Jujubes: Traditional And Conventional Benefits

A few jujube kernels out of a rope bag over a wooden table
Thanh Tuan Vu Le
Thanh Tuan Vu Le

Master's degree in Chinese Medicine from Changchun University of Chinese Medicine and Pharmacy in China. Bachelor's degree in Chinese Medicine from Can Tho University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Vietnam

Jujube, scientifically known as Zizyphus jujuba, is a remarkable fruit with a rich history spanning over 4,000 years. Indigenous to China, jujubes have made their way to various regions across the globe, including Europe, southern and eastern Asia, and Australia. With a plethora of over 700 cultivars discovered in China alone, jujube is a versatile fruit with immense nutritional and medicinal value.

In addition to enjoying jujubes fresh, preserving them allows for year-round access to their benefits, which include reinforcing the health of the Spleen and Stomach, as well as promoting optimal blood circulation.

From their delicious flavor to their numerous medicinal properties, jujubes have become a staple in the lives of many who prioritize holistic healing and a balanced lifestyle. Whether consumed as a snack, incorporated into various dishes, or used medicinally, jujubes continue to enchant individuals with their remarkable qualities.

Table of Contents

Unveiling the Secrets of Jujubes: An Ancient Chinese Treasure

Let’s embark on a captivating journey into the world of jujubes, those small yet remarkable red gems. Jujubes, scientifically known as Ziziphus jujuba, grow as drupes on trees belonging to the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae. Their delightful sweet-tart taste has made them a beloved snack worldwide. However, jujubes offer much more than just flavor; they possess incredible healing properties that have been appreciated for thousands of years.

The jujube tree holds great economic value and is extensively cultivated in China. It can be classified into three main varieties: the original jujube tree (var. jujuba), the thornless variety (var. inermis), and the sour jujube variety (var. spinosa). Jujube fruits are not only sweet and delicious but also rich in essential nutrients like vitamins C and P [1]. They are used in various preserved fruits and food products. Moreover, the jujube tree (bark) has medicinal value, benefiting gastrointestinal health and blood.

It’s no surprise that jujubes originated in China over 4,000 years ago, where they were highly esteemed. Ancient medical texts like Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing lauded jujubes for their disease-preventing properties. Chinese culture has incorporated jujubes into their traditions for both nutrition and therapeutics.

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  • Jujubes are scientifically known as Ziziphus jujuba and grow as drupes on trees belonging to the buckthorn family Rhamnaceae.
  • Jujube fruits are rich in essential nutrients like vitamins C and P. 
  • the jujube tree (bark) benefits the gastrointestinal system and the blood.

Nutritional and Biomolecular Information of Jujubes

Jujubes contain a wide range of constituents, including triterpenic acids, flavonoids, cerebrosides, amino acids, phenolic acids, mineral constituents, and polysaccharides [2]. These compounds contribute to the nutritional and health-promoting qualities of jujubes.

Here is the nutrient composition of fresh jujube fruits per 100 grams (adapted from USDA National Nutrient Database, 2011):

  • Water 77.86 g
  • Energy 79 kcal
  • Protein 1.2 g
  • Total lipid 0.2 g
  • Carbohydrate 20.23 g
  • Calcium 21 mg
  • Iron 0.48 mg
  • Magnesium 10 mg
  • Phosphorus 23 mg
  • Potassium 250 mg
  • Sodium 3 mg
  • Zinc 0.05 mg
  • Vitamin C 69 mg
  • Thiamin 0.02 mg
  • Riboflavin 0.04 mg
  • Niacin 0.9 mg
  • Vitamin B-6 0.081 mg
  • Vitamin A (RAE): 2 μg
  • Vitamin A (IU): 40

The Therapeutic Power of Jujubes in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)

In TCM, jujubes are called Da Zao and are considered sweet and warm in nature, making them great for nourishing the body without overheating it. They are traditionally used to address deficiencies, particularly in the Blood and yin aspects.

Jujubes have a variety of traditional uses. They are recommended for alleviating palpitations, dizziness, blurred vision, and other signs of Heart-Blood Insufficiency. If you’re experiencing respiratory issues like coughs, phlegm, or shortness of breath, jujubes can offer relief. Different parts of the jujube plant have specific applications.

