Have you ever tasted berries that aren’t berries — berries that are actually used as a spice? Are you still with me? Good, because I’m talking about antioxidant-rich and heart-healthy juniper berries.
Juniper berries traditionally have been used to “detoxify” the body and promote healthy digestion and skin health, among many other things. And the results definitely aren’t all anecdotal. There are a large number of studies that reflect the incredible antioxidant and antibacterial potential of juniper berries. (That’s probably why doctors used to sanitize medical equipment with them.)
Whether you’re investigating the benefits of new essential oils or just want to understand how to benefit from juniper berries, I know you’ll be excited to learn more.
- What Are Juniper Berries?
- Nutritional Background
- 9 Benefits of Juniper Berries
- How to Find and Use Juniper Berries in Cooking
- 1. It might lower inflammation
- 2. It’s a powerful antioxidant
- 3. It could help fight off sickness
- 4. It may help GI problems
- Are there any side effects to juniper?
- How to make the most of juniper
- : Juniper Berries
- 13 Incredible Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil
- Health Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil
- Clinical Overview
- Scientific Family
- Uses and Pharmacology
- Pregnancy / Lactation
- Adverse Reactions
- Further information
- More about juniper
- Potential of Juniperus communis L as a nutraceutical in human and veterinary medicine
- What is Juniper?
- What is it used for?
- What is the recommended dosage?
- Side Effects
- Juniper Plant Benefits: How To Use Juniper For Herbal Use
- Juniper as Herb Plants
- How to Use Juniper for Herbal Use
What Are Juniper Berries?
Juniper berries actually aren’t berries at all. They are female seed cones that come juniper plants — a type of conifer (Pinophyta), which is a cone-bearing plant or tree. Juniper plants vary in appearance and can grow low and wide like a shrub or tall like a tree. Their uniquely fleshy, merged scales make them look like a berry, thus the name.
In addition to their slightly misleading name, juniper berries are also not a berry you would generally eat with breakfast, like blueberries (even though they’re similar in size). Instead, juniper berries are often used as a bitter spice. In fact, they give gin its distinctive flavor. Juniper berries are officially the only spice to come from a conifer tree. (1)
One of the major uses of these berries is in juniper berry essential oil. Known in folk medicine and some modern research as a natural antiseptic and antioxidant, the essential oil of juniper berries is a popular therapeutic oil. It’s also one of the essential oils the FDA approves for limited internal use. (3)
There are many species of juniper berries; however, keep in mind that at least one is toxic. Edible juniper varieties include: (4)
- Juniperus communis (the most commonly used)
- Juniperus drupacea
- Juniperus deppeana
- Juniperus phoenicea
- Juniperus chinensis
- Juniperus excelsa
- Juniperus oxycedrus
- Juniperus californica
Because they aren’t consumed like traditional berries, there isn’t a lot of information on the caloric or vitamin content of juniper berries. However, just a little of the spice can add quite the bitter-citrus kick you’re looking to add to any dish.
Long before they were used in food, the Greeks used juniper berries as medicine and stimulants for Olympic athletes. (5) Romans used them as a less expensive pepper substitute.
It’s a good thing the juniper berry has been around for so long, because scientists are just now beginning to find out just how beneficial it can be as a natural remedy for various issues.
9 Benefits of Juniper Berries
1. Relieve oxidative stress and help prevent disease
One major benefit of juniper berries is the antioxidants they contain. Antioxidants help your body to prevent and fight disease because they relieve oxidative stress caused by too many free radicals in your system.
Juniper berries contain polyphenolic compounds known as bioflavonoids, or flavonoids. (6) These compounds are what give fruits and vegetables (and a few other foods) their antioxidant loads. In particular, juniper berries have 87 distinct antioxidant compounds, according to one chemical assessment. (7) These compounds seem to occur more often in ripe berries than in unripe varieties. (8)
Perhaps most significantly, the activity of three extremely important antioxidants in the body is encouraged by juniper berries: superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase. (9)
Issues with SOD are linked to ALS, Down syndrome, cancers and lung issues. Catalase and SOD both protect against damage from peroxide within the body, while glutathione peroxidase does the same and is associated with helping to prevent and treat cancer and heart disease. (10)
2. Natural antiseptic
The antibacterial and antifungal qualities of juniper berries have stood the test of time — which is one reason that juniper berry essential oil is often suggested as a natural household cleaning agent. These berries have compelling effects on many strains of bacteria and fungi. In fact, at least one study suggested they could be part of treatment for skin and respiratory infections. (11, 12)
Juniper berry essential oil powerfully destroys candida fungus, which causes an infection responsible for a huge laundry list of side effects. (13)
This essential oil has also been found to eliminate bacteria and reduce inflammation in the mouth as efficiently as chlorhexidine, a common dental drug, but without toxic side effects. (14)
Some evidence suggests that juniper berry essential oil can also potentially kill bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. (15)
An extract of Juniperus drupacea berries from Turkey showed significant antibacterial activity in lab tests against various cells, including the Gram-positive bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus. (16) Staph infections cause skin infections and issues like boils, and they can sometimes lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, cellulitis or bone infection.
Research has shown that another possible use of juniper berries could be as an antioxidant in foods and beverages. In addition, an ethanol extract of these berries has shown significant antibacterial impact against Aspergillus niger, a black mold commonly found on spoiled food. (17)
3. Improves skin conditions
A simple Google search reveals that one of the most common uses for juniper berries, specifically in essential oil form, is to treat skin issues like rash or eczema. The antioxidants they contain are probably one major reason this can be effective.
In an examination of how animal wounds healed when treated with juniper berry essential oil, researchers discovered that two cultivars of juniper berries “displayed remarkable wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities.” (18) This suggests the ancient use of juniper berries as a skin healer has its roots in scientific fact.
From a lab study in South Korea, it also seems possible that juniper berry extract might be able to help treat skin pigmentation disorders like vitiligo. (19)
The essential oil of juniper berries has also been used for some time to reduce the appearance of cellulite, a harmless cosmetic issue involving fatty deposits that are often found on the thighs, hips and buttocks. (20)
4. May help improve digestion
Juniper berries have long been considered a digestive aid in folk medicine, but few studies have examined these effects at length. However, one study involving milk cows found that feeding the subjects juniper berry essential oil did result in improved digestive behavior. (21)
Because they function as diuretics, juniper berries can help relieve bloating in some cases.
5. Aids restful sleep
Many natural health practitioners recommend juniper berry essential oil as a relaxant and believe it has a positive impact on brain chemistry, encouraging rest.
A study from Mie University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan investigated the effects of a therapeutic fragrance, including juniper berry essential oil as well as sandalwood, rose and orris, on insomniacs currently taking medication for the disorder.
Twenty-six of the 29 participants were able to decrease their medication and achieve restful sleep after diffusing the fragrance during the night, and 12 people discontinued their medication entirely by the end of the study. (22)
6. May be useful against certain cancers
Many herbs and foods that have significant antioxidant activity are studied for their potential impact on diseases like cancer. So far, no human or animal trials have looked at juniper berry’s anticancer potential.
However, in a lab setting, juniper berry essential oil or extract has been found to cause apoptosis (cell death) in a drug-resistant strain of leukemia, HepG2 (liver cancer) cells and p53 (neuroblastoma) cells. (23, 24)
7. Good for the heart
Probably also due in part to its antioxidant qualities, juniper berries can help to improve heart function. For example, juniper berry essential oil has been found to reduce high blood pressure in animal studies, related to the antioxidants it contains. (25) A similar study stated juniper berry’s function as a natural diuretic (in its original or essential oil form) also contributes to its blood pressure-lowering activity. (26)
One study in rats found that juniper berry extracts might be useful in lowering high triglycerides. (27)
Juniper berries also function as an “anticholinesterase agent.” (28) This is important for heart function because anticholinesterase agents (natural or pharmaceutical) help to build up acetylcholine in the nervous system, which in turn can slow heart action, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow and induce contractions of the heart.
