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Wolfberry is also another name for the western snowberry, Symphoricarpos occidentalis.


Wolfberry, commercially called goji berry, is the common name for the fruit of two very closely related species: Lycium barbarum ( ) and L. chinense ( ), two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae (which also includes the potato, tomato, eggplant, deadly nightshade, chili pepper, and tobacco). It is native to southeastern Europe and Asia.

It is also known as Chinese wolfberry, mede berry, barbary matrimony vine, bocksdorn, Duke of Argyll's tea tree, Murali (in India), red medlar, or matrimony vine. Unrelated to the plant's geographic origin, the names Tibetan goji and Himalayan goji are in common use in the health food market for products from this plant.

Description

Lycium barbarum illustration from Flora von Deutschland, by Prof. Dr. Otto Wilhelm Thomé, Österreich und der Schweiz 1885, Gera, Germany.
Wolfberry species are deciduous woody perennial plants, growing 1–3 m high. L. chinense is grown in the south of China and tends to be somewhat shorter, while L. barbarum is grown in the north, primarily in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, and tends to be somewhat taller.

The botanical division named to the upper right, Magnoliophyta, identifies plants that flower and the class Magnoliopsida represents flowering plants (Dicotyledons) with two embryonic seed leaves called cotyledons appearing at germination.

The order Solanales names a perennial plant with five-petaled flowers that are more or less united into a ring at the base; well-known members of the order include morning glory, bindweed, and sweet potato as well as the plants of the Solanaceae, mentioned below.

Lastly, Solanaceae is the nightshade family that includes hundreds of plant foods like potato, tomato, eggplant, wolfberry, peppers (paprika), crop commodities (tobacco), and flowers (petunia).Although the Solanales includes many plant foods, some members are poisonous (for example belladonna).

Leaves and flower

Wolfberry leaves and flower
Wolfberry leaves form on the shoot either in an alternating arrangement or in bundles of up to three, each having a shape that is either lanceolate (shaped like a spearhead longer than it is wide) or ovate (egg-like). Leaf dimensions are 7-cm wide by 3.5-cm broad with blunted or round tips.

One to three flowers (picture) occur on stems 1–2 cm in width. The calyx (eventually ruptured by the growing berry) consists of bell-shaped or tubular sepals forming short, triangular lobes. The corolla are lavender or light purple, 9–14 mm wide with five or six lobes shorter than the tube. The stamens are structured with anthers that open heightwise, squatter than the filaments (picture).

In the northern hemisphere, flowering occurs from June through September and berry maturation from August to October, depending on the latitude, altitude, and climate.

Fruit

These species produce a bright orange-red, ellipsoid berry 1–2-cm deep. The number of seeds in each berry varies widely based on cultivar and fruit size, containing anywhere between 10–60 tiny yellow seeds that are compressed with a curved embryo. The berries ripen from July to October in the northern hemispheremarker.

Etymology

"Wolfberry" is the most commonly used English name , while gǒuqǐ (枸杞) is the Chinese name for the berry producing plant. In Chinese, the berries themselves are called gǒuqǐzi (枸杞子), with zi meaning "seed" or specifically "berry". Other common names are "the Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree" and "matrimony vine". Rarely, wolfberry is also known in pharmacological references as Lycii fructus, meaning "Lycium fruit" in Latin.

The origin of the common name "wolfberry" is unknown, perhaps resulting from confusion over the genus name, which resembles "lycos", the Greek word for wolf. In the English-speaking world, "goji berry" has been used since the early 21st century as a synonym for "wolfberry". While the origin of the word "goji" is unclear, it may be a simplified pronunciation of gǒuqǐ, the Mandarin name of the plant, developed by those marketing wolfberry products in the West.

Lycium, the genus name, is derived from the ancient southern Anatolianmarker region of Lycia (Λυκία). L. chinense was first described by the Scottish botanist Philip Miller in the eighth edition of his The Gardener's Dictionary, published in 1768.

