Native to China, the jujube plant now grows in locations throughout the world that include the Middle East, North Africa, southern Europe and the southwestern United States. The jujube plant produces jujube fruit, which are berries that have similar properties to figs, dates and raisins. The plant's fruit has been used as an herbal remedy for more than 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine. Today the fruit is still used in Chinese and Korean medicine and is continually being researched in the West.
Jujube fruit has been most frequently used as a demulcent, which is a substance that soothes inflamed or injured skin. In addition to treating boils, sores and scrapes, jujube helps to treat internal soreness and inflammation. Extractions and paste made from the fruit commonly appear in cough drops and sore throat lozenges. Additionally, soothing teas are made from the fruit.
The jujube fruit offers many treatments for digestive concerns. Not only does the fruit aid in digestion, but it is believed to aid in treating appetite loss and diarrhea. The fruit destroys bacteria in the intestinal tract. Jujube fruit is believed to strengthen the liver, so it is commonly used by the Chinese as a treatment for hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Additionally, jujube supports the function of the spleen.
In addition to aiding with the process of digestion, the jujube fruit has medical uses that are applicable to mental health issues and promoting general health. The fruit acts as a mild sedative; therefore it is often used to treat individuals who are irritable or hysterical. Those who suffer from chronic nervousness will appreciate jujube’s sedative qualities, which produce a calming effect in people who ingest the fruit. Jujube fruit also acts as an antioxidant, helps to increase strength and stamina, provides energy, alleviates allergies and improves metabolism.
Modern medical research includes possible medical uses of jujube fruit that include the treatment of leukemia, cancer and HIV. Water based extracts of jujube have been proven to suppress K562 leukemia cells in the human body. Experiments on treatments for cancer and HIV are formed from the betulinic acid which is abundant in jujube fruit.
Betulinic acid decreases melanoma activity because it causes apoptosis, which is programmed cell death. The betulinic acid has also aided in killing non-melanoma cells such as those found in brain tumors. Betulinic acids coupled with dihydrobetulinic acid acyl derivatives have promoted significant anti-HIV activity.