Interestingly, the same agents are also used in some cases to treat digestive obstructions, myasthenia gravis and Alzheimer’s disease. At present, no studies have been done to investigate the interaction of juniper berries with the latter two conditions.
8. Can be included as part of a diabetic diet plan
Like many of the others, studies connecting juniper berries with treatment for diabetes have been limited to lab and animal testing. The initial results, though, seem promising.
An ethanol extract and a tea of juniper berries seem to have the potential to reduce high blood sugar in diabetic rats. (29, 30)
Juniper berry essential oil also seems to limit the amount of malondialdehyde produced by animal bodies. (31) Although malondialdehyde’s role in diabetes isn’t understood entirely, its concentration is much higher in people with diabetes (and cancer). (32, 33)
9. May help treat leishmaniasis
It’s possible that one novel use of juniper berries could be the treatment of the parasite that causes leishmaniasis, a disease commonly contracted in tropical regions and southern Europe. Lab tests showed very potent results of an extract of juniper berry against the parasite. (34)
How to Find and Use Juniper Berries in Cooking
Many health food stores carry juniper berries in the spice section. These spicy, rich berries can be purchased either dried or fresh and whole or crushed. Many sources suggest they flavor meat dishes particularly well. (35)
For the most pungent flavor, try crushing fresh berries before using them in a sauce or marinade. You may also try toasting them, but over-cooking will draw out the bitterness and make the berries inedible. (36)
Like I mentioned, juniper berry essential oil is also a popular way to gain the benefits of juniper berries. As always, ensure you purchase only food-grade, 100 percent essential oil from reputable sellers.
While juniper berries are generally safe for most people, there are some precautions and medicinal interactions to consider.
First, pregnant women should never consume juniper berries in whole or essential oil form as it may potentially cause damage to the unborn child or force uterine contractions. Juniper is also not recommended for those with poor kidney function. (37)
It is possible to develop an allergic reaction to juniper berries, which could manifest with skin issues (like a rash) or breathing issues. If you experience any of those conditions after using juniper berries, discontinue use and consult your doctor immediately.
Juniper berries may also interact negatively with certain medications, according to a 2014 study. The berries seem to inhibit a drug metabolizing enzyme in the human body known as CYP3A4. (38) This enzyme metabolizes about half of the drugs on the pharmaceutical market, while the other half of medicines actually inhibit the enzyme.
There is a fairly extensive list of medications that could result in toxicity when taken in conjunction with juniper berries. If you are taking any medications, you should first consult with your doctor before using juniper berries or juniper berry essential oil. (39)
- Juniper berries are the aromatic cones from conifer trees used traditionally in many German recipes and to make juniper essential oil.
- Because they have a large quantity of antioxidants, juniper berries have a long list of health benefits.
- Consuming juniper berries can help to prevent major diseases, kill bacteria, improve the appearance of the skin, treat insomnia and even kill the parasite that causes leishmaniasis.
- Juniper berries are also a worthwhile addition to the diet for people at risk for heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
- When purchasing juniper berries (or their oil), be sure to buy only from reputable sellers.
- If you are pregnant or have decreased kidney function, you should not consume juniper berries.
- People on medications should consult with their prescribing physician before eating juniper berries or using the essential oil, as it can interact negatively with medications activated by the CYP3A4 enzyme.
Read Next: 9 Lemon Balm Benefits + Natural Uses for Home & Health
It’s a truth universally known (and raved about) that wine can have some pretty impressive health perks. But there’s an ingredient hiding in your grandma’s gin bottle of all places that has some surprising health potential: juniper.
“Juniper comes from the berries of the common juniper tree, which is native to North America,” says Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RDN. (Its scientific name is Juniperus communis and yes, it’s used to make gin.) And juniper is believed to have good-for-you potential beyond making for a great cocktail. “Some people claim juniper can treat urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones, diabetes, arthritis, muscle pain, GI infections and cancer,” Dixon adds.
Wow—that’s a lot. But is it true? More research is needed to support health perks, but these are a few potential juniper benefits making it worth having on your radar:
1. It might lower inflammation
Essential oils containing juniper might have anti-inflammatory properties, says Dixon. “All of these products are considered safe for topical use by most people, although they shouldn’t be applied to broken skin. And if a person experiences itching, rashes, pain or other skin reactions after applying juniper, they should wash it off and avoid future use,” she says.
2. It’s a powerful antioxidant
Much like fresh berries or colorful produce, juniper has antioxidant properties. “It’s rich in antioxidants, which fight off inflammation and may prevent the development of serious diseases,” says Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD. It may also have some antiaging potential—one 2018 study found that juniper essential oils promoted a longer lifespan in worms, but more research is needed since that study wasn’t performed on humans.
3. It could help fight off sickness
In addition to keeping inflammation at bay, which lowers risk of disease, juniper may also have antimicrobial and antifungal properties, Dixon says, where it can boost your immunity and help treat infections. More research is needed to dive deeper into its effects; however, there is a study on its abilities for wound healing in rats, says Rizzo. Cell and animal studies also suggest juniper may have some cancer-fighting properties, but there aren’t any studies on humans to make the association legit.
4. It may help GI problems
Juniper might help heal a troubled tummy, says Dixon (and has been used as such in folk medicine) but more research is needed to back this claim up. There are cell and animal studies on GI soothing abilities (it’s been show to help mice with diarrhea, for example) but again, it’s lacking in human studies.
Are there any side effects to juniper?
“Despite the lack of evidence for efficacy, juniper is commonly consumed as a food ingredient and is considered safe for short-term medicinal use to manage specific, minor ailments,” says Dixon. However, due to potential side effects with longer-term use, including kidney function changes and effects on blood pressure and blood sugar, she says, people shouldn’t use it as a dietary supplement or concentrated oil for more than a few weeks at a time.
People with diabetes should not use juniper supplements, oil, or concentrated extracts because it may affect their blood sugar levels. Women who are pregnant also should not take juniper medicinally, since it could cause uterine contractions and other issues. And since Juniper might have mild diuretic effects, people taking blood pressure medications or “water pills” shouldn’t use juniper in concentrated form, Dixon adds.
“Of course, if a person has a more serious health condition, such as diabetes, cancer, heart disease or other chronic conditions, they should not self-treat with juniper or other herbal products,” says Dixon. Be sure to check with a pharmacist, doctor, or dietitian before adding in juniper to make sure you don’t experience any negative drug-herb interactions.
How to make the most of juniper
Juniper berries can be purchased online or in a spice shop and used in cooking or to flavor cocktails and other beverages. You can also try juniper berry tea, which is readily available and many people use it to soothe heartburn or mild nausea, says Dixon.
You can also get juniper in oil form. The essential oils are inexpensive and work well when inhaled to help with a stuffy nose or chest, says Dixon. “The oil can be placed into hot water and the steam inhaled or sprinkled into a hot bath. Diluted juniper berry oil can be rubbed on sore joints and may provide relief for garden-variety osteoarthritis, too,” she says.
