As one of common Chinese herbs, the whole plant of Lycium barbarum, in particular leaves, flowers, roots, and fruits, can be used for medicinal purposes. As a matter of fact, different parts of this herb have different functions. To guarantee its high pharmaceutical value, the harvest time is equally important – leaves are plucked during spring; flowers are collected during summer; fruits, also known as goji berries or wolfberries, are gathered during autumn; and roots are reaped during winter. And its root bark is better known as Di Gu Pi in Pinyin, which is a magical herb and also what we are going to focus on below.
Lycium barbarum description
Di Gu Pi actually comes in two main different species – the dried root bark of Lycium chinense Mill. or Lycium barbarum L. Both plants belong to the family Solanaceae. Its other common names include Cortex Lycii in Latin and Chinese wolfberry root cortex.
It is a shrub, 1 to 2m in height. Branches are slender, often curved down, and with thorns. Leaves are alternative or clustered on short branches, ovate-rhombic to ovate-lanceolate, 2 to 6cm in length, and 0.5 to 1.7cm in width. 1 to 4 flowers cluster in leaf axils. Calyx is bell-shaped, with 3 to 5 lobes, funnel-shaped corolla, 5 stamens, and 2-room ovary. Red berry is ovate or oblong ovate, and 5 to 15mm long. Brownish-yellow seeds are kidney-shaped. It blooms from June to September and fruits from July to October. Main habitats include hillslopes and fields with a sunny exposure. It can be cultivated as well and mainly produced from Shanxi, Henan, Zhejiang, and Jiangsu in China.
Main chemical constituents in root bark include Cinnamic acid, polyphenols, Betaine, Kukoamine A, Lyciumin A, Lyciumin B, β-Sitosterol, Linoleic acid, Linolenic acid, melissic acid, and so on.
Root bark of Lycium barbarum health benefits
As every herbalist knows that Lycium barbarum berries have extensive medicinal uses and are good at treating syndrome of kidney Yin deficiency. Likewise, its root bark also has that function but with some modification. And relevant research can tell the details.
Modern pharmacological actions
1. Its extracts and betaine have strong antipyretic effects. The extracts include ethanol extract, water extract, and ether residue water extract, etc.;
2. Its decoction and extracts have hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effect;
3. Its injection, decoction, and tincture have significant antihypertensive effect and associate with the decreased heart rate;
4. Its decoction has immunomodulatory effects, as well as anti-microbial effect. That’s being said, it has a strong inhibitory effect on the typhoid bacillus, paratyphi and Shigella flexneri. In addition it inhibits the cytopathic effect of Asian influenza virus type A Jingke 68-1 strain;
5. Its injection has significant excitatory function on isolated uterus;
6. Its 70% ethanol extract by percolation method can significantly improve the pain threshold and inhibit the physical and chemical pain.
Proven Lycium barbarum recipes
From the point of view Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), this herb is believed as sweet in taste and cold in properties. It goes to three meridians, such as lung, liver, and kidney. Its key functions are clearing deficient heat, clearing away the pathogenic heat of lung, and cooling blood. Main Lycium barbarum uses and indications include consumptive fever due to Yin deficiency, hectic fever and night sweat, fever caused by infantile malnutrition, lung-heat panting and cough, spitting blood, spontaneous external bleeding, hematuria, diabetes, and so on. Recommended dosage in decoction is from 9 to 15 grams or even 15 to 30 grams in large doses.
Di Xian San
Di Xian San comes from Pu Ji Ben Shi Fang (Effective Prescriptions for Universal Relief). It is mainly formulated for hectic fever due to Yin deficiency, dysphoria, and body fluid impairment. Other major herbal ingredients include Fang Feng (Ledebouriella Root), Gan Cao (Licorice Root), Zhu Ye (Folium Bambusae), and so on.
Di Gu Pi San
This formula comes from Sheng Ji Zong Lu (Complete Record of Holy Benevolence). It is basically designed for consumptive fever. Other key herbs are Chai Hu (Bupleurum) and Mai Men Dong (Ophiopogon Tuber).
Go Ji Tang
Go Ji Tang is from Qian Jin Fang (Thousand Pieces of Gold Formulae). This formula is exclusively for thirsty and bitter taste in mouth and dysphoria with smothery sensation due to consumption. The rest herbs include Ophiopogon Tuber and Xiao Mai (Semen Tritici Levis).
Xie Bai San
Xie Bai San is from Xiao Er Yao Zheng Zhi Jue (Key to Syndrome Identification and Treatment of Diseases in Infants). This prescription is principally used for dyspnea due to heat excess of lung in Children. Other basic herbs include Sang Bai Pi (Mulberry Root Bark) and Licorice Root.
Di Gu Pi Yin
This prescription comes from Complete Record of Holy Benevolence. It is mainly used for drinking and urine. Other chief herbs are Tu Gua Gen (Tuguagen series), Tian Hua Fen (Trichosanthes Root), Lu Gen (Reed Rhizome), Ophiopogon Tuber, and Da Zao (Jujube).
Root bark of Lycium barbarum toxicity, side effect and interactions
This herb has very low toxicity. Its decoction median lethal dose by intraperitoneal injection to mice is 12.83 ± 1.9g/kg. And its tincture median lethal dose is 4.7 or 4.1g/kg respectively if giving once or once a day for straight 7 days. This animal experiment indicated that no significant accumulation was made in the body. In another experiment feeding decoration to rabbits by intragastric administration in the dose of 80g/kg or by intraperitoneal injection in the dose of 60g/kg, the rabbits were motionless but recovered 3 to 4 hours later. TCM wise, Lycium Barbarum Root Bark (Di Gu Pi) shouldn’t be used in the case of deficiency-cold in spleen and stomach.