Licium Barbarum cultivated in Italy: Chemical characterization and nutritional evaluation

Main Article Content

Maria Rachele Ceccarini
Michela Codini
Samuela Cataldi
Bernard Fioretti
Gabriele Brecchia
Elisabetta Albi
Tommaso Beccari


Goji berries, Licium barbarum spp, bioactive compounds, antioxidant properties, anticancer activities


Goji berries are the most cultivated fruit crop in Asian countries as they contain many nutrients and health-promoting bioactive compounds. These health-promoting properties have recently stimulated the interest of food and nutraceutical industries in Europe, so this crop has spread within Italy, which has become the largest European producer. Several works on the chemical composition and biological activities of Chinese goji berries are available. In this review, the chemical and the nutritional profile of goji berries from Licium barbarum spp. cultivated in Italy are reported.

Abstract 165 | PDF Downloads 110 HTML Downloads 84 XML Downloads 2


Aggett P.J. and Harries J.T., 1979. Current status of zinc in health and disease states. Arch Dis Child. 54(12):909–917. 10.1136/adc.54.12.909

Agradi S., Draghi S., Cotozzolo E., Barbato O., Castrica M., Quattrone A., et al., 2022. Goji Berries Supplementation in the Diet of Rabbits and Other Livestock Animals: A Mini-Review of the Current Knowledge. Front Vet Sci. 8:823589. 10.3389/fvets.2021.823589

Amagase H. and Farnsworth N.R., 2011. A review of botanical characteristics, phytochemistry, clinical relevance in efficacy and safety of Lycium barbarum fruit (Goji). Food Research International 44:1702–1717. 10.1016/j.foodres.2011.03.027

Amagase H., Sunb B. and Borek C., 2009. Lycium barbarum (goji) juice improves in vivo antioxidant biomarkers in serum of healthy adults. Nutrition Research. 29:19–25. 10.1016/j.nutres.2008.11.005

Andoni E., Curone G., Agradi S., Barbato O., Menchetti L., Vigo D., et al., 2021. Effect of Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum) Supplementation on Reproductive Performance of Rabbit Does. Animals (Basel). 11(6):1672. 10.3390/ani11061672

Arena M.E. and Curvetto N., 2008. Berberis buxifolia fruiting: Kinetic growth behaviour and evolution of chemical properties during the fruiting period and different growing seasons. Scientia Horticulturae 118:120–127. 10.1016/j.scienta.2008.05.039

Aronson J. 2006. Solanaceae. The International Encyclopedia of Adverse Drug Reactions and Interactions. 15st ed. Elsevier B.V., Oxford, UK. pp. 3158–3160.

Bae U.J., MR O., Park J., Park J.S., Bae E.Y., Chae S.W., et al., 2017. Supplementation with Lycium chinense fruit extract attenuates methionine choline-deficient diet-induced steatohepatitis in mice. J Func. Foods 31:1–8. 10.1016/j.jff.2017.01.032

Berger A., Jones P.H. and Abumweis S.S., 2004. Plant sterols: factors affecting their efficacy and safety as functional food ingredients. Lipids Health Disease 3:1–19. 10.1186/1476-511X-3-5

Bertoldi D., Cossignani L., Blasi F., Perini M., Barbero A., Pianezze S. and Montesano D., 2019. Food Chemistry 275:585–593. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.09.098

Binia A., Jaeger J., Hu Y., Singh A. and Zimmermann D., 2015. Daily potassium intake and sodium-to-potassium ratio in the reduction of blood pressure: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Journal of Hypertension 33:1509–1520. 10.1097/HJH.0000000000000611

Bordean D.M., Gergen I., GogoaOă I., Oprea G., Pirvulescu L., Alda L.M., et al., 2011. Mathematical model evaluation of heavy metal contamination in vegetables and fruits. Journal of Food, Agriculture & Environment 9(1):680–683.

