Family Name: Zygophyllaceae
The Jujube is a fruit that is little known outside of China and this is unfortunate. On top of being powerfully building to the general health, its one of the tasty herbal medicines. The dried fruit tastes something between a dried apple and a dried pear and is something that can be added to a bag of trail mix or eaten while sitting in front of the television.
Find an Asian groccery store, and you will find dried jujubes year round, and in the late summer, you should be able to get your hands on the fresh variety. You can read more about the health benefits of this lovely fruit in my article found below, but, I would be remiss in mentioning that this is one plant you might want to add to your garden. Its an attractive green tree and produces loads of fruits with little or no work on the part of the owner. My favorite kind.
To find a plant, contact Willis Orchards at www.Willisorchards.com
Chapter from “Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life”
Chapter from “Thirty Plants That Can Save Your Life”
That’s right, jujubes could save your life. In fairness I must tell you that the jujube I am referring to is not the confection sold at the dime store and movie house, I refer to the real jujube. The real jujube fruit is the product of an Asian tree, jujube ziziphus. Few Westerners have had the pleasure of tasting this life giving and restoring sweet treat. Is there any connection between the confection jujube and the plant? Yes.
Though clearly different items, there is a connection between the two. The jujube is a tree native to the orient that produces a fruit that looks like an olive, but tastes like an apple. The jujube produces the preferred fruit of the Orient, for health and table eating.Whereas we Westerners say an apple a day keep the doctor away, the Asians feel a jujube a day keeps the doctor away.
These dried fruits, sometimes called Chinese dates, were one item that made its way from Asia into Europe during the days of Marco Polo. In the dried state the fruit is quite sugary, though less than our usual date, it found great favor in Europe . In time the term that specifically applied to the jujube fruit came to apply to any dried sweat meat, and then in turn came to apply to candy. Though the candies sold at the theater have no natural ingredients, that is to my knowledge, the name sake is quite a natural product.
The plant is known from Arabia to the far reaches of the Orient as a health giving plant, but outside of that realm it is largely forgotten. The Asian markets that have sprung up all over the world often stock these fruits, and they can be had at any Asian pharmacist.
The main jujube is called ziziphus jujube, but other members of the same tribe ziziphus lits, ziziphus ziziphus, and ziziphus spina-christi all find use in health. The Arabs use the fruit of all three trees to ensure health. They feel the leaves of the plant kill parasites and worms in the intestinal tract, end diarrhea. The fruits are said to cure coughs, resolve any lung complaints, are said to sooth the internal organs and calm them down, assist in getting phlegm out of the lungs, and last but not least, reduce water retention.
If you take a look at one of the jujubes used in health you will notice one is called ziziphus spina-cristi, and you guessed it, the name means Christ’s spiny jujube. The plant is associated with Christ and gets a whooping seven listings in the Bible. This rather unpleasant quote refers to the jujube, “then I will tear your flesh with the thorns of the wilderness, and with briars.” This quote hails from judges, and as it alludes, some of the jujubes are covered with a protective layer of thorns. If you’re a Bible buff you will find that the fruit is mentioned in Judges, Isaiah, Matthew, and last but not least, Job.
The plant is considered to be saving in an all around sort of way, in Haiti , twelve fruits or a handful of leaves and roots are boiled in several cups of water, the tea being taken as an antidote to being poisoned. Let’s just say that the point could be raised that in the modern world we each face poisoning on a daily basis. The modern world is filled with poison, most of which we take into our bodies without any coaxing. As such, the jujube may be just the cleansing plant we are looking for.
The jujube has reached great favor in Asia , and to learn a little bit about it we are best to go to its home. The jujube has been cultivated since the ancient days, and as such there are two kinds of jujubes used in Asia , the wild sort, and the domestic sort. It’s rather like domestic ducks and wild ducks. Though the two are closely related, there is some difference between the two. The first noted difference being that the spines have been breed out of the domestic plant, making picking a little easier.
The wild thorny plant is called Suan-tsao, and the term thorny is not exaggerated. The quote from the Bible about being ripped up when passing through a patch of these is quite accurate. They make a good old southern bramble patch seem like a bed of silk. The wild relation produces a small, sour fruit, that is used mainly for the stomach and as a general tonic. When we talk about a general tonic, we talk about something that is just generally good for the body. This is not necessarily a scientific term, but more one that comes with experience. The Chinese have found the wild jujube fruit to improve the health of the body. In fact, the common belief is that if the fruit is taken on a daily basis, it will improve skin color and tone, a sign of health. The tree by the way is said to have been discovered by a fairy or angel like creature, and disclosed to humanity for its benefit.