Lastly, you can buy dietary supplements, which can be taken orally to treat mild GI issues. But remember: “While more diluted juniper berry products, such as tea or a few drops of juniper oil diluted in water are considered safe for regular consumption, do not take concentrated juniper berry supplements for more than a few weeks at a time,” Dixon says, as long-term effects aren’t quite known yet. (And remember: Don’t take this stuff medicinally without first talking to your practitioner!)
OK, so you can’t just like, treat your cold with a gin and tonic. But still, the benefits of juniper maybe make me feel a little bit better about raising a cocktail glass now and then instead of a glass of Pinot Noir.
Curious about more herbal benefits? You might want to learn more about maca. And matcha! (They’re not the same, trust me.)
: Juniper Berries
Juniperus spp. – Juniper Berries
Juniper Berries – Juniperus spp.
Juniperus = yoo-ni-pe-rus, from its classical Latin name;
Identification: The various species of juniper grow as shrubs and small trees. They have leaves that are scale-like or awl-shaped and are arranged opposite or whorled on the branches. The pollen and seed cones can be borne together on the same plant or on different plants. The seed cones are berry-like and are greenish the first year and bluish when ripe the second. They contain 1 to 4 seeds.
Distribution & Habitat: These plants grow throughout North America except on the prairies.
Preparation & Uses: The so called juniper “berries” are in fact fleshy cones which take two years to ripen. They are green in the first year and turn purple during the second year. All of the species of juniper have edible berries ( J. deppeana and J. horizontalis are the tastiest). The purple-bluish berries taste the best in the fall of the second year or spring of the third year when they are sweet. They can be used to flavour stew or meat. Some Indians dried them for winter use, forming them into cakes. Their primary food use is as a seasoning. Six juniper berries per pound of meat is excellent with moose, venison or rabbit and poultry. The berries have also been roasted and ground, for use as a coffee substitute.
The berries of juniper give gin its distinctive and well-known flavour. The berries can also be made into a mush, then dried in cakes. Again, the purple berries are the ones to eat. I’ve often eaten them raw and enjoyed them. Some people find them distasteful.
Juniper is well known by herbalists as an excellent diuretic, cleansing out the kidney and bladder. It is especially effective for dissolving stones. The oil of juniper can be irritating to the kidneys if they are weak. Juniper is usually used with a demulcent such as marshmallow root to avoid this. The berries were used by herbalists in the Middle Ages to help them avoid getting contagious diseases. Herbalists who treated people during the Black Death usually kept a few berries in their mouths to avoid infection. It works by forming an antiseptic barrier. A strong tea of the berries was used as a disinfectant for needles and bandages. The berries are known to stimulate the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Juniper berries have also been used to expel intestinal gas.
The Cree called juniper Ka-Ka-Kau-mini and made a poultice for wounds out of the inner bark. J. horizontalis is called sik-si-nou-koo (black round objects) by the Blackfoot. Many Indian tribes believed that if a woman took a daily tea made with five juniper berries, she would not become pregnant.
A liniment was made by the Blackfoot to remedy backaches by infusing juniper root and poplar leaves. They also used an infusion of the root as a general tonic. Dena`ina Athabasca drank juniper berry tea for sore throats, colds and tuberculosis. The Inipiat used a berries-and-twigs tea for respiratory problems. An “incense” of the needles has often been burned to cleanse a house, driving infectious disease out. Juniper oil extract has been used as an external application for stiff joints, but should be diluted with other oils (e.g. olive or almond oil) because it can cause blisters.
The Blackfoot used juniper to floor their sweat lodges and to floor the Sun Dance lodge.
Some proud Indian horse owners would bath their horses in water in which the root had been soaked. This would make the horsehair shine. A decoction of juniper branches is an anti-dandruff rinse.
Blackbeads can be made from the berries of juniper. After collecting a fair quantity of berries, you string them on a small sliver of wood and let them dry. After they have dried, pour grease on the fire and smoke the dried berries in the thick smoke, which turns the berries black. The beads are then polished and strung and can be interspersed with wolf willow beads.
13 Incredible Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil
The health benefits of juniper essential oil can be attributed to its properties as an antiseptic, sudorific, antirheumatic, depurative, antispasmodic, stimulating, stomachic, astringent, carminative, diuretic, rubefacient, vulnerary, and a tonic substance.
The essential oil of juniper is obtained through steam distillation of the needles, wood and powdered fruits of juniper, bearing the scientific name Juniperus communis. Its main components are alpha-pinene, camphene, beta-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, alpha-phellandrene, alpha-terpinene, gamma-terpinene, cineole, beta phellandrene, para-cymene, terpineol, bornyl acetate, and caryophyllene. It also has trace amounts of limonene, camphor, linalool, linalyl acetate, borneol, and nerol.
It is used in many industries, as well as to flavor alcoholic beverages like gin. Juniper is an evergreen shrub that is very common in Europe. Smelling nice is great, but there is far more to juniper and its essential oil in terms of impressive health benefits, and that is where our interest lies. Let’s explore some of the impressive qualities and benefits that juniper essential oil can add to your body.
Health Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil
Juniper essential oil has many health benefits, which include the following.
Juniper essential oil has been a well-known antiseptic in the past and people wounded or injured in wars or athletics were treated with it. It was even used in injuries sustained by both the mother and child during difficult labors. It efficiently protects wounds from becoming septic or developing tetanus.
Juniper essential oil promotes and improves blood circulation. It also helps in the removal of toxins like uric acid from the body. Both of these properties help fight conditions like rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and renal calculi, all of which are related to improper circulation and the accumulation of toxins in the body. This essential oil also relieves swelling.
Juniper essential oil is also effective in nearly all forms of cramps, whether it is muscular, intestinal, respiratory or any other area. It relaxes muscle cramps and helps cure spasmodic cholera as well. Being an antispasmodic, it helps cure many other problems related to cramps or spasms.
Acts as an Astringent
Being an astringent, juniper essential oil helps cure toothaches, stops hair loss, strengthens the grip of gums on your teeth, and protects them from loosening or falling out. It also tightens loose muscles and gives a feeling of firmness, fitness, and youth. This property can also be used to cure diarrhea as well. The most important benefit of this property is in the fact that as an astringent, juniper essential oil can cause blood vessels to contract and thus, reduce the chances of hemorrhaging.
Juniper has antimicrobial properties that build a strong immunity. Photo Credit:
Carminative agents, like juniper, help in the reduction of intestinal gas. Flatulence or excess gas in the body can cause chest pain, indigestion, and uneasiness, raise the blood pressure, threaten your heart health, and give acute stomach aches. Juniper oil is also very good for those who are suffering from chronic gas troubles.
The essential oil of juniper cleans the blood of toxins and thus acts as a detoxifier or blood purifier. This property is also known as depurative, meaning ‘one which purifies’. It helps remove the common toxins like uric acid, heavy metals, pollutants and certain compounds and hormones produced by the body itself. It empties the blood of these common toxins as well as other foreign toxins which get into the blood accidentally.
Juniper oil is diuretic in nature, meaning that it promotes urination. It increases both the frequency and volume of urination. Therefore, it is very beneficial for people who are suffering from an accumulation of water in the body, or swelling due to minor or chronic renal failure. It relieves these patients by removing extra water from the body through urine. It also helps people lose weight because each time you urinate, some fats are lost from the body. This reduces blood pressure and removes extra salts and dangerous toxins like uric acid from the body.
As the name goes, rubefacient means an agent that makes your face look red. However, this is not limited to the face, but also with the rest of the body. Such an agent, when applied to the skin, increases blood circulation just below the skin to such an extent that it begins to look red in color. This may also cause irritation on the skin if applied in excess. Again, increased blood circulation below the skin certainly benefits it and keeps it healthy and well-oxygenated.