Brecchia G., Sulce M., Curone G., Barbato O., Canali C., Troisi A., et al., 2021. Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum) Supplementation during Pregnancy Influences Insulin Sensitivity in Rabbit Does but Not in Their Offspring. Animals (Basel). 12(1):39. 10.3390/ani12010039

Ceccarini M.R., Codini M., Cataldi S., Vannini S., Lazzarini A., Floridi A., et al., 2016a. Acid sphingomyelinase as target of Lycium Chinense: Promising new action for cell health. Lipids Health Dis. 15:1–11. 10.1186/s12944-016-0351-z

Ceccarini M.R., Vannini S., Cataldi S., Moretti M., Villarini M., Fioretti B., et al., 2016b. In Vitro Protective Effects of Lycium barbarum Berries Cultivated in Umbria (Italy) on Human Hepatocellular Carcinoma Cells. Bio Med Research International. 2016:7529521. 10.1155/2016/7529521

Cenariu D., Fischer-Fodor E., Bogdan Tigu A., Bunea A., Virág P., Perde-Schrepler M., et al., 2021. Zeaxanthin-Rich Extract from Superfood Lycium barbarum. Selectively Modulates the Cellular Adhesion and MAPK Signaling in Melanoma versus Normal Skin Cells In Vitro. Molecules. 26:333–352. 10.3390/molecules26020333

Chang R.C. and So K.F. 2008. Use of anti-aging herbal medicine, Lycium barbarum, against aging-associated diseases. What do we know so far? Cell. Mol. Neurobiol. 28:643–652. 10.1007/s10571-007-9181-x

Chen P.Y., Shih T.H., Chang K.C., Wang J.S., Yang C.M. and Chang Y.S. 2020. Potential of galled leaves of Goji (Lycium chinense) as functional food. BMC Nutr. 6:1–11. 10.1186/s40795-020-00351-w

Cossignani L., Blasi F., Simonetti M.S. and Montesano D. 2018. Fatty Acids and Phytosterols to Discriminate Geographic Origin of Lycium barbarum Berry. Food Anal. Methods. 11:1180–1188. 10.1007/s12161-017-1098-5

Cox D.W. 1999. Disorders of copper transport. British Medical Bulletin. 55:544–555. 10.1258/0007142991902619

Crawford M. 2012. Perennial Vegetables A-Z. How to Grow Perennial Vegetables: Low-Maintenance, Low-Impact Vegetable Gardening. Green Books., Cambridge, UK. pp. 112–114.

Donno D., Beccaro G.L., Mellano M.G., Cerutti A.K. and Bounous G. 2015. Goji Berry Fruit (Lycium Spp.): Antioxidant Compound Fingerprint and Bioactivity Evaluation. J. Funct. Food. 18: 1070–1085. 10.1016/j.jff.2014.05.020

Endes Z., Uslu N., Özcan M.M. and Er F. 2015. Physico-chemical properties, fatty acid composition and mineral contents of goji berry (Lycium barbarum L.) fruit. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologie. 21:36–40.

Erikson K.M. and Aschner M. 2003. Manganese neurotoxicity and glutamate-GABA interaction. Neurochemistry International. 43:475–480. 10.1016/S0197-0186(03)00037-8

Fernández M., Ordóñez J.A., Cambero I., Santos C., Pin C. and De la Hoz L. 2007. Fatty acid compositions of selected varieties of Spanish dry ham related to their nutritional implications. Food Chemistry. 9:107–112. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2006.01.006

Gao Y., Wei Y., Wang Y., Gao F. and Chen Z. 2017. Lycium barbarum: A traditional Chinese herb and a promising anti-aging agent. Aging Dis. 8:778–791. 10.14336/AD.2017.0725

Georgiev K.D., Slavov I.J. and Iliev I.A. 2019. Antioxidant Activity and Antiproliferative Effects of Lycium barbarum’s (Goji berry) Fractions on Breast Cancer Cell Lines. Folia Med (Plovdiv). 61:104–112. 10.2478/folmed-2018-0053

Gogoasa I., Alda L., Rada M., Negrea A., Bordean D.M., Velciov A., et al., 2014. Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) as a source of trace elements in human nutrition. Journal of Agroalimentary Processes and Technologies. 20(4):369–372.

