The jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) fruit was traditionally used in China to help relax the body, reduce anxiety, and induce sleep, probably due to its saponin content. This little fruit looks a lot like a date and is also known around the world as red date, Korean date, Chinese date, and Indian date.
Jujube is known to be beneficial for gastrointestinal issues like constipation. It is packed with nutrients like polysaccharides and flavonoids. Jujube has shown promising results in the treatment of neurocognitive and cardiovascular disorders.
Let us learn in detail the science-backed health benefits of jujube fruit, its nutritional content, and other possible side effects.
Table Of Contents
What Is Jujube?
Jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) is a member of the buckthorn family (Rhamnaceae) of plants. It is a small deciduous shrub with shiny green leaves and yellowish-green flowers. The fruit is oval and green when unripe and purplish-brown and wrinkled (like a date) when mature. Though it has the consistency and taste of an apple when ripe, it tastes a lot like dates when mature.
History Of Jujube Fruit
The earliest mention of jujube can be found in the Classic Of Odes, a Chinese anthology of poems dating back to the 6th century BC. It has also been used medicinally in China and other parts of Asia for at least 2500 years.
Jujube is thought to have originated from Syria and North Africa at least 3000 years ago. It then moved east towards southern Asia and, eventually, to China, where it is still widely grown. It is also found in Madagascar, Bulgaria, some other parts of Europe, and in the islands of the Caribbean.
Though it had over 400 cultivars in China, an inferior range of jujube seedlings was introduced to Europe at the beginning of the Christian era. This eventually found its way to the United States in 1837. It wasn’t until 1908, though, that a better cultivar of jujube from China was brought to the US by the USDA.
Today, the jujube fruit is consumed for its important health benefits. We will explore them in the next section.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Jujube Fruit?
The jujube fruit is rich in calcium, potassium, saponins, flavonoids, betulinic acid, and vitamins A and C. It provides a line of defense from small aches and pains to chronic diseases.
1. May Help Reduce Cancer Risk
Jujube extract is filled with phenolics that boost its antioxidant activity. This means that the antioxidant enzymes found in jujube work more swiftly to get rid of free radicals and reduce cancer risk.
There are quite a few in-vitro studies that have proven the ability of jujube extract in preventing the spread of cancer cells. One study done at the University of Calabria showed that it could effectively slow down the spread of, and even kill, malignant breast cancer cells (1).
Another study done in Iran exhibited the ability of jujube extract in inhibiting the spread of cancerous tumor cell lines, especially that of leukemia (2).
2. May Treat Insomnia
Jujube has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve sleep and treat insomnia. The fruit contains saponins that have a sedative and hypnotic effect. Rat studies show that these compounds help induce sleep (3).
Having a cup of warm jujube tea right before you go to bed could give you restful sleep and help in the treatment of insomnia.
3. May Improve Heart Health
Jujubes are loaded with potassium and are low in sodium. Potassium relaxes your blood vessels and helps regulate blood pressure levels (4).
The fruit has also been found to work as an antiatherogenic agent. It prevents fat from getting deposited in and clogging your arteries (5).
Jujube was also found to have helped lower the amount of lipids in the blood of obese adolescents. It could reduce the risk of heart disease in adolescents (6).
4. May Enhance Gastrointestinal Health
Consuming at least 40 milligrams of jujube a day may promote gastrointestinal health. It can improve the overall environment of your gastrointestinal region. The fruit also has important phytochemicals that can benefit overall health (7).
In rat studies, jujube fruit extracts were found to have the potential to prevent gastric ulcers (8). Further studies are warranted to understand these effects in humans as well.
5. May Relieve Chronic Constipation
A study conducted by the Meir Medical Center in Israel found that consuming jujube extracts not only relieved the symptoms of chronic constipation but also improved the quality of life (9).
6. May Regulate Circulation
Optimum blood circulation means your organs are thoroughly oxygenated, and you feel generally fresher and full of energy. Consuming a few jujubes a day is a great idea as it is known to nourish blood (10).
The iron and phosphorus in the fruit may have a role to play in this regard. However, more research is warranted.
7. May Boost Immunity
This little fruit is packed with vitamins A and C that are powerful antioxidants. These essential nutrients fight free radical damage that can otherwise compromise the immune system and increase the risk of cancer, heart disease, and rapid aging. These nutrients achieve this by regulating the production of inflammatory cytokines (11).