In Japan the plant is known as kuko (クコ) and the fruits are called kuko no mi (クコ ) or kuko no kajitsu (クコ ); in Korea the berries are known as gugija (hangul: ; hanja: 枸杞子)[94558]; in Vietnam the fruit is called "kỷ tử" (杞子), "cẩu kỷ" (枸杞), "cẩu kỷ tử"(枸杞子) but the plant and its leaves are known more popularly as "củ khởi"; and in Thailand the plant is called găo gèe (เก๋ากี่). In Tibetan the plant is called dretsherma (), with dre meaning "ghost" and tsherma meaning "thorn"; and the name of the fruit is dretshermǟ dräwu (), with dräwu meaning "fruit".

Significance

Since the early 21st century in the United States and other such developed countries, there has been rapidly growing attention for wolfberries for their nutrient value and antioxidant content, leading to a profusion of consumer products. Such rapid commercial development extends from wolfberry having a high ranking among superfruits expected to be part of a multi-billion dollar market by 2011.

Cultivation

China

The majority of commercially produced wolfberries come from the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of north-central China and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of western China, where they are grown on plantations. In Zhongning County, Ningxia, wolfberry plantations typically range between 100 and 1000 acres (or 500–6000 mu) in area. As of 2005, over 10 million mu have been planted with wolfberries in Ningxia.

Cultivated along the fertile aggradational floodplains of the Yellow Rivermarker for more than 600 years, Ningxia wolfberries have earned a reputation throughout Asia for premium quality sometimes described commercially as "red diamonds". Government releases of annual wolfberry production, premium fruit grades, and export are based on yields from Ningxia, the region recognized with
  • The largest annual harvest in China, accounting for 42% (13 million kg, 2001) of the nation's total yield of wolfberries, estimated at approximately 33 million kg (72 million lb) in 2001.
  • Formation of an industrial association of growers, processors, marketers, and scholars of wolfberry cultivation to promote the berry's commercial and export potential.
  • The nation's only source of therapeutic grade ("superior-grade") wolfberries used by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine.


In addition, commercial volumes of wolfberries grow in the Chinese regions of Inner Mongolia, Qinghaimarker, Gansumarker, Shaanximarker, Shanximarker, and Hebeimarker. When ripe, the oblong, red berries are tender and must be picked carefully or shaken from the vine into trays to avoid spoiling. The fruits are preserved by drying them in full sun on open trays or by mechanical dehydration employing a progressively increasing series of heat exposure over 48 hours.

Wolfberries are celebrated each August in Ningxia with an annual festival coinciding with the berry harvest. Originally held in Ningxia's capital, Yinchuanmarker, the festival has been based since 2000 in Zhongning County, an important center of wolfberry cultivation for the region. As Ningxia's borders merge with three deserts, wolfberries are also planted to control erosion and reclaim irrigable soils from desertification.

China, the main supplier of wolfberry products in the world, had total exports generating US$120 million in 2004. This production derived from 82,000 hectares farmed nationwide, yielding 95,000 tons of wolfberries.

Pesticide and fungicide use

Organochlorine pesticides are conventionally used in commercial wolfberry cultivation to mitigate destruction of the delicate berries by insects. Since the early 21st century, high levels of insecticide residues (including fenvalerate, cypermethrin, and acetamiprid) and fungicide residues (such as triadimenol and isoprothiolane), have been detected by the United States Food and Drug Administration in some imported wolfberries and wolfberry products of Chinese origin, leading to the seizure of these products.

Some Western resellers may state that their wolfberries are organically grown when in fact they are not. The Green Certificate claimed by some wolfberry marketers to be the equivalent of the United States Department of Agriculturemarker's "USDA Organic" seal is in actuality simply an agricultural training program for China's rural poor. China's Green Food Standard, administered by the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture's China Green Food Development Center, does permit some amount of pesticide and herbicide use. Agriculture in the Tibetan plateau (where many "Himalayan" or "Tibetan"-branded berries originate, conventionally uses fertilizers and pesticides, making organic claims for berries originating here dubious.

United Kingdom

Archibald Campbell, 3rd Duke of Argyll (1682–1761) introduced the plant into the United Kingdommarker in the 1730s where it is known as Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree. It was and still is used for hedging, especially in coastal districts. Its red berries are attractive to a wide variety of British birds.

