If you not familiar with the fruit Jujube may be familiar with the candy.  It’s common fare at the movie theater.  This is a wonderful fruit that has been cultivated in Asia for thousands of years.  This fruit has become quite popular such that is grow just about everywhere the climate is appropriate.The Jujube seed extract is an excellent way of bringing in saponins into your diet that are touted to be used to treat individuals who experience sleeping problems and/or anxiety disorders.The fruit also contains flavonoids, sugars, fiber, calcium, phosphorus, iron and Vitamins A, B2 and C.

The sedative properties are reported to come from the saponin components.  Saponins are also known to reduce cholesterol levels, have anti-tumor capability by inhibiting tumor growth and in some cases initiate programmed cell death (apoptosis), boost the immune system and fight off infections, elevate mood (anti-anxiety) and prevent cell damage by acting as an antioxidant.The saponin components have triterpene structure and are generally known as jujubosides A and B and are responsible for this fruits ability to have a calming effect.  These jujubosides do much further than act as a mood enhancer by reducing hyperactivity and reducing hypertension.  This makes jujubosides useful in treating sleep disorders, anxiety and cardiovascular problems.

The anti-anxiety effects take place by inhibiting a glutamate pathway.  Research suggests that this acts through inhibiting calmodulin.

Studies have been done on the effect of jujuboside A (JuA) in rat brain.  Hippocampal neurons were removed from rats and cultured .  These neurons where then treated with JuA or diazepam (a benzodiazepine).  These researchers suspected a change in GABA A receptors so they were looking for changes in genetic expressions for the protein subunits that make up the receptor and chloride channel.  They then assayed for GABA A receptor mRNAs with RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction).  What they found was that different subunits of the receptor were expressed  depending on whether they treated the neurons with JuA or Diazepam.  The natural molecule JuA and the pharmaceutical Diazepam both have the ability to create a sedating effect on the nervous system by binding to the same receptor however genetic expression of the protein subunits in the receptor is different.   Diazepam is known to stop working as a pharmacological agent at some point and then termination of the drug brings about serious withdrawal symptoms.  JuA has no know side effect or withdrawal complications.  Given that the two molecules have different structure yet can bind to the same receptor but cause differential genetic expression to the protein subunits of the receptor provides insight to the importance of molecular structure and  induction of genetic expression for sub unit components.

Nevertheless,  jujubosides interact with GABA A channel binding to another site than GABA.  This allows for the GABA A channel to stay open longer allowing more negative chloride ions to enter the cell.  This makes the cell more negative such that it can’t be activated by excitatory input.  This has a calming effect on the brain by down regulating the over excitation throughout the brain.  This explains the calming or sedative effect of jujubosides.  If taken in higher doses, jujubosides should calm the brain enough to cause drowsiness and sleep so it works as a sleep aid as well and again without the side effects of pharmaceuticals and other over-the-counter drugs.

Although jujubosides affect the GABA system to induce calmness and relaxation other experiments indicate a second mode of action in promoting healthy sleep states.  Another rat study was done.  Rats were injected with jujubosides once per day for 3 days.  They were also administered pentobarbital (an anesthesia). Their sleep was observed with EEG.  Jujubosides increased the amount of sleep time and rapid eye movement.  In the presence of pentobarbital, jujubosides increased the effect of pentobarbital.  This was also the case when 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) was injected.5-HTP is the precursor for the neurotransmitter serotonin.  This indicates that the jujuboside induced increase in total sleep and increased rapid eye movement was by way of the serotonin system.  Interestingly, serotonin is the precursor for melatonin.  Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland and the brain uses it to induce a sleepy state when light levels are low.

So, jujube seed extract and its saponins, jujubosides A and B are actually affecting at these two transmitter systems.  One system is the GABA system which inhibits brain function preventing over excitation having a calming affect on the brain.  When jujubosides are taken in larger doses, a stronger calming affect is achieved where one feels tired and can sleep by way of the GABA pathway.  The other transmitter system that jujubosides interact with is the serotonergic pathway.  Jujubosides affect this system differently by promoting overall longer sleep times and an increase in rapid eye movement.