The domestic counterpart known as Pei-tsao in Northern China and Nan-tsao in the South are considered to be cooling to the body. Somehow the fruits reduce pain and distress that one might experience. An Asian version of the aspirin. They are strongly recommended in cases of sleeplessness caused either from mental fatigue, physical weakness, or pain. They reign supreme in the treatment of rheumatic symptoms, said to rejuvenate the body, whether suffering from age, or stress. The plant is used to prevent the flu, intestinal or respiratory, and to speed the recovery process along.
In the old days diseases that caused the wasting away of the body, whether due to cancer or some viral attack, were called wasting syndromes, the body wasted away. The ancients knew what plants would reverse this process and allow the body to build up, and the jujube was one of those plants. In the treatment of people facing serious illness, the fruits are said to increase the flesh and the strength. Something in this plant reversed the unhealthful process and turned it around. In my mind, preventative medicine is where it’s at, and if the plant can make a wasting body build, one can only imagine what it could do for a reasonably healthy body under a little stress. The Chinese do stipulate, the jujube should only be used fresh in wasting conditions, as it can cause fever.
In modern Chinese medicine, the jujube is used for the following:
- tones the spleen and stomach and is used for shortness of breath.
- calms the spirit. Used to treat severe emotional upset and debility due to nerves.
- used to hide the nasty flavors of unpleasant herbs.
scientific study has proven that jujube does the following:
- mice given jujube gained more weight and did markedly better in endurance tests.
- effect on the liver: when rabbits exposed to carbon tetrachloride were given decoctions of Fructus Ziziphi Jujubae (Da Zao) daily for a week. They recovered faster than a control group.
- rabbits fed a toxic chemical recovered much more rapidly when feed jujube than did those that were not, signally liver stimulating.
- patients suffering from feeble liver function due to hepatitis or cirrhosis had improved liver function when given jujube,
The three-year old kernels of the stones, otherwise known as the pits aged for a bit are considered most excellent in treating abdominal pain and is used to treat wounds. The leaves are used to treat children suffering from typhoid fever, used to induce sweating thought to break the fever. The same is used for a number of infectious diseases. The heartwood is used in treating marasmus and is called a powerful blood tonic. The root is used to promote hair growth and in treating eruptive fevers in children, as in small pox, measles, and chicken pox. Last but not least, the bark is used to make an eye wash for inflamed eyes. We might as well call this one the medicine tree.
Though we have forgotten all about the jujube, is was available enough in Europe that our friend Gerard felt it necessary to mention it in his book. Or his associate’s book, the one who died and Gerard ripped off, depending on who you believe in the matter. He seems to feel the same way the Asians do about jujube, it’s a good tonic for all the parts that matter, the lungs and the kidneys.
The fruit of the jujube tree eaten is of hard digestion, and nourisheth very little; but being taken in syrups, electuaries, and such like confections, it appealeth and smotheth the roughness of the throat, the breast and lungs, and is good against the cough, but exceeding good for the reines of the back, and kidneys and bladder.
The Indians and Pakistanis agree that jujube is a fine blood cleanser and a great addition to any diet, particularly if one is prone to illness. Both cultures use the plant as a tonic for the whole body, a strengthener, and disease preventer. Did you ever notice that when you get run down you get sick, and sometimes once you get sick, you keep getting sick. First it’s a sinus infection, then it’s an ear infection, then it’s a chest cold, and then you get the flu. Have you ever been sick off and on again for a whole season? This seems to be more and more common. The Indians and Pakistanis use jujube for just this sort of phenomona.
So for the reasons listed, jujubes will be in our tonic mixture. In getting or growing jujubes, the fruit is readily available at Asian grocery stores and pharmacies, if you don’t have one in your city or town, there are mail order Chinese herbal supply companies that will send you as many as you could ever use. Don’t try to substitute the over the movie refreshment counter type, it won’t do you any good.
Better than buying your jujubes, you might as well grow your own. The trees can be had from mail order house nurseries, one of several varieties can be had by picking up the phone. The jujube tree is a great addition to the yard, unlike many fruit trees, it’s quite shapely and has the look of a Japanese weeping cherry tree, so it’s decorative and highly edible.
In addition, the tree produces bumper crops of fruit and never has to be sprayed for anything. That’s right, a fruiting tree that is not subject to a million insects eating on the fruit. Squirrels, known as tree rats to some, do like the fruit, but it is produced in such quantities there is enough for everybody. One of the problems with most fruit trees is that they produce a million pounds of fruit in a week long period which means you have to process a lot of fruit all in one day, not so with the jujube. The fruit will dry right on the tree so by the time it falls off it is immediately ready for a jar for later use.