The plant continues to grow wild in UK hedgerows. On 15 January 2003, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairsmarker (of the United Kingdom Government) launched a project to improve the regulations protecting traditional countryside hedgerows, and specifically mentioned Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree as one of the species to be found growing in hedges located in Suffolk Sandlings, Hadley, Bawdseymarker, near Ipswichmarker, and Walberswickmarker.

The wolfberry has been naturalized as an ornamental and edible plant in the UK for nearly 300 years. On June 18, 2007, the FSA (UK Food Standards Agency) stated that there was a significant history of the fruit being consumed in Europe before 1997, and has removed it from the Novel Foods list . It is now legal to sell the wolfberry in the UK as a food as reported by the British Food Standards Agency .(also see discussion below, Marketing claims under scrutiny in Europe).

Importation of mature plants

Importation of wolfberry plants into the United Kingdom from most countries outside Europe is illegal, due to the possibility that as an introduced species they could be vectors of diseases attacking Solanaceae crops, such as potato or tomato.

Uses

Dried wolfberries
Wolfberries are almost never found in their fresh form outside of their production regions, and are usually sold in open boxes and small packages in dried form. The amount of desiccation varies in wolfberries: some are soft and somewhat tacky in the manner of raisins, while others may be very hard.

Culinary

As a food, dried wolfberries are traditionally cooked before consumption. Dried wolfberries are often added to rice congee, as well as used in Chinese tonic soups, in combination with chicken or pork, vegetables, and other herbs such as wild yam, Astragalus membranaceus, Codonopsis pilosula, and licorice root. The berries are also boiled as an herbal tea, often along with chrysanthemum flowers and/or red jujubes, or with tea, particularly pu-erh tea, and packaged teas are also available.

Various wines containing wolfberries (called gǒuqǐ jiǔ; 枸杞酒) are also produced, including some that are a blend of grape wine and wolfberries.

At least one Chinese company also produces wolfberry beer, and New Belgium Brewerymarker makes their seasonal Springboard ale with wolfberries used as flavoring. Since the early 21st century, an instant coffee product containing wolfberry extract has been produced in China.

Young wolfberry shoots and leaves are also grown commercially as a leaf vegetable photo recipe

Medicinal

Marketing literature for wolfberry products including several "goji juices" suggest that wolfberry polysaccharides have extensive biological effects and health benefits, although none of these claims have been supported by peer-reviewed research.

A May 2008 clinical study published by the peer-reviewed Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine indicated that parametric data, including body weight, did not show significant differences between subjects receiving Lycium barbarum berry juice and subjects receiving the placebo; the study concluded that subjective measures of health were improved and suggested further research in humans was necessary.

Published studies have also reported possible medicinal benefits of Lycium barbarum, especially due to its antioxidant properties, including potential benefits against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases, vision-related diseases (such as age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma), having neuroprotective properties or as an anticancer and immunomodulatory agent.

Wolfberry leaves may be used to make tea, together with Lycium root bark (called dìgǔpí; in Chinese), for traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). A glucopyranoside and phenolic amides isolated from wolfberry root bark have inhibitory activity in vitro against human pathogenic bacteria and fungi.

Safety issues

Two published case reports described elderly women who experienced increased bleeding, expressed as an elevated INR, after drinking quantities of wolfberry tea. Further in vitro testing revealed that the tea inhibited warfarin metabolism, providing evidence for possible interaction between warfarin and undefined wolfberry phytochemicals.

Atropine, a toxic alkaloid found in other members of the Solanaceae family, occurs naturally in wolfberry fruit. The atropine concentrations of berries from China and Thailand are variable, with a maximum content of 19 ppb, below the likely toxic amount.

Nutrient content

Macronutrients

Wolfberry contains significant percentages of a day's macronutrient needs – carbohydrates, protein, fat and dietary fiber. 68% of the mass of dried wolfberries exists as carbohydrate, 12% as protein, and 10% each as fiber and fat, giving a total caloric value in a 100 gram serving of 370 (kilo)calories.