The fruit, known as the essence of the plant, replenishes the body without causing aggravation. For deficiency states in any of the zangfu organs, the fruit is suitable. Jujube leaves have a soothing and cooling effect, often used to reduce inflammation. And the jujube seeds are used to calm the mind and improve sleep.

In TCM, jujubes are commonly used in herbal formulations to enhance the therapeutic effects of other herbs. They harmonize and moderate the actions of other ingredients, making them a valuable addition to herbal remedies. Additionally, jujubes are frequently included in traditional Chinese food recipes and snacks. They add flavor and nutritional value to various dishes. Jujube tea, made by steeping dried jujube fruits in hot water, offers a soothing and nourishing experience.

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  •  Jujubes, known as Da Zao in TCM, are traditionally used to address deficiencies in the body, particularly in the Blood and yin aspects.
  • Jujubes have a variety of uses, including alleviating palpitations, respiratory issues, inflammation, and improving sleep.
  • Jujube seeds are used to calm the mind and improve sleep.
  • Jujube leaves have a soothing and cooling effect, often used to reduce inflammation.

Scientific Evidence of Jujube’s Benefits 

Modern scientific research has supported the traditional uses of jujubes and uncovered even more health benefits. Jujubes are rich in antioxidants, like flavonoids and phenolic compounds, which protect the body against oxidative stress and inflammation, potentially reducing the risk of chronic diseases. They also contain vitamin C, which supports the immune system and strengthens the body’s defenses against infections and diseases.

Jujubes have positive effects on digestive health as well. They can soothe the stomach, alleviate digestive discomfort, and promote regular bowel movements. Jujube, traditionally used for relaxation and sleep improvement, has been found to possess sedative and hypnotic properties in recent studies [3].

Preliminary research suggests that jujube extracts may exhibit anti-cancer effects by inhibiting the growth of certain cancer cells, although further investigation is necessary [4]. Jujubes may also support cardiovascular health by reducing cholesterol levels, improving blood lipid profiles, and enhancing blood vessel function, potentially reducing the risk of heart disease.

Additionally, jujube extracts have been investigated for their potential use in skincare products due to their moisturizing and antioxidant properties, which can nourish and protect the skin.

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  • Jujubes are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, providing numerous health benefits such as reducing the risk of chronic diseases and strengthening the immune system.
  • Jujubes have positive effects on digestive health, promoting regular bowel movements and soothing the stomach.
  •  Jujubes possess sedative and hypnotic properties that promote relaxation and sleep.
  • Jujube extracts may have anti-cancer and cardiovascular health benefits.

The Culinary Delights of Jujubes: Nourishing the Body and Delighting the Palate

Jujubes, with their rich history and diverse applications, have earned a special place in both traditional medicine and culinary practices. These small, sweet fruits offer a delightful combination of taste and wellness, providing a unique and valuable resource for nourishing the body.

Soaked Jujubes: Nourish the Liver and Detoxify

Experimental evidence has shown that drinking jujube water for one week can increase serum protein in individuals with poor liver function, effectively protecting the liver and detoxifying the body. To maximize the effectiveness of jujube infusion, it is best to break open the tough jujube skin before soaking, as this allows the active ingredients to dissolve more completely.

Jujube Tea: Replenish Qi and Protect the Throat

Stir-fried jujubes that have turned black can be used to make tea that treats stomach coldness and alleviates stomach pain. For an extra boost, adding dried longan to the tea transforms it into a blood-nourishing and Qi-replenishing elixir. This tea is particularly suitable for individuals who frequently strain their vocal cords, such as singers or public speakers.

Jujube Soup: Relieve Cough and Moisturize the Lungs

The ancient Tang Dynasty book “Bi Xiao Fang” by Yu Shen records a recipe for a soothing soup made with jujubes, tremella mushroom, and rock sugar. This combination of ingredients has been found to relieve cough and moisturize the lungs. To prepare this nourishing soup, simply simmer 20g of tremella mushroom, 20 jujubes, and 60g of rock sugar in a pot for half an hour.

Jujube Boiled with Eggs: Nourish the Blood and Beautify the Complexion

Boiling jujubes and dried longan with brown sugar water until the jujubes are soft and the dried longan is tender creates a nourishing concoction. Adding an egg to the mixture and continuing to simmer over low heat until the egg is cooked further enhances its benefits. Jujubes, dried longan, and brown sugar all have blood-nourishing effects, making this dish a wonderful choice for promoting healthy blood circulation and achieving a radiant complexion.

