- Family Rhamnaceae
- Zyzyphus jujube
- Zyzyphus ziziphus
- Zyzyphus spina-christi
- Da Zao (Chinese)
- None listed.
Native to China, Japan, and Southeast Asia, the spiny deciduous tree grows to about twenty-five feet and has oblong, bluntly toothed leaves, clusters of small greenish yellow flowers and reddish-brown or black, oval fruits. It is widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions of Asia and the Mediterranean for its fruits, which look like olives but taste like apples in both the fresh and dried forms. The jujube tree does not require any pesticides. The fruit dries right on the tree so that, by the time it falls off, there is no other processing required before storage of the fruit.
Jujube has been a part of Chinese medicine for at least 2,500 years and is mentioned in the Classic of Odes, a 6th century BCE anthology of Chinese poetry. The fruit has a pleasant taste and high nutritional value, and is often used to disguise unpalatable prescriptions.
Largely dismissed in the West, Europeans and Asians recognize jujube as a valuable medicinal herb. Gerard, in the 17th century, maintained that the herb was an excellent tonic for all parts of the body, especially the lungs and kidneys.
- aids in weight gain
- improves stamina and strength
- mildly sedating
- strengthens liver function
- stimulates immune system
- vitamins A, B2, C
- minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, and iron)
Every part of the tree is used in some cultures: the pits, aged for three years, are considered excellent for wounds and abdominal pain; the leaves are used to treat children suffering from typhoid fever, inducing sweating so as to break the fever; the heartwood is considered to be a powerful blood tonic; the root is used to promote hair growth and in treating eruptive fevers that accompany smallpox, measles, and chickenpox; the fruit is prescribed for weight gain, to improve muscular strength, and to increase stamina; and the bark is used to make an eyewash for inflammations.
In Chinese medicine, jujube is prescribed as a qi tonic to strengthen liver function and has proven to have a positive effect on the liver helping patients recover from hepatitis and cirrhosis.
The Chinese have also found that the wild fruit improves skin colour and tone, which are both indications of physical well-being.
Asians use both the wild and the domesticated types because, although closely related, there are some important differences, including the spines being bred out of the cultivated varieties, making picking easier. The domesticated variety is considered to be cooling to the body. This will reduce pain and distress and is strongly recommended for sleeplessness caused from mental fatigue, physical weakness, or pain. It is also recommended for rejuvenating the body, whether it is suffering from old age or stress, and is especially good for preventing intestinal or respiratory flu and to speed the recovery process of illnesses, especially those known as wasting syndromes.
In modern Chinese medicine, jujube is used to tone the spleen and stomach, to treat shortness of breath and severe emotional upset and debility caused by nervous conditions. In addition, it is used simply to mask the unpleasant taste of other herbs.
Since it is mildly sedating, it is given to reduce restlessness and irritability.
The Arabs use all three trees to ensure health. The leaves kill parasites and worms in the intestinal tract which cause diarrhea. The fruits are said to cure coughs, resolve other lung complaints, soothe the internal organs, and reduce water retention.
In Hawaii, twelve fruits or a handful of leaves and roots are boiled in several cups of water to make a tea taken as an antidote to poison.
Pakistan and India use it as a blood cleanser, an overall tonic, a strengthener, and a disease preventer.