Knowles M. 2016. All systems goji for new Italian berry. Available at:

Kruczec A., Krupa-Małkiewicz M., Lachowicz J. Oszmianski S. and Ochmian I. 2020. Health-Promoting Capacities of In Vitro and Cultivated Goji (Lycium chinense Mill.) Fruit andLeaves; Polyphenols, Antimicrobial Activity, Macro-and Microelements and Heavy Metals. Molecules. 25:5314–5330. 10.3390/molecules25225314

Kulczynski B. and Gramza-Michałowska A. 2016. Goji Berry (Lycium barbarum): Composition and Health Effects—A Review. Pol. J. Food Nutr. Sci. 66:67–75. 10.1515/pjfns-2015-0040

Li S.Y., Yang D., Yeung C.M. Wing-Yan Yu, Chang R. C-C., So K-F., Wong D. and Lo A.C.Y. 2011. Lycium barbarum polysaccharides reduce neuronal damage, blood-retinal barrier disruption and oxidative stress in retinal ischemia/reperfusion injury. PLoS One. 6:e16380. 10.1371/journal.pone.0016380

Lieu P.T., Heiskala M., Peterson P.A. and Yang Y. 2001. The roles of iron in health and disease. Molecular Aspects of Medicine. 22:1–87. 10.1016/S0098-2997(00)00006-6

Lin W.S., Chen J.Y., Wang J.C., Chen L.Y., Lin C.H., Hsieh T.R., et al. 2014. The anti-aging effects of Ludwigia octovalvis on Drosophila melanogaster and SAMP8 mice. Age (Dordr). 36:689–703. 10.1007/s11357-013-9606-z

Llorent-Martínez E.J., Córdova M.L.F., Ortega-Barrales P. and RuizMedina A. 2013. Characterization and comparison of the chemical composition of exotic superfoods Microchemical Journal. 110:444–451. 10.1016/j.microc.2013.05.016

Lopatriello A., Previtera R., Pace S., Werner M., Rubino L., Werz O., Taglialatela-Scafati O. and Forino M. 2017. NMR-based identification of the major bioactive molecules from an Italian cultivar of Lycium barbarum. Phytochemistry. 144:52–57. 10.1016/j.phytochem.2017.08.016

Lu Y., Guo S., Zhang F., Yan H., Qian D-w., Shang E-x., Wang H-q. and Duan J-a. 2021. Nutritional components characterization of Goji berries from different regions in China. J Pharmaceutical and Biomedical Analysis. 195:113859. 10.1016/j.jpba.2020.113859

Luo Q., Cai Y., Yan J., Sun M. and Corke H. 2004. Hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects and antioxidant activity of fruit extracts from Lycium barbarum. Life Sciences. 76(2):137–149. 10.1016/j.lfs.2004.04.056

Ma Z.F., Zhang H., Teh S.S., Wang C.W., Zhang Y., Wang F.H.L., Ma T., Dong Z., Zhang Y. and Zhu Y. 2019. Goji Berries as a Potential Natural Antioxidant Medicine: An Insight into Their Molecular Mechanisms of Action. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity. 2019:2437397. 10.1155/2019/2437397

Menchetti L., Brecchia G., Branciari R., Barbato O., Fioretti B., Codini M., Bellezza E., Trabalza-Marinucci M. and Miraglia D. 2020. The effect of Goji berries (Lycium barbarum) dietary supplementation on rabbit meat quality. Meat Science. 161:108018. 10.1016/j.meatsci.2019.108018

Mente A., O’Donnell M.J., Rangarajan S., McQueen M.J., Poirier P., Wielgosz A., Morrison H., Li W., Wang X., Di C. et al. 2014. Association of urinary sodium and potassium excretion with blood pressure. N. Engl. J. Med. 371:601–611. 10.1056/NEJMoa1311989

Mi X.S., Feng Q., Lo A.C.Y., Chang R.C-C., Lin B., Chung S. and So K-F. 2012. Protection of retinal ganglion cells and retinal vasculature by Lycium barbarum polysaccharides in a mouse model of acute ocular hypertension. PLoS One. 7:e45469. 10.1371/journal.pone.0045469

Ming M., Guanhua L., Zhanhai Y., Guang C. and Xuan Z. 2009. Effect of the Lycium barbarum polysaccharides administration on blood lipid metabolism and oxidative stress of mice fed high-fat diet in vivo. Food Chemistry. 113:872–877. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2008.03.064

Montesano D., Rocchetti G., Cossignani L., Lucini L., Simonetti M.S. and F. Blasi. 2018. Italian Lycium barbarum L. Berry: Chemical Characterization and Nutraceutical Value. Natural product Communications. 13:1151–1156.