A sudorific substance is an agent which can bring about heavy sweating or perspiration. This is nothing to get annoyed at. The occasional perspiration makes you feel lighter and healthier and helps in the removal of toxins, excess salt, and water through sweat. This cleans the skin pores and openings of sweat and sebum glands, which prevents acne and other skin diseases. Juniper oil has powerful sudorific properties.
Acts as a Stimulant
Some of the properties of juniper oil like its abilities as an emmenagogue, galactagogue, and diuretic substance result from a single property of this oil as a stimulant. This stimulating effect helps overcome fatigue, dizziness, and depression. It increases the activity of the brain and neurons, digestive system, excretory system, nervous system, secretions from the endocrine and exocrine glands, which include secretion of milk, sebum, sweat, tears, urine, and discharges during menses.
Treats Stomach Issues
Juniper oil is a stomachic, that is, it keeps the stomach in order and keeps it functioning well. It also helps cure stomach disorders and ulcers and ensures the proper flow of bile, gastric juices and acids into the stomach for digestion. Sometimes, the inner lining of the stomach is injured due to prolonged acidity and ultimately results in the formation of ulcers. Juniper oil can help you avoid this situation since it maintains secretions of bile in the stomach. Bile is basic in nature and neutralizes the acids.
Have you ever heard of health tonics? Have you had any? Juniper oil is also considered a tonic, because it tones up everything, including the muscles, tissues, skin, and various other systems inside the body. This includes the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive, and excretory systems. This tonic effect helps retain youth for a long time and maintains proper health for all your years.
Speeds Up Healing Process
If a diluted solution of this oil is applied to wounds or blended with a skin cream and applied, it helps your wounds heal faster and keeps them protected from infections. This oil is equally beneficial in healing internal wounds, cuts, and ulcers.
It disinfects the air and helps treat kidney stones, inflammation, urinary tract infections, acne, eczema, other skin diseases, dandruff, and enlargement of the prostate gland.
Word of Caution: It should be avoided during pregnancy and by those who have kidney problems, and it should always be used in low concentrations.
Blending: Juniper essential oil blends well with the essential oils of Bergamot, Cedar Wood, Cypress, Grapefruit, Geranium, Lavandin, Lavender, Lavandin, Lime, Lemon, Lemongrass, and Vetiver.
Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 1, 2018.
Juniper berries have been used as a flavoring component in alcoholic beverages (eg, gin) and as a seasoning in food; juniper has also been used in traditional medicine for various purposes. Limited animal and in vitro evidence suggests potential antimicrobial, antioxidant, cytotoxic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, and hypoglycemic effects; however, no clinical data exist to support use of juniper for any indication.
Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia.
Essential oil: 0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily.
Fluid extract: 1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily.
Infusion: 2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily.
Avoid in renal impairment due to potential irritant activity.
Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested.
None well documented.
Allergic reactions may occur. Kidney damage and inflammation may result from excessive use of juniper. Juniper berries may increase blood glucose in patients with diabetes.
Large doses of juniper berries may cause catharsis and convulsions. The juniper volatile oil may be nephrotoxic.
The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreens native to northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Junipers are widely used as ornamental trees. The plants bear blue, reddish, or purplish-black fruit described as berries or berry-like cones. The cone is a small, green berry during its first year of growth that turns blue-black during the second year. Small flowers bloom from May to June.ABC 2018, Bais 2014, Barnes 2002, USDA 2018
Juniper berries (the mature female cones) have been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages (eg, gin). Production by apothecaries and historical uses of gin have been reported. Traditionally, juniper has been used for multiple medicinal purposes, including as a carminative, an appetite stimulant, and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. Prepared extracts of juniper were used to treat snake bites and intestinal worms. The indigenous people of North America have used juniper as a tonic and in tuberculosis and cystitis, among other conditions. The oil of juniper has been noted to exert diuretic activity. The berries have also served as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters, as well as in perfumery and cosmetics. Juniper tar was also used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery. The German Commission E approved the use of juniper dried fruit preparation and oil to treat dyspepsia.ABC 2018, Carpenter 2012, FDA 2018, Johnson 2006
Juniper berries contain about 2% volatile oil, juniperin, resin (about 10%), proteins, and formic, acetic, and malic acids. In addition, hydrocarbons, fatty acids, sterol, terpenes, and aromatic compounds have been identified from extracts of ripe and unripe juniper berries. The volatile oil is responsible for many of juniper’s therapeutic actions.ABC 2018
The essential oil of J. communis needles has been described. Chemical compounds sabinene, terpinen-4-ol, pinene, limonene, and myrcene are the major monoterpene hydrocarbons identified.ABC 2018, Cabral 2012, Cavaleiro 2006, El-Ghorab 2008, Smrke 2013 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, an aryltetralin cyclolignan, has been isolated from J. communis and further evaluated in in vitro studies.Benzina 2015, Tavares 2018
Uses and Pharmacology
Although members of the genus Juniperus are likely to have similar chemical constituents, and hence similar activities, information in this monograph is restricted to J. communis (common juniper), except for information regarding adverse events.
Amentoflavone, isolated from the methanolic extract of J. communis, exerted anti-inflammatory activities in a rat model of arthritis.Bais 2017
In vitro data
Berry and leaf oils showed some activity against Aspergillus, Candida, and other fungi.Afsharzadeh 2013, Cabral 2012, Cavaleiro 2006 Activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Serratia liquefaciens, Enterobacter cloacae, and Klebsiella pneumoniae were demonstrated in vitro by the essential oil from J. communis. However, activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa was not noted.Yassine 2016 Antimicrobial activity against K. pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Acinetobacter baylyi, S. aureus, Escherichia coli, and P. aeruginosa was demonstrated by various extracts of J. communis berries.Fernandez 2016 Some in vitro activity against oral bacterial pathogens was demonstrated by a J. communis extract.Ferrazzano 2013 Different extracts, including essential oils, have been evaluated in vitro and in water samples for efficacy against Mycobacterium species.Carpenter 2012, Gordien 2009, Peruc 2018 Juniper fruit formulations were found to inhibit the growth and adhesion of Campylobacter jejuni in a polymerase chain reaction–based model.Klancnik 2018
Animal and in vitro data
Antioxidant properties of juniper have been described.Fernandez 2016, Gumral 2015, Vasilijevic 2018, Ved 2017
Experimental and in vitro data
Cytotoxicity against human cervical cancer, colorectal carcinoma, lung carcinoma, and leukemia cell lines has been reported.Cabral 2012, Fernandez 2016, Och 2015, Pollio 2016, Vasilijevic 2018 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, a compound isolated from Juniperus species, has been associated with cytotoxic activity, along with anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and anti-angiogenic activity.Benzina 2015, Tavares 2018 Additionally, deoxyphyllotoxin and another derivative, isocupressic acid, exerted apoptotic effects against MB231 malignant breast cancer cells in an in vitro model.Benzina 2015
The administration of a juniper decoction in both normoglycemic (doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg) and streptozotocin-induced diabetic (dose of 125 mg/kg) rats reduced blood glucose levels. The authors concluded the glucose-lowering effect was due to an increase in peripheral glucose utilization and an enhancement of glucose-induced insulin secretion.Sanchez 1994 In an in vitro study, the hydroalcoholic extract of J. communis demonstrated activity against alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase.Orhan 2014
Hepatoprotective effects of juniper were demonstrated in paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats.Ved 2017 Another study found ethanolic extracts of J. communis exerted hepatoprotective effects in paracetamol- and azithromycin-induced liver injury in rats.Singh 2015
Various extracts of J. communis exerted inhibition against acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase.Senol 2015 In an animal model of Parkinson disease, the methanolic extract of J. communis reduced catalepsy and muscle rigidity and increased locomotor activity. It was also associated with an increase in the level of glutathione and total protein, suggesting a potential neuroprotective effect.Bais 2015
Skin pigmentation effects
An ethyl acetate derivative of J. communis demonstrated skin-lightening effects in melanin-possessing hairless mice and also reduced the production of melanin through down-regulation of tyrosine activity and protein expression in melanoma cells.Jegal 2017 Inhibition of melanogenesis was also noted in normal zebrafish.Jeong 2017
Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia.ABC 2018
0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily.ABC 2018
1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily.ABC 2018
2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily.ABC 2018
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. A combination of J. communis with suddab (Ruta graveolens) and natroon (Pinus sylvester) has been topically applied to the penis before sexual intercourse to serve as a contraceptive. The antifertility effects of the combination has been suggested to be via antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities.Daniyal 2015, Khan 2016
None well documented.