Micronutrients and phytochemicals

Wolfberries contain many nutrients and phytochemicals including

Select examples given below are for 100 grams of dried berries. Other nutrient data are presented in two reference texts
  • Calcium. Wolfberries contain 112 mg per 100 gram serving, providing about 8-10% of the Dietary Reference Intake (DRI).
  • Potassium. Wolfberries contain 1,132 mg per 100 grams dried fruit, giving about 24% of the DRI.
  • Iron. Wolfberries have 9 mg iron per 100 grams (100% DRI).
  • Zinc. 2 mg per 100 grams dried fruit (18% DRI).
  • Selenium. 100 grams of dried wolfberries contain 50 micrograms (91% DRI)
  • Riboflavin . At 1.3 mg, 100 grams of dried wolfberries provide 100% of DRI.
  • Vitamin C. Vitamin C content in dried wolfberries has a wide range (from different sources ) from 29 mg per 100 grams to as high as 148 mg per 100 grams (respectively, 32% and 163% DRI).


Wolfberries also contain numerous phytochemicals for which there are no established DRI values. Examples:
  • Beta-carotene: 7 mg per 100 grams dried fruit.
  • Zeaxanthin. Reported values for zeaxanthin content in dried wolfberries vary considerably, from 2.4 mg per 100 grams to 82.4 mg per 100 grams to 200 mg per 100 grams. The higher values would make wolfberry one of the richest edible plant sources known for zeaxanthin content. Up to 77% of total carotenoids present in wolfberry exist as zeaxanthin.
  • Polysaccharides. Polysaccharides are a major constituent of wolfberries, representing up to 31% of pulp weight.


Wolfberry polysaccharides

One study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that:
  • Endogenous lipid peroxidation, and decreased antioxidant activities, as assessed by superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GSH-Px) and total antioxidant capacity (TAOC), and immune function were observed in aged mice and restored to normal levels in Lycium polysaccharide-treated groups. Antioxidant activities of Lycium barbarum polysaccharides were found to be compable with normal antioxidant, vitamin C. Furthemore, adding vitamin C to the polysaccharide treatment further increased in vivo antioxidant activity of the polysaccharides.


Criticism

Marketers of some wolfberry products claim that polysaccharides have specific physiological roles mediated by specialized cell receptors "master" control properties over other bioactive chemicals and cells . Characteristic spectral peaks are claimed to define one berry's geographic origin from another.

These assertions are an important marketing message for wolfberry products branded as Tibetan Goji Berries or Himalayan Goji Juice. Such statements, however, have no scientific evidence published under peer-review and are not compliant with regulatory guidelines for marketing natural food products (see below, Marketing claims under scrutiny in Europe, Canada and the United States)]

Functional food and beverage applications

It is often cultivated for a variety of food and beverage applications within China, but increasingly today for export as dried berries, juice, and pulp or grounds. Wolfberries are prized for their versatility of color and nut-like taste in common meals, snacks, beverages, and medicinal applications. A major effort is underway in Ningxia, China to process wolfberries for “functional” wine.

Marketing

Since the early 21st century, the dried fruit has been marketed in the West as a health food (typically under the name "Tibetan goji berry"), often accompanied by scientifically-unsupported claims regarding its purported health benefits.

Its most claimed nutritional attribute is an exceptional level of vitamin C, to be among the highest in natural plants. However, demonstrated by independent assays on dried berries to actually be in a range of 29–148 mg per 100 grams of fruit, the level is actually comparable to many citrus fruits and strawberries. Although considered nutritionally "excellent", wolfberry's vitamin C content is considerably lower than for numerous other fruits and berries, such as the Australian Kakadu "billy goat" plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana), blackcurrant, and sea-buckthorn.

Companies marketing the berries often also include the unsupported claim that a Chinese man named Li Qing Yuen, who was said to have consumed wolfberries daily, lived to the age of 252 years (1678–1930), another one of the numerous myths surrounding the health benefits of wolfberry.