Niro S., Fratianni A., Panfili G., Falasca L., Cinquanta L. and Rizvi Alam M.D. 2017. Nutritional evaluation of fresh and dried goji berries cultivated in Italy. Ital. J. Food Sci. 29:398–408.

Potterat O. 2010. Goji (lyceum barbarum and L. chinense): Phytochemistry, pharmacology and safety in the perspective of traditional uses and recent popularity. Planta Medica. 76:7–19. 10.1055/s-0029-1186218

Regulation EU. No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. Official Journal of the European Union.

Rosa A., Maxia A., Putzu D., Atzeri A., Era B., Fais A., Sanna C. and Piras A. 2017. Chemical composition of Lycium europaeum fruit oil obtained by supercritical CO2 extraction and evaluation of its antioxidant activity, cytotoxicity and cell absorption. Food Chem. 230:82–90. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2017.03.019

Sá R.R., da Cruz Caldas J., de Andrade Santana D., Lope, M.V., dos Santos W.N.L., Korn M.G.A. and Júnior A.D.F.S. 2019. Multielementar/centesimal composition and determination of bioactive phenolics in dried fruits and capsules containing Goji berries (Lycium barbarum L.). Food Chem. 273:15–23. 10.1016/j.foodchem.2018.05.124

Strazzullo P., D’Elia L., Kandala N.B. and Cappuccio F.P. 2009. Salt intake, stroke, and cardiovascular disease: Meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMJ. 339: b4567. 10.1136/bmj.b4567

Ulbricht T.L.V. and Southgate D.A.T. 1991. Coronary heart disease: Seven dietary factors. Lancet. 338:985–992. 10.1016/0140-6736(91)91846-m

Wang P., Wang J., Zhang H., Wang C., Zhao L., Huang T. and Qing K. 2021. Chemical Composition, Crystal Morphology, and Key Gene Expression of the Cuticular Waxes of Goji (Lycium barbarum L.) Berries. J. Agric. Food Chem. 69:7874–7883. 10.1021/acs.jafc.1c02009

Weinberger M.H. 1996. Salt sensitivity of blood pressure in humans. Hypertension. 27:481–490. 10.1161/01.HYP.27.3.481

WHO (World Health Organization). 2012. Guideline: Sodium Intake for Adults and Children; World Health Organization: Geneva, Switzerland.

Williams M.H. 2005. Dietary supplements and sports performance: minerals. J. Int. Soc. Sports Nutr. 2(1):43 10.1186/1550-2783-2-1-43

Xing X., Liu F., Xiao J. and So K.F. 2016. Neuro-protective Mechanisms of Lycium barbarum. NeuroMolecular Med. 18:253–263. 10.1007/s12017-016-8393-y

Yang R., Zhao C., Chen X., Chan S. and Wu J. 2015. Chemical properties and bioactivities of Goji (Lycium barbarum) polysaccha-rides extracted by different methods. Journal of Functional Foods. 17:903–909. 10.1016/j.jff.2015.06.045

Yang X., Bai H., Cai W., Li J., Zhou Q., Wang Y., Han J., Zhu X., Dong M. and Hu D. 2013. Lycium barbarum polysaccharides reduce intestinal ischemia/reperfusion injuries in rats. Chem. Biol. Interact. 204:166–172. 10.1016/j.cbi.2013.05.010

Zhao X. qin, Guo S., Lu Y. yuan, Hua Y., Zhang F., Yan H., Shang E. xin, Wang H. qing, Zhang W. hua and Duan J. ao. 2020. Lycium barbarum L. leaves ameliorate type 2 diabetes in rats by modulating metabolic profiles and gut microbiota composition. Biomed Pharmacother. 121:109559. 10.1016/j.biopha.2019.109559

Zhu J., Liu W., Yu J., Zou S., Wang J.J., Yao W.B. and Gao X.D. 2013. Characterization and hypoglycemic effect of a polysaccharide extracted from the fruit of Lycium barbarum L. Carbohyd Polym. 98:8–16. 10.1016/j.carbpol.2013.04.057