Junipers, together with cedars and cypresses, are known to be highly allergenic trees, and cross-reactivity between species and genera is common.Weber 2013
Because terpinen-4-ol has demonstrated irritant activity, excessive use of juniper may cause kidney inflammation and damage.ABC 2018
Juniper berries may increase blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.ABC 2018
Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested.Daniyal 2015, Khan 2016
According to older literature, single, large doses of juniper berries have been reported to cause catharsis, and repeated large doses have been associated with convulsions.Windholz 1983 Older reports also suggest that juniper volatile oil contains nephrotoxic compounds; however, animal studies only show toxicity at very high dosages. Case reports of nephrotoxicity are lacking; however, alternative natural medicines are available for diuresis, and juniper should be avoided in renal impairment until definitive studies are available.Yarnell 2002
Afsharzadeh M, Naderinasab M, Tayarani Najaran Z, Barzin M, Emami SA. In-vitro antimicrobial activities of some Iranian conifers. Iran J Pharm Res. 2013;12(1):63-74.24250573American Botanical Council. Juniper berry monograph. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E website. http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Juniperberry.html. Accessed on August 21, 2018.Bais S, Abrol N, Prashar Y, Kumari R. Modulatory effect of standardised amentoflavone isolated from Juniperus communis L. against Freund’s adjuvant induced arthritis in rats (histopathological and X Ray analysis). Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;86:381-392.28012393Bais S, Gill NS, Kumar N. Neuroprotective effect of Juniperus communis on chlorpromazine induced Parkinson disease in animal model. Chinese Journal of Biology. 2015.10.1155/2015/542542Bais S, Gill NS, Rana N, Shandil S. A phytopharmacological review on a medicinal plant: Juniperus communis. Int Sch Res Notices. 2014;2014:634723.27419205Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. 2nd ed. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.Benzina S, Harquail J, Jean S, et al. Deoxypodophyllotoxin isolated from Juniperus communis induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2015;15(1):79-88.24913660Cabral C, Francisco V, Cavaleiro C, et al. Essential oil of Juniperus communis subsp. alpina (Suter) Čelak needles: chemical composition, antifungal activity and cytotoxicity. Phytother Res. 2012;26(9):1352-1357.22294341Carpenter CD, O’Neill T, Picot N, et al. Anti-mycobacterial natural products from the Canadian medicinal plant Juniperus communis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(2):695-700.22877928Cavaleiro C, Pinto E, Gonçalves MJ, Salgueiro L. Antifungal activity of Juniperus essential oils against dermatophyte, Aspergillus and Candida strains. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(6):1333-1338.16696681Daniyal M, Akram M. Antifertility activity of medicinal plants. J Chin Med Assoc. 2015;78(7):382-388.25921562El-Ghorab A, Shaaban HA, El-Massry KF, Shibamoto T. Chemical composition of volatile extract and biological activities of volatile and less-volatile extracts of juniper berry (Juniperus drupacea L.) fruit. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(13):5021-5025.18547046FDA Poisonous Plant Database. Food and Drug Administration website. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/plantox/detail.cfm?id=5133. Accessed August 21, 2018.Fernandez A, Cock IE. The therapeutic properties of Juniperus communis L.: Antioxidant capacity, bacterial growth inhibition, anticancer activity and toxicity. Pharmacogn J. 2016;8:273-280.Ferrazzano GF, Roberto I, Catania NR, et al. Screening and scoring of antimicrobial and biological activities of Italian vulnerary plants against major oral pathogenic bacteria. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:316280.24302963Gordien AY, Gray AI, Franzblau SG, Seidel V. Antimycobacterial terpenoids from Juniper communis L. (Cuppressaceae). J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;126(3):500-505.19755141Gumral N, Kumbul DD, Aylak F, Saygin M, Savik E. Juniperus communis Linn oil decreases oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzymes in the heart of rats administered a diet rich in cholesterol. Toxicol Ind Health. 2015;31(1):85-91.23293127Jegal J, Chung KW, Chung HY, Jeong EJ, Yang MH. The standardized extract of Juniperus communis alleviates hyperpigmentation in vivo HRM-2 hairless mice and in vitro murine B16 melanoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2017;40(9):1381-1388.28867722Jeong EJ, Jegal J, Chung KW, et al. Hypolaetin-7-ο-β-D-xyloside from Juniperus communis fruits inhibits melanogenesis on zebrafish pigmentation. Natural Product Communications. 2017;12(11):1687-1690.Jeong.2017Johnson LM. Gitksan medicinal plants—cultural choice and efficacy. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2006;2:29.16790066 Juniperus communis L. USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed August 13, 2018.Khan SMA, Shameem. Evidence based approach to unani contraceptives: a review. Int J Reprod Contracept Obstet Gynecol. 2016;5:268-275.Klančnik A, Zorko Š, Toplak N, et al. Antiadhesion activity of juniper (Juniperus communis L.) preparations against Campylobacter jejuni evaluated with PCR-based methods. Phytother Res. 2018;32(3):542-550.29266487Och M, Och A, Cieśla Ł, et al. Study of cytotoxic activity, podophyllotoxin, and deoxypodophyllotoxin content in selected Juniperus species cultivated in Poland. Pharm Biol. 2015;53(6):831-837.25720974Orhan N, Hoçbaç S, Orhan DD, Asian M, Ergun F. Enzyme inhibitory and radical scavenging effects of some antidiabetic plants of Turkey. Iran J Basic Sci. 2014;17(6):426-432.25140204Peruč D, Gobin I, Abram M, et al. Antimycobacterial potential of the juniper berry essential oil in tap water. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2018;69(1):46-54.29604199Pollio A, Zarrelli A, Romanucci V, et al. Polyphenolic profile and targeted bioactivity of methanolic extracts from Mediterranean ethnomedicinal plants on human cancer cell lines. Molecules. 2016;21(4):395.27023497Sanchez de Medina F, Gamez MJ, Jimenez I, Jimenez J, Osuna JI, Zarzuelo A. Hypoglycemic activity of juniper “berries”. Planta Med. 1994;60:197-200.Senol FS, Orhan IE, Ustun O. In vitro cholinesterase inhibitory and antioxidant effect of selected coniferous tree species. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2015; 8(4):269-275.25975497Singh H, Prakash A, Kalia AN, Majeed AB. Synergistic hepatoprotective potential of ethanolic extract of Solanum xanthocarpum and Juniperus communis against paracetamol and azithromycin induced liver injury in rats. J Tradit Complement Med. 2015;6(4):370-376.27774421Smrke S, Vovk I. Comprehensive thin-layer chromatography mass spectrometry of flavanols from Juniperus communis L. and Punica granatum L. J Chromatogr A. 2013;1289:119-126.23566918Tavares WR, Seca AML. The current status of the pharmaceutical potential of Juniperus L. metabolites. Metabolites. Medicines (Basel). 2018;5(3).30065158Vasilijević B, Knežević-Vukčević J, Mitić-Ćulafić D, et al. Chemical characterization, antioxidant, genotoxic and in vitro cytotoxic activity assessment of Juniperus communis var. saxatilis. Food Chem Toxicol. 2018;112:118-125.29287791Ved A, Gupta A, Rawat AK. Antioxidant and hepatoprotective potential of phenol-rich fraction of Juniperus communis Linn. leaves. Pharamcogn Mag. 2017;13(49):108-113.28216892Weber RW. Allergen of the month—Chinese juniper. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013;110(5):A27.23622018Windholz M, ed. The Merck Index. 10th ed. Rahway, NY: Merck and Co; 1983.Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293.12522584Yassine EZ, Abdellah F, Saad M, Abdelhakim EOL. In vitro antibacterial efficacy of essential oils from Moroccan plants against pathogenic bacteria isolated from hospital environment in Morocco. Int J Pharm Clin Res. 2016;8:610-615.
