A Medicinal Fruit

At the turn of the century, jujubes were thought good for chest and throat irritations. The original JUJUBE candy contained jujube juice for this reason, although the candies did not contain this natural juice for long. The original candies are thought to have became popular in theaters with the idea of decreasing the disturbance of coughing during movies.

The history of Jujubes as a food and medicine does not begin with the movie candy, however. The history of Jujubes begins 4,000 years earlier in the East as the original functional food, considered as a medicinal plant that had a unique ability to harmonize hundreds of other medicinals.

Over 60% of Traditional Chinese Medicine prescriptions contained Jujube, where it has been used for thousands of years because of its wide-ranging health‐promoting qualities such as anti‐inflammatory, anticancer, liver and gastrointestinal protective, antioxidant, anti‐insomnia, anti-anxiety, and neuroprotective effects.

According to Chinese medicinal theory, Jujube is considered primarily as a harmonizing medicinal herb that calms the mind and relieves mental tension. Clinically, jujube is commonly prescribed, either as single herb or in a tranquillizing formulae combined with other herbal medicines, for the treatment of insomnia and forgetfulness. It is considered to prolong life-span, improve quality of sleep, and regulate the digestive system.

Shennong, the Divine Farmer, who originally described the medicinal uses of Jujube in the classic text considered the Materia Medica of Chinese Medicine.

In Huangdi Neijing (475-221 BC), the ancient Chinese medical text that has been treated as the fundamental doctrinal source for Chinese medicine for more than two millennia, Jujube was described as one of the five most valuable fruits in China.

In Shennong Bencao Jing (300 BC-200 AD), considered the Materia Medica of Chinese medicine, Jujube was considered a member of the highest grade of herbal medicines. These herbs are described as "noble" or "upper herbs" (上品). The Jujube fruit as a medicinal herb is described in a quote from this ancient text:

“It is sweet and balanced. It mainly treats heart and abdominal evil qi, quiets the center and nourishes the spleen…supplements shortage of qi, shortage of fluids, and insufficiency of the body, [eliminates] great fright and heaviness of the limbs, and harmonizes hundreds of medicinals. Protracted taking may make the body light and lengthen life…Since this medicinal is able to harmonize the blood and qi, it is good for almost any condition. Generally speaking [Jujubes], which are sweet, are relaxing and moderating…Thanks to their magnificent action of quieting the center, [Jujubes] are able to put an end to chaotic qi. Then great fright will be eliminated.”

But Jujube is not just highly regarded as an ancient herbal medicine. Recent phytochemical and pharmacological research has revealed that flavonoids, polysaccharides, and triterpenic acids are the main active ingredients within Jujube.

Based on the literature, both flavonoid and polysaccharide could account for antioxidative effect of jujube. Moreover, Jujube polysaccharides were also proposed to be main active ingredients contributing to its immune-modulating and hematopoietic functions. Triterpenic acids were considered as active ingredients for the effect on anti-inflammatory and anticancer activities. In addition, betulinic acid and jujuboside B, found in the seeds, could be the active components showing beneficial effects on cardiovascular system.

A Chinese painting titled "Assaulting the Jujube Tree" Created: Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD)
A Chinese painting titled "Assaulting the Jujube Tree" Created: Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD)

According to historical usage in China, one of the main functions of Jujube was considered to benefit our brain by calming down the mind and improving quality of sleep. Recent studies have indicated that the traditional function of jujube in benefiting the brain may be closely related to its neurobeneficial effects- for example, neuroprotection effect and neurotrophic action (growth and differentiation of brain cells). Jujube has also been reported to possess repairing effects on both memory and learning impairment, as well as have an antidepression function in animal models.

Jujubes contain the highest known concentration of Cyclic Adenosine Monophosphate (cAMP) in all higher plants and were found to have cAMP content 10 times higher than all other fruit. In another study, Jujube was shown to be able to increase the cAMP content in plasma and the hippocampus and played a role in some of the noted neurobeneficial effects. In parallel, at least one study states that cAMP isolated from Jujube was found to possess antimelancholic property in animal model of depression.

But probably the most interesting thing about the extraordinarily high cAMP content of Jujubes is that it may provide insight into one particular animal study that has found that Jujube fruit feeding extended not only lifespan but also healthspan. The introduction of cAMP in organisms has been shown in studies to slow the ageing process by mimicking the effects of calorie restriction, seemingly supporting the ancient knowledge surrounding this fruit.

Finally, if the above is not enough, the basic nutritional info shows that Jujubes contain 18 of the 24 essential amino acids, including 8 essential amino acids. Eaten fresh, they contain 100X the vitamin C of apples, and 4-10X that of citrus and are also rich in other vitamins and minerals including Vitamin B1 and B2.

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