Commercial products marketed outside Asia

Typical of many exotic fruits being introduced into western food and beverage commerce, Wolfberry is best known as a juice marketed over the Internet since 2002, often via multi-level marketing that asserts its health benefits . There is an increasing presence in health food stores and grocery markets in many countries of wolfberry .

While juice prepared entirely from fresh wolfberries is rare , blends containing several other berry and fruit juices are used for nearly all "wolfberry" juice products, many of which are nevertheless labeled as "goji juice" . The percentage of wolfberry contained in these juices is generally not stated on such products' labels .

Since 2005 , wolfberry has been increasingly mentioned in reports on the emerging functional food industry as one of the "exotic superfruits". Superfruit is meant to imply nutrient richness with medical research results indicating potential health benefits, combined with uncommon but appealing taste, pigmentation, and antioxidant strength.

Other wolfberry consumer applications are
  • Dried berries (pictured above)
  • Berry pieces in granola bars and
  • Skin soap (made from seed oils)


Commercial suppliers have processed wolfberry as

Marketing claims under scrutiny in Europe

In February 2007, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) of Great Britain, an advisor for food safety to the European Food Safety Authority of the European Union (EU), published an inquiry to retailers and health food stores requesting evidence of significant use of wolfberries in Europe before 1997. This period would document a safety history and evaluate how "novel" the berries are in the EU, affecting their authorization status for sale.

Proponents hoped this review would provide important safeguards for consumers by checking whether new foods are suitable for the whole population, including people with food allergies. Opponents on the other hand feared it would limit consumer choice and protect monopolistic interests rather than the public. Food safety in the EU relies importantly on a scientific basis for label information on foods like wolfberries that may be claimed to furnish health benefits.

In June 2007, the FSA announced its decision that wolfberries indeed had a history of use in Great Britain before 1997. Accordingly, wolfberries do not require registration as a novel food.

Marketing claims under scrutiny in Canada and the United States

In January 2007, marketing statements for a goji juice product were subject of an investigative report by CBC Television's consumer advocacy program Marketplace.

By one specific example in the CBC interview, Earl Mindell claimed the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Centermarker in New York had completed clinical studies showing that use of wolfberry juice would prevent 75% of human breast cancer cases, a statement false in three ways:
  1. no such project has been undertaken at Memorial Sloan-Kettering
  2. according to the National Cancer Institute of the US National Institutes of Healthmarker, no natural or pharmaceutical agent has been shown in clinical trials to fully prevent breast cancer, only to reduce its risk ; specifically, there are no completed or ongoing clinical trials in the United States testing the effects of wolfberries or juice on breast cancer outcomes or any other disease and
  3. beyond preliminary laboratory studies and one Chinese clinical trial described only in an abstract, there is no scientific evidence for wolfberry phytochemicals or wolfberry juice having cancer-preventive properties.


During 2006, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) placed two goji juice distributors on notice with warning letters about marketing claims. These statements were in violation of the United States Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act [21 USC/321 (g)(1)] because they "establish the product as a drug intended for use in the cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease" when wolfberries or juice have had no such scientific evaluation. Additionally stated by the FDA, the goji juice was "not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced conditions" and therefore must be treated as a "new drug" under Section 21(p) of the Act. New drugs may not be legally marketed in the United States without prior approval of the FDA, as stated in the letters below:
  • Dynamic Health Laboratories Inc. of Brooklyn, New York, May 8, 2006
  • Healthsuperstore.com of Elk Grove, California, August 7, 2006


On May 29, 2009, a class action lawsuit was filed against FreeLife International, Inc. in the United States District Court of Arizona. This lawsuit alleges false claims, misrepresentations, false and deceptive advertising and other issues regarding FreeLife’s Himalayan Goji Juice, GoChi, and TaiSlim products. This lawsuit seeks remedies for consumers who have purchased these products over the past several years.