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More about juniper
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What is it?
The dried ‘berries’ (actually they are soft little ‘cones’ like those from Pine trees) of Juniper, a tree that if given room can mature to a magnificent 10 meters. Juniper has been highly regarded as a purifying medicine by many cultures and its observable effects can be very powerful.
How has it been used?
The Greeks used Juniper as a purifying herb and the original Olympians believed the berries increased physical stamina in their athletes. The ancient Egyptians used Juniper extensively as a medicine and also to embalm their dead. As recently as world war II, French nurses burned Juniper in hospital rooms to fumigate them.
During the middle ages Europeans believed that planting a Juniper beside the door kept witches out and they could only enter if they correctly guessed the number of its needles, an impossible challenge!
By the 17th century Juniper was a popular diuretic (increasing urine flow). Culpeper wrote ‘Juniper provokes urine exceedingly; it is so powerful remedy against the dropsy that it cures the disease’.
The Chinese, American Indians, and old European cultures of medicine all highly regarded Juniper as a blood purifying kidney tonic. One of the great European herbalists of the 20th century, R.F. Weiss, prescribed Dandelion in the spring and Juniper in the autumn for chronic arthritis, gout, neuralgia, and rheumatism.
King’s Dispensatory writes ‘Juniper berries are stimulating, carminative, and diuretic. The berries and have been found efficient in gonorrhoea, gleet, leucorrhoea, cystirrhoea, affections of the skin, scorbutic diseases, etc. Pyelitis, pyelo-nephritis, and cystitis when chronic, and particularly when in old people, are relieved by juniper. Uncomplicated renal hyperemia (excess blood in the kidneys) is cured by it’
H Felter writes ‘Juniper is a gastric stimulant and a stimulating diuretic to be used in atonic and depressed conditions, usually in chronic affections of the kidneys and urinary passages with catarrhal or pus-laden discharges. It is especially valuable in renal atony in the aged, with persistent sense of weight and dragging in the lumbar region. In uncomplicated renal hyperaemia or congestion, when the circulation is weak and no fever or inflammation is present, the careful use of juniper will relieve, and if albumen is present it may disappear under its use. It is often of great value in chronic nephritis, catarrh of the bladder, and chronic pyelitis to stimulate the sluggish epithelia and cause a freer flow of urine to wash away the unhealthy secretions. It is sometimes of value after scarlet fever or in the late stages when the kidneys are not yet inflamed, and after acute nephritis when the renal tone is diminished and secretion of urine is imperfect. Under no circumstances should it be used when there is active inflammation. The infusion is extremely useful in irritation of the bladder with recurrent attacks of distressing pain and frequent urination in women during the menopause and apparently due to taking cold’
Thomas Bartram writes that Juniper’s actions are ‘urinary antiseptic, stimulating diuretic, digestive tonic, emmenagogue, carminative, sudorific (can increase sweating), the action of Gin as a diuretic is due to oil expressed from the berries. Bartram suggests it may be used for cystitis, renal suppression (scanty micturition – urination) catarrh of the bladder, proteinuria (albuminuria) digestive weakness caused by poor secretion of gastric juices, aching muscles due to excess lactic acid & amenorrhoea. Bartram suggests a dose of half to one tsp of the crushed berries, steeped for 30 minutes in a covered cup of freshly boiled water and to drink half to one cup of the strained infusion.
The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP) describes Juniper’s actions as diuretic, antiseptic, carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic and says it is indicated for acute or chronic cystitis, flatulent colic & ‘rheumatism’. The BHP suggests a dose of dried ripe fruits 1:20 in boiling water, dose 100mls and recommends a tincture in the ratio of 1:5 in 45% ethanol with a dose of 1-2 mls up to 3 times a day.
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Science on Juniper
~ Juniper has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects: A dry 80%-ethanolic extract of juniper, administered orally at 100mg/kg, reduced edema by 60% p<0.001, compared to 45% for indometacin at 5mg/kg p<0.01 (Mascolo N and et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res 1987;1:28-31)
~ The diuretic action of juniper has been attributed to terpinen-4-ol A – the 10% aqueous infusion of juniper exerted significant diuretic activity (+ 43% on day two; +44% on day three; p<0.05), suggesting that the diuretic effect is partly due to the essential oil and partly to hydrophilic constituents (Stanic, G, Samarzija, I, and Blazevic, N. Time-dependent diuretic response with juniper berry preparations. Phytother Res 1998;12:494-497)
~ The authors, titles and the ‘where-and-when’ published of nearly 50 further studies and articles on Juniper are listed in a PDF found here
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Safety of Juniper – mythbusting!
Just about every book or article on Juniper berry carries the caution “do not use Juniper where there is any chance of kidney disease”. Once a caution like that gets into the books then usually nobody thinks to question it and every subsequent author quotes the previous ones.
Fortunately, in the case of Juniper, this caution actually has been questioned. It was traced back to the first time it appeared in print to a man called Potter in 1898. Potter in turn got his information from experiments done at the time with animals using high doses of the isolated essential oil from Juniper.
However, a recent toxicological study on rats also using high doses of juniper oil found no damage to their kidneys. The authors determined that the reputation for juniper oil as a renal irritant came from the use of oils containing high levels of pinenes which are known irritants to the urinary tract. Higher levels of these pinenes would result from co-distillation of the needles and the branches and the unripe berries with the ripe berries, a practice that no longer occurs today where only the ripe berries are used.
It can be concluded that ripe juniper berries and juniper oil distilled only from the ripe berries can be used entirely safely however, we must maintain a healthy respect for the potency of these tiny berries to activate an increased kidney function and to recognise that this is not something that one should do overlong or over-strong. Nor would I suggest it to be a herb to use for young children or during pregnancy.
The cautions about Juniper being contraindicated in people with kidney disease are overstated, the potential for Juniper to over-stimulate kidney function is not. Excess cleansing, or cleansing when some other vital part of the self-healing process needs to take precedence, really can do harm. This is part of the art of medicine, understanding when to support the body in what it needs to do in order to genuinely help and not do harm, it is discussed in more depth in the page on the ‘healing cycle’ found here
Lastly, in terms of safety, the right dose is simply essential. Dosage is vital to successful, and safe, herbal medicine. Too little will miss the potential benefit, too much will unduly stress the system. For anyone new to using Juniper, it is advised to start with Juniper at a very moderate level, build up the dose gradually, and not to use it for too long. This can certainly be done with a tea or a tincture, however to really get up close and personal with this great herb, a practical example of how to dose with the berries themselves is written up in detail on the page on the Juniper and Celandine cleanse here
General comment on herbal safety
All medicinal herbs that have the power to do good have the potential to do harm. The old maxim ‘the poison is in the dose’ precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us. The ancient rule to ‘firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. Not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs, but equally we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.
