TCM explains how jujubes aka Chinese dates keep you young

Updated: 07 Apr 2011
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Chinese dates
JUJUBE, the dark red fruit known as Chinese date, is both a popular snack and a very nutritious and therapeutic food praised in classics of herbal medicine.

Three jujubes a day keeps the doctor away and keeps you young, the saying goes.

In the legend "Journey to the West," an ailing king one day encounters the god of longevity in a forest and asks him for the secret of life. The god says he didn't bring medicine along since he was trying to find his lost horse, but he gave the king three jujubes that he had been planning to give to the god of heaven. The king ate the three jujubes and felt instantly invigorated.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, jujubes processed in different ways confer different heath benefits. There are several types of jujube as ell.

In TCM, jujubes can reinforce blood and energy and they are inexpensive, which makes them popular, says Xia Xiang, vice president of the Shanghai Dietary Therapy Seminar.

It is a "warm" (yang energy) herb that helps benefits the spleen and stomach, reinforces energy, nourish the blood, soothes the nerves and neutralizes toxic side effects of some medicine, according to "Shennong Bencao Jing" ("Shennong's Classic of Materia Medica"), the earliest pharmaceutical classic. It is believed to have been compiled between 300 BC and 200 AD in China.

It is often prescribed for people with weak digestive systems who suffer diarrhea, vomiting and poor digestion. Jujube is also prescribed along with certain powerful herbs to mitigate side.

Jujubes, which are high in vitamin C, minerals and fiber, are found to help reduce cholesterol, improve immunity and keep blood vessels flexible.

They are also high in calories.

Jujubes have been found to help children with allergies, according to nutritionist Xia, noting that many children have an "allergic constitution today.

There are also different varieties of jujube and different processing methods.

Da zao 大枣

This dark red Chinese date is most commonly used in TCM, especially to reinforce energy and aid digestion. It is nutrition-dense and contains more vitamin C per unit than apples and peaches.

It has high sugar content, 20-30 percent in fresh dates, 55-80 percent in dried fruit. Those with blood sugar problems should avoid it.

Chinese dates grows in most part of north China, including Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region and Gansu provinces. These are large and sweet, but smaller dates grown around Tianjin are considered more effective in TCM prescriptions, according to Xia.

Dong zao 冬枣

Winter jujube, another type, usually grows in Hebei and Shandong provinces. It's rich in vitamin C and is believed to help prevent hardening of blood vessels and arteries, aiding cardiovascular health.

Suan zao 酸枣

Ziziphus jujube is a "neutral" energy herb in TCM that helps soothe nerves, nourishes the heart and stops sweating. It is often prescribed for insomnia and night sweats.

It is rich in vitamins A and C, calcium, phosphorous and recommended for growing children. It is considered an anti-aging food and helps reduce blood fat and prevent hardening of the arteries.

Hei zao 黑枣

Black jujubes are fresh Chinese dates that have been smoked. This is a "warm" (yang) food that helps nourish yin and reinforce blood; it more effective in blood reinforcement than fresh jujubes. Eating a few every day are good for the kidneys (which control the reproductive system) and liver.

Other fruits

Sha zao 沙枣

Oleaster is a neutral herb that benefits the spleen, stops diarrhea, regulates menstruation and acts as a diuretic. It is prescribed for patients suffering stomach pain, diarrhea and coughing due to pathogenic heat.

Ye zao 椰枣

Date palm was introduced to China in the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907). It grows in Guangdong, and Yunnan provinces and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. It is high in calories and is made into a paste for external use to relieve inflammation and ulcers. 
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