Goji, goji berry, or wolfberry, is the fruit of either Lycium barbarum or Lycium chinense, two closely related species of boxthorn in the nightshade family, Solanaceae.
Both species are native to Asia, and have been long used in traditional Asian cuisine. The fruits are similar but can be distinguished by small but significant differences in taste, sugar content, and content of the amino acid betaine.
The fruit has also been an ingredient in traditional Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, and Japanese medicine, since at least the 3rd century CE. The plant parts are called by the Latin names lycii fructus (fruit), herba lycii (leaves), etc., in modern official pharmacopeias.
Since about 2000, goji berry and derived products became common in the West as health foods or alternative medicine remedies extending from exaggerated and unproven claims about their health benefits.
The genus name Lycium was assigned by Linnaeus in 1753. The Latin name lycium is derived from the Greek word λυκιον (lykion), used by Pliny the Elder (23-79) and Pedanius Dioscorides (ca. 40-90) for a plant known as dyer's buckthorn, which was probably a Rhamnus species. The Greek word refers to the ancient region of Lycia (Λυκία) in Anatolia, where that plant grew.
The common English name, "wolfberry", has unknown origin. It may have arisen from the mistaken assumption that the Latin name Lycium was derived from Greek λύκος (lycos) meaning "wolf".
In the English-speaking world, the name "goji berry" has been used since around 2000. The word "goji" is an approximation of the pronunciation of gǒu qǐ (pinyin for 枸杞), the name for the berry producing plant L. chinense in several Chinese dialects, including Hokkien and Shanghainese.
In technical botanical nomenclature, L. barbarum is called matrimony vine while L. chinese is Chinese desert-thorn.
Traditional Asian cuisine
Young wolfberry shoots and leaves are harvested commercially as a leaf vegetable.
Since the early 21st century, the dried fruit has been marketed in the Western world as a health food, amidst scientifically unsupported claims regarding such benefits.[self-published source] In the wake of those claims, dried and fresh goji berries were included in many snack foods and food supplements, such as granola bars, yogurt, teablends, fruit juices and juice concentrates, whole fruit purées, and dried pulp flour. There have been also commercial products of whole and ground wolfberry seeds, and seed oil.