For some years now, against this proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities that, not so long ago, decried herbal medicines as ineffectual, have now taken up a different adversarial position; that they are dangerous substances that should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.
Lists of ’10 popular herbs and why you should avoid them’ include things like Garlic and Ginger that might ‘thin your blood’. Such cautions are absurd to the point of the ridiculous, but fear is a universal driver that has long been proven to be effective at manipulating people.
Unfortunately, the same unnecessary fear and worry has crept into many natural health websites and popular publications on herbs. Herbs that we have safely used for thousands of years, that have no reports of adverse reactions in the medical literature despite widespread use by millions of people, are suddenly described as contraindicated because of something that should have been seen as completely unimportant, or at the utmost a merely theoretical concern, such as a laboratory study on one of the herb’s constituents to use an all too common example.
I wonder sometimes if the writers of such articles feel that the herb will be more deserving of respect if it is thought to be a little bit dangerous, in other words more like a drug than something that has simply come out of the earth and been used by ordinary people for generations beyond count.
There is just so much misinformation about herbal medicine on the internet now. Ludicrous claims and cautions abound in equal measure; it seems like one group are trying to make money out of the public whilst the other are busily trying to scare them off.
I have to believe that the kind of reader who takes the time to read pages on herbs that are as extensive as this one is much less likely to be swayed by marketers or misinformers. I hope that you will keep your wits about you if you get conflicting opinions from people who have never really got to know these herbs, who have never worked with them, or learned how to use them safely and effectively.
I want to remind you that the reason that herbs can never be patented and owned by any individual or corporation is because they are, and always will be, the People’s medicine. They belong to all of us and it is my great hope in sharing this work that you will learn how to use them wisely for yourself, and the people you care for. Be safe, but do not be afraid.
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A herb that has the power to invigorate, activate and tonify the kidneys is simply of enormous value and I personally believe that Juniper berry is one of the strongest and best of all of our natural medicines to cleanse and strengthen the kidneys.
Given how vital it is to have healthy kidneys this means that Juniper takes on an exceptionally important role in the initial treatment programs of many of my patients. Most people know to associate their liver health with the cleanliness of their blood, but less people realise that in their own way the kidneys are just as crucial to keeping everything clean.
The people I give Juniper to the most have become too ‘damp’ or congested. They may have a coating on their tongue that suggests their system needs a cleanse or they have symptoms of toxicity such as retention of water, a dull, heavy ache in their bodies or less than healthy skin.
I confirm that these findings are indicating a need for cleansing when I do a blood test with my patients that we look at together through a microscope-to-screen relay at well over 1000x magnification. Juniper will almost certainly be on the menu when I see blood with a characteristically murky, congested appearance with too many particles of ‘debris’ in the plasma.
As always dosage is a critical factor to get right with Juniper as it is with all herbs. It’s a stimulating herb, too much will not help the body as much as stress it, too little will fail to achieve its potential. In tincture form I will typically use around 2-4 mls in a day in divided doses.
Another way I use Juniper comes from Father Sebastian Kneipp, a highly regarded 19th century German Doctor who was visited by people from all over Europe for his treatments. He said, “The effect of these juniper berries on the ailing is so marvellous—so miraculous—that the patient then gladly persists with the remainder of the entire treatment” Kneipp recommended gradually building up the dose of Juniper and I have likewise found this to be an excellent method – more here
Particularly with students of herbal medicine in mind, I have further detailed notes about Juniper in the constitutional section below. In any case, I recommend anyone who is studying herbal medicine or who wants to understand this plant ally at a much deeper level for their own reasons to follow the old practice of experiential learning by taking a small dose of Juniper tincture or to work over a few of the berries as described in the link above and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, observe for themselves what happens and how it makes them feel.
All the history, science and other writings aside, this is probably the best way to truly appreciate the power of this simple plant. I am sure that your body will soon tell you how it experiences the Juniper and the effects will be quite noticeable, as mentioned earlier, every machine works better when it is clean!
Further to this, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here
Juniper combines perfectly with Celandine, for a particularly powerful whole-body cleanse, with Dandelion for a more gentle blood purification, with Burdock root to help deep set conditions that are affected by toxicity and with Cleavers when there is a great need to cool the body from congestion and inflammation.
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Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Juniper is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with plant B. There is value in this approach, especially in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another, but it falls short in one vital area; and that is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Something that works brilliantly for one person may do less for another — why is this?
The reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This interesting and useful subject is introduced further here
There is an old wisdom in treating the person first and the condition second and in this light Juniper can particularly offer its benefits when a cleansing action is needed in the ‘cycle of healing’, more about this here
In this particular case, I want to share some further thoughts about Juniper in relation to the different constitutions. These are, of course, just one practitioner’s observations, but they come from a strong personal affinity with this great herb (along with the long-held intention to be a good match-maker for Nature)
Juniper has frequently been seen to be of particular benefit to those of the EB (Elephant-Butterfly) constitution. By virtue of their innate sensitivity, these are people who often lead the ‘purest’ lifestyles and yet there are often the clearest signs that they need help with cleansing in the beginning stages of a healing journey to help some long-standing problem or another.
Juniper can be the exact right remedy to use when the EB has sore joints and/or a heavy white coating on their tongue, something that is quite a common finding in an EB who needs such cleansing and can mistakenly lead a person to think they were a damp constitution as a consequence.
I am sure that Juniper works perfectly taken as straight berries by mouth, or in a tincture, or in a tea but it may be especially helpful to the EB to use it for a number of days within a combination of herbs in tea form and the ‘cleansing tea’ as shown below has been seen to be much appreciated and to bring about a gratifyingly fast response in many such instances. The recipe & instructions for this tea are found here
Ideally you will be able to lightly bruise the berries before pouring over the hot water. This could be done in any method that is close to hand, obviously a few quick thumps in a classic mortar and pestle would be ideal but you will still be able to break the surface of the berries with the back of a spoon or the end of a rolling-pin while they were sitting in whatever cup or container you were using for the infusion before you poured in the freshly boiled water.
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Whilst they may need its help less often, when it is appropriate to use Juniper for an Eagle constitution it is quickly effective, and they are usually very responsive to it.
There may be quite different indicators to think of using it in these instances; perhaps they have accumulated a toxic overload from drugs or injurious substances in their diet, perhaps their heart is aging and their kidneys need some quick support whilst remedies such as Hawthorn or Reishi have time to work, perhaps there are physical signs, such as heaviness or soreness in the low back or legs, or a discoloured tongue, or a skin condition that has seemingly come out of nowhere in later life.
Again, the tea, tincture or the berries themselves are all suitable but a short course at a higher than average dose is much more likely to be of the most help to an Eagle than a longer treatment at a lower dose.
Tiger constitutions seem to thrive on a strong course of Juniper for a finite period of time (I mostly use it for about a month for the typical Tiger) and they seem to do particularly well on the tincture where I will happily use up to 4 mls in a day, i.e. a significant amount.