Jujube Congee: Calm the Mind and Aid Sleep

For individuals experiencing restlessness, anxiety, and insomnia, a combination of jujubes, lily bulb, and lotus seeds can help regulate the mind and promote restful sleep. When cooked with millet, the calming effect of jujubes is further enhanced, creating a comforting and nourishing congee.

Jujube Infused in Alcohol: Promote Vascular Health

During the soaking process, jujubes release more of their nutrient-rich organic compounds into the alcohol. This infusion can have a positive effect on maintaining vascular health. Enjoying a jujube-infused alcoholic beverage not only provides a delightful taste but also offers potential health benefits.

Taboos and Considerations when Consuming Jujubes

While jujubes have numerous benefits, it is important to be aware of certain precautions and considerations when consuming them. Here are a few points to keep in mind:

Avoid Consuming Rotten or Spoiled Jujubes

Rotten jujubes promote the growth of harmful microorganisms and can release substances such as formaldehyde and methanol. Consuming rotten jujubes can lead to symptoms ranging from dizziness to severe harm, endangering one’s health and well-being [5]. Always ensure that the jujubes you consume are fresh and in good condition.

Be Mindful of Vitamin Interactions

Jujubes naturally contain vitamins, but when consumed with vitamin-rich foods, they can interfere with the absorption and efficacy of vitamin K. To maximize the therapeutic effects of vitamins, it is best to consume jujubes separately from meals or supplements that contain high levels of vitamin K.

Avoid Pairing Jujubes with Cucumbers or Radishes

Certain enzymes found in radishes and cucumbers can degrade vitamins. When consumed together with jujubes, the vitamins present in the jujubes may be compromised. To ensure the maximum nutritional benefit, it is advisable to consume jujubes separately from radishes and cucumbers.

Be Cautious with Antipyretic Medication

High-sugar foods, such as jujubes, can form insoluble complexes with certain substances in antipyretic medications, hindering their absorption by the body. Consequently, the efficacy of the antipyretic medication may be significantly reduced. When taking antipyretic medication, it is best to avoid consuming jujubes or other high-sugar foods.

It is important to note that individuals with specific sensitivities should exercise caution when consuming jujubes. If you experience bloating in the lower abdomen or constipation, consuming jujubes may exacerbate these symptoms and lead to adverse reactions. Symptoms such as feeling cold or hot, increased thirst, and stomach bloating may occur due to the sweet, spicy, and warm nature of jujubes, which have a tendency to generate phlegm and Dampness in the body.

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  • Consuming jujubes with antipyretic medications can hinder the absorption of the medication, reducing its effectiveness.
  • Individuals with sensitivities may experience adverse reactions such as bloating and constipation when consuming jujubes.
  •  Jujubes have a tendency to generate phlegm and Dampness in the body, leading to symptoms such as feeling cold or hot, increased thirst, and stomach bloating.

References

1. Li, J.; Fan, L.; Ding, S.; Ding, X. Nutritional composition of five cultivars of Chinese jujube. Food Chem. 2007, 103, 454−460.

2. GAO, Qing-Han; WU, Chun-Sen; WANG, Min. The jujube (Ziziphus jujuba Mill.) fruit: a review of current knowledge of fruit composition and health benefits. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 2013, 61.14: 3351-3363

3. Jian-Guo Jiang jgjiang@scut.edu.cn Xiao-Juan Huang Jian Chen Qing-Sheng Lin (2007) Comparison of the sedative and hypnotic effects of flavonoids, saponins, and polysaccharides extracted from Semen Ziziphus jujube, Natural Product Research, 21:4, 310-320, DOI: 10.1080/14786410701192827

4. Abedini MR, Erfanian N, Nazem H, Jamali S, Hoshyar R. Anti-proliferative and apoptotic effects of Ziziphus Jujube on cervical and breast cancer cells. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2016 Mar-Apr;6(2):142-8. PMID: 27222827; PMCID: PMC4877962.

5. SHAHRAJABIAN, Mohamad Hesam, et al. Jujube, a super-fruit in traditional Chinese medicine, heading for modern pharmacological science. Journal of Medicinal Plants Studies, 2019, 7.4: 173-178.

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