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An Essential Guide to Jujube: History, Benefits & Uses

When you hear the word “Jujube”, do you immediately think of the multi-colored gummy candies in the bright green box that were once popular staples in almost every movie theater in America? The Jujube fruit should not be confused with the nostalgic chewy candy, although they do share one thing in common — they are both delicious!

Keep reading below and you will quickly discover that “deliciousness” may be the only thing these two foods share in common, as the Jujube date is so nutritious and beneficial for health that many health experts consider this lesser-known fruit a “superfood.”

What is Jujube

Jujube fruit (Ziziphus jujuba), is also known as red or Chinese date, although these fruits are botanically unrelated.

Masquerading as a fruit tree, this deciduous shrub is a member of the Buckthorn family, making it more closely related to a Rose bush. It is native to Central Asia and is considered one of the oldest cultivated fruit trees in the world. The fruit from the tree, known as “Jujube fruit” or “Jujube date,” is a popular food in many parts of the world and has steadily been gaining popularity in the U.S. over the past decade.

The Jujube grows approximately 15-30 feet in height and contains shiny, oval-shaped green leaves and thorny branches. The tree produces a red-colored fruit that is reminiscent of the size and shape of a plum.

Jujube trees are considered hardy, drought-tolerant plants that are ideal for arid locations. They are also soilborne-disease tolerant and are not affected by insects or nematode pests in the U.S., making them a great option for organic growing methods.

History & Traditional Use of Jujube

Jujube tree

Revered in Asia, the fruit, leaves, and seeds of the Jujube tree have been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine.1

In fact, the Jujube tree was cited in the oldest collection of poems in China, called The Book of Songs, in the sentence “Jujube fruit picked in August and rice harvested in October”, demonstrating that Jujube has been domestically cultivated for at least 3,000 years,1 and some sources suggest it may be as long as 7,000 years.2

The seed of the Jujube date is used in a classic and often recommended formula in Traditional Chinese Medicine known as Zizyphus combination, a formula dating back to 220 A.D. This formula was recommended for supporting healthy sleep throughout the night.*

Health-Supporting Benefits of Jujube

Jujube is an important traditional herb and tonic. The fruit and seeds are the parts of the Jujube tree most commonly used in botanical formulas today, and are believed to be calming to the mind, heart, and digestive system.* They also support optimal sleep patterns and provide nourishment to the entire body.*

The Jujube fruit is packed with amino acids, high levels of vitamin C (100 times the level in many other fruits), vitamin B, healthy fatty acids, polysaccharides, flavonoids, iron, potassium, calcium, zinc, and high levels of bioactive compounds. In fact, over 150 different active constituents have been identified in the Jujube fruit.

The components of Jujube believed to be responsible for observed activity are called triterpenes, known collectively as jujubosides. The jujubosides are nearly identical to the active constituents found in Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng), an herb that is traditionally used to support calm and as a general health tonic.*

Due to its high nutritional value and health benefits, Jujube is prized in many parts of the world, and as mentioned earlier, many health experts believe this fruit should be classified as a “superfood.”

Consuming Jujube

Jujubes in bowl on table

So, how do you consume Jujube fruit and what does it taste like?

Jujube fruit can be enjoyed either fresh or dried. The flesh of fresh Jujube fruit can best be described as a mottled yellow-green and mahogany brown with a crisp, but not juicy, texture. Conversely, dried Jujube fruit is a brilliant red color. The fruit is described as sweet (although some people consider it more sour-sweet) and contains a small pit in the middle.

The fresh and dried fruits can both be used in a wide variety of recipes, including jams, wines, desserts, and as an added ingredient in many dishes.

Dried jujube fruit can be enjoyed as a healthy snack straight out of the bag, and they also make a delicious addition to a salad or paired with nuts and cheese.

Jujube fruit is naturally vegan and gluten-free, making this a truly versatile ingredient that works well in most diets and offers limitless possibilities as a recipe addition.