Taken as part of a general cleansing program it reliably works to activate the kidneys to increase their filtration of soluble toxins out of the blood. I am certain it has been a large part of the reason why so many Tigers, after doing the cleansing program in which Juniper has played a key role, feel uncaged and ready to take on the world!
Juniper berry has some specific affinities with the Bear constitution. If you who are reading this are a Bear, and you wish to know Juniper much better, I recommend you take it as a single, i.e. by itself, perhaps just a few of its berries to start as described above, or just a few drops of its tincture that you slowly increase as your body gets to know it.
Juniper is likely to have potent effects on the system of a Bear, increasing kidney function certainly, but also stirring up some of the deep waters that usually come to rest in the low back and low belly of the Bear. It is a herb that has the potential to affect significant change. Of course, it may be taken or given when there are any signs of kidney weakness or damp encumbrance but, more so than other constitutions, they will likely want to pulse the treatment, i.e. to use it for a short time, then take a break, then pick it up again, then stop for a while, and so forth. it can have an especially strong effect in this constitution.
The power of Juniper to work at a deep, mind-body, emotional level has certainly been seen in Bears but not just them. All people from all constitutions must find ways to deal with their fears if they will have peace and happiness in their lives and it should be understood, as it has been from the East for millennia, that the kidneys, and the way they work, are strongly related to how we manage and process our fears.
When people, from any constitution, have deep-felt anxieties and worries, those feelings will mostly be noticed in the form of associated thoughts in the mind but the physical reality of the existence of the fear invariably goes down into the deep ‘waters’ of the body. They may or may not manifest in physical signs or symptoms, but they are there nonetheless.
The kidneys are also understood to be the part of the body that holds the drive, the will, the determination of a person. If our fears overcome our will then we may freeze or lose our strength. There is much to be said for any person who would understand themselves more deeply, and who would prefer to face their fears and not be ruled by them, to use a remedy such as Juniper with the intention to help release those deep, subconscious fears and worries.
If you set such an intention and consciously use a remedy such as Juniper alongside it then you will begin what may turn out to be a truly transformative process. For example, saying or thinking to yourself something along the lines of ‘I want to face my fears, to understand them, and then to let them pass through me like water’ can bring about the kind of healing that helps us to find courage. More about this in the chapter on emotional healing here
Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here
This living ‘book’ is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!
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Potential of Juniperus communis L as a nutraceutical in human and veterinary medicine
Plants have been used for thousands of years as medicine for treating variety of diseases and medical complaints by most of the civilizations. Juniperus communis L. is an evergreen aromatic shrub with high therapeutic potential for the treatment of diseases in human and animals. The plant is rich in aromatic oils, invert sugars, resins, catechin, organic acid, terpenic acids, leucoanthocyanidin, alkaloids, flavonoids, tannins, gums, lignins, wax, etc. Juniper berries or extract of the plant has traditionally been used as diuretic, anti-arthritis, anti-diabetes, antiseptic as well as for the treatment of gastrointestinal and autoimmune disorders. The essential oil and extracts of juniper have been experimentally documented to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal activities. Recent studies have also found anti-inflammatory, cytotoxic, hypoglycemic and hypolipidemic effects of berries in experimental models. Further, the essential oil incorporation retarded lipid peroxidation in preserved meat due to its high antioxidant effect which not only improved meat product quality but also improved shelf life of the product. Thus natural antioxidant such as juniper can be used in place synthetic antioxidant for the preservation and improving self-life of meat products. New well designed clinical trials in human and animals using well-characterized J. communis extract or oil need to be conducted so that additional information is generated which can support the use of this natural product as a nutraceutical.
What is Juniper?
The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of scented evergreens native to northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The plants bear blue or reddish fruit variously described as berries or berry-like cones. Junipers are widely used as ornamental trees. The cone is a small, green berry during its first year of growth that turns blue-black during the second year. Small flowers bloom from May to June.
Juniperi fructus, common juniper, “boughs of the supernatural”
What is it used for?
Juniper berries (the mature female cone) have been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages such as gin. In herbal medicine, juniper has been used for indigestion and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. The native people of North America have used juniper as medicine that refreshes/restores and in tuberculosis, among other conditions. The berries also serve as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters. Other uses include perfumery and cosmetics. Juniper tar also is used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery.
Juniper berries have been used as a flavoring for beverages and as a seasoning for cooking, as well as in traditional medicine. Limited clinical evidence exists for effectiveness or harm, and use should be limited to low concentrations.
What is the recommended dosage?
There are no clinical studies of juniper to guide dosage.
Avoid in kidney impairment.
Avoid use. Possible antifertility, abortion, and menstruation effects based on animal studies.
None well documented.
Allergy is common.
Information is limited. Juniper tar and related cade oil should be considered toxic, especially in infants.
1. Juniper. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons . St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; January 2015.
Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.
- Juniper (Advanced Reading)
- Herbal Supplementation
Juniper Plant Benefits: How To Use Juniper For Herbal Use
You may know juniper as the most widely distributed evergreen on the planet. But it’s a plant with secrets. Juniper plant benefits include both juniper herbal uses and also culinary. If you’d like more information about juniper shrubs as herb plants, read on.
Juniper as Herb Plants
Juniper plant benefits include their beauty in the garden. Juniper is a popular evergreen shrub that generally stays under 10 feet tall. It is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. The most common variety in this country is Juniperus communis.
Juniper shrubs have needle-like leaves and grow seed cones. The outer scales of the cone are a deep blue merging on black. Gardeners refer to these as juniper berries. These berries are used in herbal medicine and give juniper the status of herb plants.
The time it takes for juniper scales to mature varies depending on the sex of the tree. Scales from male juniper mature in 18 months while female juniper scales take 2 to 3 years to ripen. Many juniper herbal uses start with scales. Some herbalists argue that immature juniper scales are better medicinally, while others insist that
mature scales are more potent.
How to Use Juniper for Herbal Use
How is juniper used herbally? Juniper extracts can be used medicinally or as culinary flavoring. As a medicine, it can be taken internally, inhaled or applied topically. In Alaska, the Tanainas burn juniper needles on top of a hot wood stove to create an incense. This provides a wonderful smell, and also can aid with a cold.
Many other juniper herbal uses start with extracts from the juniper berries/scales. The extracts contain terpinen-4-ol, a compound that stimulates the kidneys. They also contain amentoflavone, another compound with antiviral properties.
If you want to burn juniper needles, you can strip some from your garden shrub and begin. It doesn’t take a lot to create a powerful smell. If you are wondering how to use juniper for herbal uses other than burning it, you can purchase juniper commercially in various forms. Look for capsules of oil, teas and lotions.
Some people ingest juniper, often in tea form. This is said to be helpful in treating bronchitis. It may also numb pain, fight inflammation and increase production of stomach acid. It is also reputed to disinfect the urinary tract. Herbal practitioners suggest that drinking juniper tea helps to flush excess fluids from the body. This diuretic effect gets rid of the body’s excess uric acid. High in natural insulin, juniper may also reduce blood sugar levels.
You can also apply essential oil of juniper topically. Rubbed on the skin, it may help with skin issues like acne or athlete’s foot. Some use it to treat warts, skin growths, cystitis, psoriasis, and eczema. In addition to scale-berry oil, an oil can be made from juniper wood. It is called cade oil and is considered an important treatment of psoriasis on the scalp. Juniper oil has antibacterial properties, so it can be used to treat skin wounds and snakebites. Rubbing the oil into the skin may also help with joint and muscle pain.
Disclaimer: The contents of this article is for educational and gardening purposes only. Before using ANY herb or plant for medicinal purposes, please consult a physician or a medical herbalist for advice.