Its precise natural distribution is uncertain due to extensive cultivation, but is thought to be in southern Asia, between Syria, northern India, and southern and central China, and possibly also southeastern Europe though more likely introduced there.
It is a small deciduous tree or shrub reaching a height of 5-10 m, usually with thorny branches. The leaves are shiny-green, ovate-acute, 2-7 cm long and 1-3 cm broad, with three conspicuous veins at the base, and a finely toothed margin. The flowers are small, 5 mm diameter, with five inconspicuous yellowish-green petals. The fruit is an edible oval drupe 1.5-3 cm long; when immature it is smooth-green, with the consistency and taste of an apple, maturing dark red to purplish-black and eventually wrinkled, looking like a small date. There is a single hard stone similar to an olive stone.
The tree tolerates a wide range of temperatures and rainfall, though it requires hot summers and sufficient water for acceptable fruiting. Unlike most of the other species in the genus, it tolerates fairly cold winters, surviving temperatures down to about -15°C. This enables the jujube to grow in desert habitats, provided there is access to underground water through the summer. Virtually no temperature seems to be too high in summertime.
Ziziphin, a compound in the leaves of the jujube, suppresses the ability to perceive sweet taste in humans. The fruit, being mucilaginous, is also very soothing to the throat and decoctions of jujube have often been used in pharmacy to treat sore throats.
The freshly harvested as well as the candied dried fruits are often eaten as a snack, or with tea. They are available either red or black (called hóng zǎo or hēi zǎo, respectively, in Chinese), the latter being smoked to enhance their flavour In mainland China, Korea, and Taiwan, a sweetened tea syrup containing jujube fruits is available in glass jars, photo and canned jujube tea or jujube tea in the form of teabags is also available. Although not widely available, jujube juice and jujube vinegar photo (called 枣醋 or 红枣醋 in Chinese) are also produced.
In China, a wine made from jujubes called hong zao jiu (红枣酒) is also produced. Jujubes are sometimes preserved by storing in a jar filled with baijiu (Chinese liquor), which allows them to be kept fresh for a long time, especially through the winter. Such jujubes are called jiu zao (酒枣; literally "spirited jujube"). In Korea, jujubes are called daechu (대추) and are used in teas. It is said to be helpful in aiding the common cold.
In addition, jujubes, often stoned, are a significant ingredient in a wide variety of Chinese delicacies. In Persian cuisine, the dried drupes are known as annab.
In traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, jujube and walnut were often placed in the newlyweds' bedroom as a sign of fertility.
In Korea, the wood is used to make the body of the taepyeongso, a double-reed wind instrument.
In Bhutan, the leaves are used as a popuri to help keep the houses of the inhabitants smelling fresh and clean. Also It is said to keep bugs and other insects out of the house and free of infestation.