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Monday, June 18, 2007

Sour Jujube Kernel

Sour jujube kernel is the seed of Ziziphus spinosa Hu and Z. jujuba Mill. var spinosa (Bge.) Hu ex H.F. Chow. It has brain tonic, tranquilizing, body fluid secretory promoting, and excessive perspiration preventing properties. The most common traditional uses for sour jujube kernel are neurasthenia, insomnia, nightmares, night sweat, forgetfulness, palpitations, and thirst.

Sour jujube kernel is probably the most commonly used sedative herb in China for treating sleep-related problems such as insomnia and nightmares. Its first recorded use dates back two thousand years. Since then, it has become a major ingredient of Chinese sedative and hypnotic formulas, some of which are well known and can be obtained over the counter in Chinese herb shops throughout the world.

Sour jujube kernel is also used in soups and drinks for diet therapy. One recipe for rice soup in Yin Zhan Zhen Yao (a diet herbal published in 1330 A.D.) simply calls for cooking 100 g of rice to form a soup and then adding 15 g of roasted sour jujube kernel powder shortly before serving. It is said to be good for palpitations, insomnia, excessive dreams (nightmares) and tightness of the chest.

Sour jujube kernel contains a wide variety of chemical components, including flavonoids, flavonoid glycosides, triterpenes and triterpene saponin glycosides, alkaloids, sterols, fatty acids, cyclic AMP and cyclic GMP and others. Modern scientific studies have shown it to have strong sedative and hypnotic effects in both humans and in experimental animals (mice, rats, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits and dogs). As with most drug-oriented modern scientific studies on herbs, no one single active principle has been found. Rather, the flavonoid glycosides (spinosin, swertisin, and zivulgarin), alkaloids and the saponins (jujubosides A and B) have all been shown to be active. Perhaps that is the reason sour jujube kernel has been safely and effectively used for over two thousand years!

Dr. Albert Leung’s book, Better Health with (mostly) Chinese Herbs and Food discusses the use of 60 different herbs as healing foods, including sour jujube kernel on pages 85-86. For more information about Dr. Leung and his writings, visit http://www.earthpower.com/.

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