See also



References

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  2. Environment and Plant Life in Indian Desert, David N. Sen, Geobios International, 1982
  3. GRIN Taxonomy for Lycium barbarum, United States Department of Agriculture Germplasm Resources Information Network
  4. Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
  5. Sohn E. Superfruits, super powers? Los Angeles Times, March 10, 2008
  6. McNally A. Superfoods market set to double by 2011, NutraIngredients.com-Europe, October 8, 2007
  7. Runestad T. Functional Ingredients market overview, Functional Ingredients, October 2007
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  12. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/ImportAlerts/ora_import_ia9908.html
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  17. GAIN Report #CH1072. Dueling Standards for Organic Foods 2001 Ralph Bean and Xiang Qing. USDA Global Agriculture Information Network Foreign Agricultural Service. 12 Dec 2001.
  18. The Movement Toward Organic Herb Cultivation in China Subhuti Dharmananda. Institute for Traditional Medicine. January 2004.
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  20. A Touch Of Argyll In Norfolk Julia Page in The Corncrake, Colonsay , Scotland " I was intrigued to discover that the common name of lycium halimifolium is the Duke of Argyll's Tea-tree or Teaplant and was keen to discover how this name came about. I succeeded with the help of my friend Craig ( nice Scottish name ) at Kew Gardens Library and a historical Who's Who. Accessed November 2006
  21. Government Launches Consultation On Future Of Legal Protection For Hedgerows Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, 15 January 2003. Retrieved 6 September 2006.
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  25. Several bottles of gǒuqǐ jiǔ www.chong-yang.com. Retrieved 25 January 2007.
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  30. Michael Adams, Matthias Wiedenmann, Gerolf Tittel, Rudolf Bauer. HPLC-MS trace analysis of atropine in Lycium barbarum berries. Phytochemical Analysis 17(5):279-283.
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  42. 'Miracle' goji berries face ban under EU red tape, The Daily Mail, February 2007
  43. Nutrition and health claims, European Food Safety Authority, May 2007
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  54. Class-Action Suit Filed against FreeLife and Earl Mindel


Bibliography

  • Ai, Changshan (2002). Zhi Bu Liang Yi Hua Gou Qi (A Word About Lycium chinense, Effective for Therapy and Nutrition). Changchun, China: Jilin Ke Xue Ji Shu Chu Ban She. ISBN 7538424024. ISBN 9787538424027.
  • Dharmananda, Subhuti (2007). Lycium Fruit: Food and Medicine, Institute for Traditional Medicine Online
  • Mindell, Earl; and Rick Handel (2003). Goji: The Himalayan Health Secret. Momentum Media Health Series. Dallas, Texas, United States: Momentum Media. ISBN 0967285526. ISBN 9780967285528.
  • Mindell, Earl (2005). Dr. Earl Mindell's Goji: The Himalayan Health Secret. 2nd ed. Lake Dallas, Texas, United States: Momentum Media. ISBN 0967285577. ISBN 9780967285573.
  • Oyama, Sumita (1964). Kuko o Aishite Junen (Lycium chinense in Favorable Use for Ten Years). Tokyo, Japan: Shufu no Tomosha.
  • Shufo no Tomosha (1963). Kuko no koyo (Medicinal and Therapeutic Effects of Lycium chinense). Tokyo, Japan.
  • Takayama, Eiji (1966). Jinsei no Honbutai wa Rokujissai Kara: Furo Choju Kuko no Aiyo (The Real Stage in Life Begins at Sixty: Habitual Use of Lycium chinense for Longevity). Tokyo, Japan: Koyo Shobo
  • Young, Gary; Ronald Lawrence; and Marc Schreuder (2005). Discovery of the Ultimate Superfood: How the Ningxia Wolfberry and Four Other Foods Help Combat Heart Disease, Cancer, Chronic Fatigue, Depression, Diabetes and More. Orem, Utah, United States: Essential Science Publishing. ISBN 0943685443. ISBN 9780943685441.
  • Zhang, Yanbo (2000). Molecular Approach to the Authentication of Lycium barbarum and its Related Species. M. Phil. thesis. Hong Kong, China: Hong Kong Baptist University
  • Zhao, Yue (2005). The Market Prospect of Ningxia Wolfberry/Wolfberry Products in China. Thesis. Netherlands: University of Professional Education Larenstein Deventer.


External links

Botanical databases




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