In studies on rodents, jujube extracts were found to suppress the release of histamine. Histamine is a compound released by cells as a response to inflammatory reactions. The fruit possesses anti-allergic and anti-anaphylactic (preventing hypersensitivity) properties (12).
8. May Reduce Inflammation
The topical use of jujube extract may help relieve a number of muscle aches and joint pains. The seed oils of jujube were found to have anti-inflammatory properties (13).
9. May Reduce Stress And Anxiety
Traditionally, jujube has been used to treat the symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. The fruit has a calming effect on the mind and body.
A study done on mice showed that jujube reduced anxiety when taken in lower doses and had a sedative effect when taken in higher doses (14). There are no studies done on humans that provide conclusive evidence for the same. But there is no harm in eating a handful of jujubes when you are feeling particularly stressed.
10. May Improve Bone Strength
Jujube fruit can be beneficial for the elderly or those with brittle bones. It has a high concentration of minerals needed for the formation of bones. This little fruit is filled with calcium and phosphorus that promote bone health (15), (16).
11. May Aid In Digestion
The jujube fruit contains fiber that helps regulate digestion. The nutrient ensures smooth and regular bowel movements. The fruit also has antibacterial properties. It acts against H. pylori, bacteria that are responsible for digestive ailments like peptic ulcers and acidity (17).
12. May Help Maintain Weight
Jujube fruits are low in calories and have absolutely no fat. Additionally, they have a high fiber and protein content. Foods rich in protein and fiber are known to increase satiety and potentially help with weight maintenance/weight loss (18). The fruit could fill you up fast and keep you from indulging in unhealthy snacks between meals.
13. May Help Detoxify Blood
Jujube has anti-inflammatory properties (13). These may help detox blood. However, there is no research to support this. Fighting inflammation could be a way to flush out toxins and boost immunity. But more information is needed in this regard.
14. May Protect Against Brain Damage
The brain cells start degenerating with age. This increases the risk of a number of neurological disorders. Jujube is capable of calming the mind. Studies state that the fruit could be a potential candidate in the treatment of neurological diseases (19).
Jujube also may improve the functioning of astrocytes that are responsible for protecting the neurons (20).
15. May Improve Cognitive Function
Mice studies show that jujube extract may boost memory (21). Jujube extract also boosted nerve cell growth and development in the dentate gyrus area in mice. The dentate gyrus is one of the two areas in the brain where new nerve cells develop (22).
16. May Protect Against Seizures
An experimental study done on seizure-induced mice showed some promising effects of jujube extract on them. The study found that mice that had been treated with jujube extract before being induced with seizures exhibited improved learning and memory and reduced oxidative stress as compared to the control group. Hence, jujube extract may significantly reduce brain damage caused by seizures (23).
17. May Exhibit Antimicrobial Properties
Jujube fruit can help fight infections since it is rich in immune boosting phytochemicals. The flavonoids found in jujube have been proven to be potent antimicrobial agents (24). In fact, the ethanolic extract of this fruit has been found to help in treating infections in children (25).
18. May Benefit Skin Health
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of jujube may help in treating acne, blemishes, and scars. However, direct research is lacking in this area.
19. May Increase Hair Growth
The application of jujube essential oil on shaved mice for 21 days resulted in their hair growing back longer and thicker as compared to the control group (30). The oil may possess hair growth-promoting activity. However, more studies are needed to understand the same effects in humans.
20. May Improve Ovarian Health
A study conducted by the Tehran University of Medical Sciences (Iran) used a herbal product of jujube, called Shilanum, to treat ovarian cysts. At the end of the study, they found this natural formula to be just as effective in treating ovarian cysts as birth control pills (they are usually prescribed for this condition). The formula also caused relatively fewer side effects (31). However, more studies with larger sample sizes are recommended.
21. May Help Remove Breast Milk Toxins
In a study conducted in Iran, lactating mothers were made to eat 15 grams of fresh jujubes a day for two months to test its effect on the levels of lead and cadmium in their breast milk. At the end of the trial, they found that the women who had eaten jujubes had lower levels of these toxic elements in their milk as opposed to the control group (32).
