Ziziphus – The Top Chinese Herb for Sleep*
In the Chinese Medical system, Ziziphus is held to be the most sedative of the plants used.* It is held in high regard for this effect, being the primary ingredient in many formulas that are geared towards insomnia.*
In fact, Xu Dachun, a Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) physician claimed, “Everyone knows that one employs ziziphus and fu-shen if one can not sleep.”1*
Ziziphus is in the Buckthorn family, Rhamnaceae. It is actually technically a variation of another big herb, the jujube plant, designated by its Latin name of Ziziphus jujube var. spinoza or just Ziziphus spinoza. It is commonly also spelled zizyphus.
How Ziziphus Works on Sleep and Insomnia
It is believed that its sedative effects extend primarily from the high concentration of jujubesides.* These triterpenoid saponins are found in many adaptogenic plants and are collectively thought to be why they are classified as such. An adaptogen works on the nervous system to modulate the stress response.*
While it is not classified as an adaptogen, its great sedative powers may stem from this fact.
Ziziphus has been shown to increase the amount of REM sleep in individuals.*
This herb has also been used for a very long time with insomniacs because of its ability to keep an individual in a state of deeper sleep.* This may have to do with its effects on the neurotransmitter GABA3. GABA is essential for sleep because it basically turns everything ‘OFF.’ As an inhibitory neurotransmitter, the more of this in the brain compared to acetylcholine, another neurotransmitter, the more likely you will be asleep.
Ziziphus has been found to promote GABA receptor expression, thus increasing GABA’s inhibitory actions on the arousal (wake) system4.*
In fact, it is such a good herb for insomniacs that its metabolic pathways for helping with insomnia have been mapped as possible areas to create new sleep drugs.5*
This herb is ideal for traveling purposes as most people will have some difficulty in getting a good night sleep when not sleeping in their normal spots. Ziziphus is always one of the herbs we at Lost Empire Herbs bring with us whenever we travel.
Please note: This herb is NOT a sleep aid in falling asleep in as much as it is in promoting more restful sleep. Also, REM sleep is the time we remember and have the most vivid of our dreams. Taking this extract may result in greater frequency of and/or more intense dreams.
Other Uses and Effects
Another main use of ziziphus is to prevent excess sweating in individuals.* A possible cause of excess sweating in Chinese Medicine is when the Kidneys (water) cannot restrain the heat of the Heart (fire). In TCM, insomnia has often been connected to excess heat found somewhere in the system. It may thus help by cooling (sedative effects) excess heat that may be causing excess sweating and/or insomnia in system.*
In smaller doses, Ziziphus has been found to reduce overstimulation in individuals.6,7* This has to do, again, with its sedative effects. The smaller doses mean that a possible dozy state is avoided while still having the nerves calmed.
Ziziphus has traditionally been used and may also be helpful for:
- Altitude Sickness*
- Longevity (due to high antioxidant content)*
- Promotes cellular apoptosis8*
Some of the components found inside include:
- Jujuboside A
- Jujuboside B
- 6”’-Feruloyl Spinosin
Unlike most of our other herbs, Ziziphus tastes really good to most people.
It is best for sleep at 1-2 tablespoons. This is the dosage studies have found to achieve ideal enhanced REM sleep, equivalent to 5-9 grams.
If used to calm the nerves a much smaller dosage should be used, around 1-2 teaspoons per day.
This is a full spectrum 10:1 extract of the Ziziphus spinoza seeds, as is used in TCM.
Contraindications: Lowers blood pressure due to its content of alkaloids.* This may interfere with heart medications. Please advise with your doctor before taking ziziphus if on prescription heart medications.