I have one of these bushes in my garden, but wolfberry plants are found all over Japan and have an interesting history. They are also known as Duke of Argyll’s Tea Tree or Matrimony Vine – common names for the fruit of Lycium barbarum, two species of boxthorn in the family Solanaceae (which also includes the potato and tomato, eggplant and tobacco). Its original habitat is thought to be southeastern Europe to southwest Asia, wolfberry species are now grown around the world, and they have been especially well known in China with traditional medicinal usage in recorded Chinese history, going back a period of nearly 2,000 years. The undocumented legend is even older and its usage going back 4,000 years. Wolfberries are known from Chinese lore and linked to Shennong, the First Emperor, mythical Father of agriculture and herbalist who lived circa 2,800 BC.
Known as kuko (クコ) in Japan, the fruit are renowned in Asia as one of nature’s most nutrient-rich natural foods and a powerful botanical that had been used for centuries in Inner Mongolia. People who ate this fruit in their diet lived free of common diseases like arthritis, cancer and diabetes and their their life expectancies reached over 100 years. The Chinese Wolfberry contained over 18 amino acids (that is six times higher in proportion than bee pollen), 21 trace minerals, more beta carotene than carrots, and an astonishing 500 times more vitamin C by weight than oranges. It is also packed with vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and vitamin E.