Jujube offers important benefits. In the following section, we will take a look at its nutritional profile.
|Principle||Nutrient Value||Percentage of RDA|
|Total Fat||0.06 g||0%|
|Vitamin A||11.12 IU||0%|
|Vitamin C||19.3 mg||32%|
|Vitamin B-6||0.0 mg||1%|
|Vitamin B-12||0.0 mcg||0%|
|Iron||0.13 mg mg||1%|
Jujube could be a new fruit to some of you. Though it can be eaten like any other fruit, it can also be included in your diet in other ways.
How To Use Jujube
From culinary to medicinal and cultural, there are many ways jujube is used by people around the world. Here’s a rundown of some of its most important uses:
- Fresh and dried jujubes are eaten as a snack all over the world.
- Jujube flavored tea syrup and teabags are widely consumed in China and Korea.
- In some parts of India, jujube is also used to make pickles.
- Croatians use jujube fruit to make marmalades and juices.
- Jujube is majorly used in the Chinese medicine practice of Kampo for its anti-fungal, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties.
- The leaves of the jujube plant are dried and used as potpourri in Bhutan.
- Koreans use the wood of jujube plant to make a wide variety of things like bowls, beads, violin parts, and a double reed instrument called taepyeongso.
You may also try the following jujube recipe.
Jujube Fruit Recipe
Jujube Butter Oatmeal Bars
- 2 cups jujube fruit (chopped)
- 1 cup apple cider
- 1 ½ cups rolled oats
- 1 ½ cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ sticks butter (6 ounces)
- 1 cup pecans (chopped)
- 9×9 pan
- Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
- Pour the jujubes and apple cider into a saucepan and heat them until they start boiling. Lower the flame and let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Puree the cooked jujubes until you get a smooth paste.
- In a big bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt and mix them with a wooden spoon.
- Add the butter and stir the mixture until it starts coming together like a dough, without any dry patches.
- Separate half of the dough and keep it aside for later.
- Combine the pecans with the rest of the dough.
- Grease the bottom and sides of your pan with butter.
- Pat the dough you reserved earlier (without the nuts) into the bottom of the pan.
- Spread the jujube butter evenly on top of the dough.
- Add and pat down the rest of the dough (with the nuts).
- Bake for 20-30 minutes until the top has slightly browned.
Let it cool before cutting it into bars or squares.
How To Select And Store Jujube Fruit
Jujube is available from July to November. If you are looking to buy fresh jujubes, make sure you pick ones that are light green and firm. Dried jujubes are usually sold in packets.
Store fresh jujubes on the counter if you mean to consume them within 3-4 days. They will last for a couple of weeks in the fridge. Dried jujubes can be stored and used for several months. However, the fruit may have certain side effects you want to be aware of.
What Are The Side Effects Of Jujube?
As per anecdotal evidence, consuming large amounts of jujubes may cause drowsiness, diarrhea, reduced appetite, constipation, bloating, and malaise in rare cases. Hence, consult your doctor.
Fortunately, jujube does not have any side effects that are a major cause of concern. However, those with diabetes may have to avoid this fruit. Jujube’s carbohydrate content may affect blood sugar levels.
Jujube fruit is a healthy snack as it is low in calories and high in fiber. It also contains nutrients, such as vitamin C and potassium, that offer benefits. The fruit has relatively fewer side effects, and none of them have been proven scientifically. If you experience any adverse effects after consuming jujube fruit, stop intake and visit your doctor.
Expert’s Answers for Readers Questions
How to eat jujube fruit?
You can eat jujube just as you would eat an apple – either by cutting it into slices or whole. Just make sure you remove the seed in the center.
What does jujube taste like?
Fresh jujubes taste like sweet apples, while dry jujubes taste similar to dates.
What is jujube tea good for?
Jujube tea is good for treating constipation and insomnia and reducing anxiety.
What is jujube extract?
Jujube extract that people usually refer to is the extract taken from the seed of jujube. It is also known as Semen Ziziphi Spinosae.
Is jujube good for pregnant women?
Yes, women can eat jujube when they are pregnant as it is rich in folate and antioxidants. However, they should limit its consumption as may cause constipation when overeaten.
How long does it take for jujube plant to bear fruit?
The plant starts bearing fruits within 12 months.
Can those with diabetes eat jujube fruit?
The research on the effect of jujube on those with diabetes is not conclusive. Since jujube is rich in nutrition and fiber, it may be beneficial for people with diabetes. However, the high sugar content in it could be a reason unsupervised consumption is not encouraged.
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