Herb: Box Thorn
Latin name: Lycium barbarum
Synonyms: Lycium europaeum, Lycium halimifolium, Lycium lanceolatum, Lycium megistocarpum
Family: Solanaceae (Nightshade Family, Potato Family)
Medicinal use of Box Thorn:A sweet tonic decoction made from the fruits is used to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. It acts mainly on the liver and kidneys. The fruit is taken internally in the treatment of high blood pressure, diabetes, poor eyesight, vertigo, lumbago, impotence and menopausal complaints. The fruit is harvested when fully ripe and is dried for later use. The root bark is a bitter, cooling, antibacterial herb that controls coughs and lowers fevers, blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. It is taken internally in the treatment of chronic fevers, internal haemorrhages, nosebleeds, tuberculosis, coughs, asthma etc. It is applied externally to treat genital itching. The bark is harvested in the winter and dried for later use. Diuretic, purgative, . The plant has a long history of medicinal use, both as a general, energy restoring tonic and also to cure a wide range of ailments from skin rashes and eyesight problems to diabetes. A tonic tea is made from the leaves. The fruit of many members of this genus is a very rich source of vitamins and minerals, especially in vitamins A, C and E, flavanoids and other bio-active compounds. It is also a fairly good source of essential fatty acids, which is fairly unusual for a fruit. It is being investigated as a food that is capable of reducing the incidence of cancer and also as a means of halting or reversing the growth of cancers.
Description of the plant:
(8 1/4 foot)
Habitat of the herb:Hedges, on walls and waste ground.
Edible parts of Box Thorn:Fruit - raw or cooked. The fruit is a berry about 2cm in diameter. A mild sweet liquorice flavour. Only the fully ripe fruits should be eaten. Young shoots - cooked. Used mainly as a flavouring, they can also be lightly cooked for 3 - 4 minutes and used as a vegetable, the flavour is somewhat cress-like but has also been described as peppermint-like. The leaves wilt rapidly once they have been harvested. Some caution is advised, see notes at top of the page. The leaves are a tea substitute.
Other uses of the herb:Can be grown as an informal hedge, succeeding in maritime exposure. Plants have an extensive root system and can be planted to stabilize sandy banks.
Propagation of Box Thorn:Seed - sow early spring in a greenhouse. Germination is usually good and fairly quick. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in the greenhouse for their first winter. Plant out in late spring or early summer. Pinch out the shoot tips of the young plants in order to encourage bushy growth. Cuttings of half-ripe wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel if possible, July/August in individual pots in a frame. Good percentage. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season's growth, autumn to late winter in a cold frame. High percentage. Division of suckers in late winter. Very easy, the suckers can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. Layering.
Cultivation of the herb:Hedges, on walls and waste ground.
Known hazards of Lycium barbarum:Although no records of toxicity have been seen, some caution should be exercised with this species, particularly with regard to its edible leaves, since it belongs to a family that often contains toxins. However, use of the leaves is well documented and fairly widespread in some areas. The unripe fruit might also be suspect though the ripe fruit is wholesome.
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.