The Permacultivator - Journal of Cool Climate Permaculture
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WOLFBERRY - the herb of longevity

David Johnson has found the secret to long life amongst the pots at the Bundanoon Village Nursery.

Scientific name: Lycium chinensis, Lycium barbarum. Other names: goji berry, matrimony vine fruit, gou qi zi, desert thorn, squawberry.



The wolfberry is a perennial shrub with small red fruits and yellow kidney-form seeds. Its fruits are the most prized part, although the whole plant is healing. The wolfberry is a shrub with very strong roots and can thrive for several hundred years, standing up to various temperature conditions and does not have any preferences for climate and soil.
The medicinal properties of this herb are known in China since thousands of years. The ancient medical book "Treatise on the herbs and their properties" (Yao Xing Lun) spares a special attention to wolfberry, and points out that its fruits "replenish the supply of body fluids, calms the spirit, refreshes the skin, brightens the complexion and strengthens the eyes." In another Chinese classic, "Herbs and Nutrition" (Shi Liao Ben Cao), it is said that wolfberry "strengthens the muscles and tendons, prevents colds and leads to longevity." The poet Liu Yuxi of Tang Dynasty (618-907) extols the marvellous effects of the herb in a poem for the wolfberry. In it, he writes that even the water from a well near the plant can help people attain longevity.
One of the most famous doctors and herbologists in Chinese history, Li Shizhen, in his celebrated work "Materia Medica" (Ben Can Gang Mu) of 1578, mentions that the residents of Nanqu village in China have the habit of eating wolfberry fruits and almost all of them achieve longevity.

In fact, the wolfberry contributes not only to long life, but is often connected with beauty. In the past, the women of noble families in China have drunk a wolfberry tea in order to look younger and more beautiful. Men used wolfberry for increasing their sexual powers. This is reflected in the Chinese proverb: "Those who go faraway from home, should not take a wolfberry!"
The wolfberry fruits are rich in many healthy components, including 18 kinds of amino acids, 21 minerals, 29 kinds of fatty acids, vitamin A (as much as in carrots), vitamin C (as much as in oranges), vitamin B, especially rich in niacin, and polysaccharides.

According to Chinese medicine and nutrition, the wolfberry is a blood and energy tonic and treats the following diseases and conditions:
energy and blood deficiency, poor vision and eye diseases , fatigue, weakness , headache , high blood pressure , diabetes , high blood cholesterol , tinnitus , neurasthenia , chronic hepatitis , beri beri , anaemia , insomnia , weak immune system , kidney insufficiency , impotence, sexual weakness , frigidity, sterility , spermatorrhea , osteoporosis , arteriosclerosis , pain in the waist and knees , cancer , premature aging.

In recent years, many Chinese and Western scientists report that wolfberry has the function to reinforce the immune system of the body, to overcome fatigue, improve vision, strengthen the liver, decrease the blood sugar, regulate the blood pressure, prevent and treat cancer and tumour formations.
Laboratory research shows that wolfberry increases the leucocytes within the body, prevents the cells of aging, stimulates the self-regulative functions of DNA and helps aged and diseased cells to recover a normal healthy state.

Japanese scientists have proved that the wolfberry polysaccharides stop the growth of cancer cells and that they contain compounds which prevent the cells from mutating. The polysaccharides content in wolfberry is between 7 and 13%, while the overall content of sugar is between 22 and 42%.

The wolfberry is considered helpful in liver cancer. This is because the wolfberry polysaccharides have the ability to decrease the oxidation of the fatty substances in the liver cells. As the Chinese doctors say, the wolfberry is the best medicine for toning kidneys and liver.

J45 Spring 2004