdom. Electronic address: 3 Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany, University of Zurich, Zollikerstrasse 107, Zurich 8008, Switzerland. Electronic address: 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. Copyright © 2017 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved. KEYWORDS: Chinese medicine; Ethnobotany; Lycium; Pharmacopoeia; TCM; Taxonomy; Traditional medicine PMID: 29042287 DOI: 10.1016/j.jep.2017.10.010