Jujube is a fruit-bearing plant that is believed to have anti-anxiety and sedative purposes. Botanically known as Ziziphus Jujuba, it has also been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for gastrointestinal health and digestion.
Jujube is a source of several active compounds, including flavonoids, polysaccharides and triterpenic acids. Literature suggests that both flavonoids and polysaccharides could account for the antioxidative effects of jujube, while polysaccharides contribute to its immune-modulating functions. Triterpenic acids are considered active ingredients for its anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities (1).
Research is underway to determine how effective the active compounds present in jujube are in preventing and treating specific human conditions and diseases.
Jujube helps treat anxiety. According to the results of a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, seed of Ziziphus jujuba possesses an anxiolytic (anxiety reducing) effect at a lower dose and sedative effect at a higher dose. While the major active components and precise anxiolytic mechanisms need to be identiﬁed, these early results warrant the need for further research (2).
Jujube may help treat insomnia. The effects of spinosin — a flavonoid present in jujube — on sleep was recently investigated. According to Pharmacology, Biochemistry, and Behavior, spinosin significantly increased the rate of sleep onset and exhibited a synergistic effect with 5-Hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) — an amino acid used by the body to make serotonin, an important substance that appears to play a role in sleep and mood (3,4).
In another study, a comparative analysis of the sedative and sleep-inducing effects of flavonoids, saponins and polysaccharides from jujube showed that saponins had more of an effective sedative and sleep-inducing effect than that of flavonoids; polysaccharides did not show any effect. (5).
Jujube may help protect against seizures. At least one study conducted in rats where a seizure was induced noted that Ziziphus Jujuba was able to attenuate the adverse effects of the seizure. These include oxidative biomarkers and reducing the subsequent impairment in cognition (6).
Jujube may have neuroprotective properties. Neuroprotection involves preventing cell death and restoring function to damaged neurons. Neurodegenerative diseases occur when nerve cells in the brain or peripheral nervous system lose function over time and ultimately die (7).
One study on the neuroprotective properties of jujube extract against ischemic damage in gerbils showed that it appears to protect neurons from cell death. Ischemia is an inadequate blood supply to an organ or part of the body.
Jujube may help reduce elevated cholesterol levels. In a recent clinical trial comprised of 70 obese adolescents with dyslipidemia (an abnormal amount of lipids such as triglycerides, cholesterol and/or fat phospholipids in the blood), jujube juice had a favorable effect on the serum lipid profile. Specifically, total cholesterol and LDL (“bad”) cholesterol decreased significantly; changes in BMI and other lipids were not significant (8).
In another study, polysaccharides derived from Ziziphus jujuba significantly reduced the serum levels of glucose, insulin, total cholesterol, triglycerides, LDL cholesterol and VLDL (very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol).
Additionally, the polysaccharides markedly improved HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels (9). Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol are linked to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke. High levels of HDL cholesterol can help lower one’s risk for heart disease and stroke, by helping absorb cholesterol and carrying it back to the liver. The liver then flushes it from the body.
Jujube has anti-inflammatory properties. Topical application of essential oil from seeds of Ziziphus jujuba has been shown to inhibit the inflammatory responses of skin inflammation in animal models (10).
In another study, jujuboside B, an active constituent of the fruits of Ziziphus jujuba, showed potent anti-asthmatic activity. In mice with induced allergic asthma, treatment lowered the number of inflammatory cells in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid and the severity of pulmonary inflammation was alleviated (11).
Jujube may help fight infections. Based on the results of a study published in the Iranian Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology, researchers have confirmed the potential antimicrobial activities of crude extract of Ziziphus jujuba fruits.
They found wide antimicrobial activity against gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria, including Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and E. coli (12).
The plant extract also revealed antifungal activity, specifically against Candida albicans (a fungal infection typically on the skin or mucous membranes caused by candida fungus) and Aspergillus fumigatus (a species of fungus that causes allergic diseases, respiratory illnesses and bloodstream infections).
Jujube may help treat constipation. In a controlled clinical trial, constipated patients received liquid jujube extract or placebo for 12 weeks. Treatment was associated with improvements in transit time and a better prognosis in people with chronic constipation (13).
In another study (hamster model), a water-soluble carbohydrate concentrate from jujube increased fecal moisture and shortened gastrointestinal transit time (14).
Jujube may be an effective treatment for hair loss. Essential oil of jujube seeds was applied at different concentrations (0.1 percent, 1 percent and 10 percent) to the backs of hairless mice. After 21 days, mice treated with 1 percent and 10 percent of oil produced a greater effect on the length of hair compared to the control (9.96 and 10.02 mm, respectively).
While further studies are needed, researchers from this study concluded that jujube essential oil possesses hair growth promoting activity (15).
More studies are needed to determine if jujube is safe to take for the treatment of certain medical conditions. There are some early concerns that it might lower blood sugar. Caution should be used in those prescribed diabetes medications.
Taking it with sedatives might cause excessive sleepiness or drowsiness due to its sedative and sleep-inducing effects.
Although one study found that taking 5 grams of jujube fruit powder three times a day for one month was able to lower cholesterol, more studies are needed to determine the safest and efficacious dose.
Jujube is a fruit-bearing plant that has a long history in Traditional Chinese medicine primarily for the treatment of anxiety and insomnia. It has also been linked to improving gastrointestinal health.
Early studies reveal its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and possible neuroprotective properties due to the presence of several active compounds, including flavonoids, polysaccharides and triterpenic acids.
This plant is being researched for its ability to fight several strains of harmful bacteria and may be an effective treatment for cholesterol, seizures and hair loss.
More clinical studies are needed to determine the efficacy, safety and recommended dosage.