Gaia Herbs Commitment to Quality: Real Organic Certified Jujubes

Creating the highest quality products starts with the highest quality ingredients. As a Certified B Corporation®, Gaia Herbs is committed to including the environment as a valued stakeholder in all of our decision-making, so sustainable sourcing is one of our top priorities.

For plants used in our supplements that we source and cannot grow on our own farm or cannot grow in the quantity that we need, we source herbs from where they grow best, and where conditions are ideal to produce the highest possible level of botanical compounds.

We look for farmers who will grow to meet our stringent quality standards and grow either organically or use sustainable farming practices. We also look for suppliers that adhere to environmentally and socially responsible business practices and natural resource conservation.

Not All Jujubes Are Created Equal

In our search for a supplier, we found that many sources of imported Jujubes contained heavy metals and did not meet our stringent quality standards. This is why Gaia Herbs decided to find a domestic source for this fruit, and through this search selected a top-quality grower and supplier in California.

Our farm partner for our Jujube fruit is Rock Front Ranch, a remote 320-acre farm on the central coast of California in the majestic Los Padres National Forest, which grows 15-acres of Certified Organic Jujubes. The Jujube fruit that we obtain from Rock Front Ranch is dried on the tree by the California sun and is then hand harvested throughout September to December.

The remote location of Rock Front Ranch protects it from environmental contamination, making it an ideal location for an organic farm. Alisha Taff, the owner of Rock Front Ranch, is a passionate advocate for sustainable farming and follows these principles on her farm, including regenerative farming practices that include water conservation irrigation practices, cover cropping for carbon sequestration, and no use of pesticides.

Her commitment to continuous improvement is shown with the farm’s dual organic certifications with California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF), the oldest organic certifying body committed to advancing organic agriculture for a healthy world, and a recent Real Organic Project Certification.

Real Organic Certification is an add-on certification to the USDA Certified Organic label to differentiate farmers who go above and beyond the USDA Certified Organic standards. The following are some of the tenets of Real Organic Project certification:

  • Crops must be grown in the ground in nutrient-rich soil, not hydroponics or containers
  • Soil management
  • Compost required
  • Non-GMO
  • Cover crops and crop rotation required
  • Labor protections
  • Must provide tracking of pay, contracts, and training to employees, and provide this information to workers in their native language
  • Provide access to medical care and transportation

Jujube for Better Sleep

man sleeping in bed

For Gaia Herb’s products, we use the whole tree-dried Jujube fruit plus the seed, as the seed is the part of the plant believed to contain the most potent phytochemicals to support healthy sleep.* The Jujube fruit that we source from Rock Front Ranch can be found in our best-selling, sleep-supportive herbal supplement called SleepThru®.*

SleepThru is an ideal supplement for when you are feeling stressed out and struggling to find consistent restful sleep (can we say 2020!). This formula contains the adaptogenic herb Ashwagandha, which helps the adrenal glands respond to stress in a healthy way, plus Passionflower, Magnolia, and Jujube date — creating the perfect herbal blend to help you rest more easily.*

Discover Jujube

Next time you are in the mood to try something new in your diet, consider adding the Jujube fruit. This fruit is naturally sweet and delicious and is a nutritional powerhouse with lots of health-supportive benefits.* With its ability to be enjoyed fresh or dried, the Jujube fruit makes a great snack food.

While this fruit is still not widely available in all grocery stores, you should be able to find fresh Jujube fruit seasonally and dried organic Jujubes year-round in most natural grocers and/or health food stores. If you are having trouble finding Jujubes in your local area, you can also order them directly from www.justjujubes.com.

REFERENCES:
1.Qu, Z. & Wang, Y. Chinese Fruit Trees Record-Chinese Jujube (China Forestry Publishing House, 1993).
2. The historical and current research progress on jujube–a superfruit for the future. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41438-020-00346-5