The Health Benefits of Ziziphus

Dried ziziphus (jujube berries)

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Ziziphus is a genus of shrubs and small trees used in herbal medicine. The edible fruit resembles a date and is rich in fiber, vitamin C, B vitamins, and some fatty acids.

Extracts from the fruit of several species of Ziziphus (including Ziziphus jujuba, Ziziphus mauritiana, and Zizyphus spinosa) are available in dietary supplement form. The supplements are used for a broad range of conditions ranging from constipation to hypertension. There is little high-quality scientific evidence to support medicinal uses.

Also Known As

Ziziphus is known by many different names, including:

  • Jujubae
  • Black Jujube
  • Chinese Date
  • Date Seed
  • Red Date
  • Datte Chinoise
  • Sour Date
  • Suan Zao Ren
  • Zao
  • Zefzouf
  • Ziziphi Spinosae

Health Benefits

Although research on the health effects of plants within the Ziziphus genus is limited, there's some evidence that a number of these plants may offer health benefits. But the studies are limited in scope and they tend to provide wide-ranging and scattered data about the potential uses of Ziziphus.

In a report published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 2013, for instance, researchers looked at the available studies on Ziziphus jujuba and found that it may help reduce inflammation, fight obesity, stimulate the immune system, improve gastrointestinal health, and boost antioxidant capacity.

Another study found that Ziziphus jujuba was effective at treating hypertension in rats. And yet one more research review found that the supplement may have the potential for use as a supplement for the prevention or treatment of neurological diseases.

Other studies have investigated specific health benefits that the herbal supplement may provide. Most, however, are performed on rodents or in vitro (on cells in a laboratory) rather than on humans so it is unclear if consumers would gain these benefits.

Anxiety

Ziziphus jujuba shows promise in the treatment of anxiety, according to a preliminary study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2000. In tests on mice, the study's authors observed that compounds extracted from Ziziphus jujuba may have sedative effects. Human studies have not confirmed this benefit.

Diabetes

Some species within the Ziziphus genus may aid in diabetes control. For example, a mouse-based study published in Pharmaceutical Biology in 2010 determined that Ziziphus mauritiana may help manage diabetes by regulating blood sugar levels.

Additionally, a preliminary study published in Natural Product Communications in 2013 found that Ziziphus mucronata may have anti-diabetic benefits. In tests on cells in culture, scientists found that Ziziphus mucronata may fight diabetes by helping cells to properly utilize blood sugar and, in turn, protect against elevated blood sugar levels.

Cancer

A 2015 report published in Pharmacognosy Review examined the potential anticancer activities of Ziziphus jujube fruit. Study authors concluded that the bioactive compounds present in the fruit (triterpenic acids and polysaccharides) have anticancer potential on various cancer cell lines. However, more high-quality independent studies are needed to determine if the benefit has any potential in humans.

Ziziphus is also used as a folk remedy for the following health issues:

  • Anxiety 
  • Asthma 
  • Diarrhea
  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • High blood pressure 
  • Inflammation 
  • Stress 

In alternative medicine, Ziziphus jujuba is also said to increase strength, stimulate appetite and enhance liver health. When applied directly to the skin, Ziziphus jujuba is thought to promote wound healing, treat dry skin, ease sunburn, and reduce wrinkles and other signs of aging.

In addition, plants within the Ziziphus genus are sometimes used in the treatment of such health problems as insomnia and to help manage menopausal symptoms.

There is not enough scientific evidence to know if Ziziphus can help treat any of these conditions.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of consuming any type of Ziziphus plant in dietary supplement form. 

There is a moderate concern that Ziziphus may interact with certain medications including antidiabetes medications, sedatives, acetophenetidin (a pain-relieving and fever-reducing drug) and medications that are changed by the liver. If you are currently on medication, speak to your healthcare provider to make sure the supplement is safe for you.

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Selection, Preparation & Storage

Dietary supplements containing extracts of Ziziphus plants are sold in many natural-foods stores and other stores specializing in natural products. You can also purchase Ziziphus products online.

When shopping for a product you may see it in liquid (extract) or capsule form. Be sure to read the label carefully as some products contain additional ingredients. In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. 

Also keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated—although it is illegal to market a dietary supplement product as a treatment or cure for a specific disease.

When choosing a supplement, it's best to look for products that have been certified by ConsumerLabs, The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention, or NSF International. These organizations don't guarantee that a product is safe or effective, but they do provide a certain level of testing for quality.

Common Questions

What does jujube fruit taste like?

Jujube fruit can be eaten raw. Fresh jujube fruit has the texture and crisp, bright flavor of an apple. They are similar in size to an olive and may be identified as red dates, Chinese dates, Korean dates or Indian dates.

Where can I find jujube fruit?

The fruit from a Ziziphus plant isn't easily found in most American grocery stores. You may need to visit an Asian specialty store that imports exotic fruit.

A Word from Verywell

Given the limited research, it's too soon to recommend Ziziphus as a treatment for any condition. It should be noted that self-treating any condition with this remedy and avoiding or delaying standard care may be extremely harmful to your health.

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