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Botanical characteristics, chemical constituents and clinical relevance of Lycium barbarum
Lycium barbarum in the family of Solanaceae has been used as a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). While it contains various chemical constituents, the most heavily researched are a group of polysaccharides/glycoconjugates (LBP; 24–241kDa) with a Glycan-O-Ser glycopeptide structure . The structure of the repeat unit of the glycan of LBP with the most pronounced immunoactivity (LbGp2)  was elucidated based on methylation analysis, partial acid hydrolysis and NMR spectroscopy of the original glycan and products of its partial hydrolysis. Its carbohydrate content is up to 91% composed of Ara, Gal and amino acids. The glycan possesses a backbone consisting of (1–>6)-beta-galactosyl residues, about 50 percent of which are substituted at C-3 by galactosyl or arabinosyl groups and with the major nonreducing end being made up of Ara. According to Chinese understanding, the content of LBP is important for the efficacy of Lycium barbarum. Many plant- and fungal-derived bioactive polysaccharides with a broad range of immunomodulatory activities are found in TCM. Our two recent randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical studies in US and China have shown significant improvements in the examination of general well-being, immunomodulatory and anti-oxidant effects of orally consumed Lycium barbarum fruit in a form of LBP-standardized juice (GoChiTM) provided to 99 healthy adults (19–72 years age) in total for 30 days of consuming 120ml/day (equivalent to at least 150g of fresh fruit, the typical amount used in TCM). No adverse reactions, abnormal symptoms, changes in body weight, blood pressure, pulse rate, visual acuity, urine, stool, or blood biochemistry were seen. The placebo group had no significant improvements. As these studies showed, further research will clarify the role(s) of each LBP in Lycium barbarum.
References:1. Tian, M. et al. (2006) Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi 31:1603–1607.
2. Peng X. et al. (2001) Carbohydr Res 331:95–99.