Common Names | Parts Usually Used | Plant(s) & Culture | Where Found | Medicinal Properties | Biochemical Information
Legends, Myths and Stories | Uses | Formulas or Dosages | Nutrient Content | How Sold | Warning | Bibliography
- Juniperus communis L.
- Juniperus oxycedrus L.
- Pine family
- Hapusha (Sanskrit name)
- Juniper bush
- Juniper bark
- Juniper berry
- Kuei (Chinese name)
Berries and new twigs
Back to Top
Juniper is an evergreen shrub usually grows from 2 to 6 feet high in the United States, but may reach a height of 25 feet in Europe. Usually low-spreading or prostrate conifer. The bark is chocolate-brown tinged with red shredding off in papery peels. The needle-shaped leaves have white stripes on top and are a shiny yellow-green beneath. They occur on the branches in whorled groups of three and have two white bands on the upperside that are mostly broader than the green margins. Pale yellow or white flowers, appearing the second year, occur in whorls on one plant, green female flowers consisting of three contiguous, upright seed buds on another plant. Flowering time is April to June. The fruit is a small, fleshy, berry-like cone which is green the first year and ripens to a bluish-black or dark purple color in the second year. The bluish-black, rounded to broadly oval fruits (August to October) usually with 3 seeds are used in medicine and as a flavoring in gin and other alcoholic beverages.
Also; Prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus) used the same way.
Grow in full sun in all climate zones and most soils.
Juniper berries (Juniper utahensis) were known to the Shoshone Indians as “Sammapo.” Washo Indians: “Paal.” Paiute Indians: “Wapi.” For rheumatism, the Native Americans put the green boughs of Juniper on the patient as he reclined, then they steamed the boughs and the patient drank tea from the leaves. Also, they used a tea from juniper berries, taken on 3 successive days, a cupful at a time, for birth control.
Back to Top
Found in dry, infertile, rocky soil in North America from the Arctic circle to Mexico, as well as in Europe, northern provinces of China, and Asia. Canada to Alaska, south to mountains in Georgia, eastern Tennessee, north to Illinois, Minnesota; west to New Mexico, California. Found over a large part of the northern hemisphere.
Back to Top
Analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic, disinfectant, rubefacient (causes redness of the skin), stomachic, tonic, uterine stimulant, anti-rheumatic
Back to Top
Alcohols, cadinene, camphene, flavone, flavonoids, glycosides, podophyllotoxin (an anti-tumor agent), vitamin C, volatile oils, resin, sabinal, sugar, sulfur, tannins, and terpinene
Back to Top
According to legend, when the Virgin Mary and the infant Jesus were fleeing from Herod into Egypt, they took refuge under a juniper bush.
Juniper has long been associated with ritual cleansing. It was burned in temples as a part of the regular purification rites. There are several medicinal recipes that have survived in Egyptian papyri dating to 1550 BC. Folk medicine in central Europe used the oil extracted from the berries to treat typhoid fever, cholera, dysentery, tape worms, and other ills associated with poverty.
In the 1500s, a Dutch pharmacist created a “new” inexpensive diuretic using the juniper berry. He called the new product gin. The drink caught on, for other reasons, and today the juniper berry is just one of several ingredients.
Juniper gives the flavor to gin and other alcoholic beverages. Gin is a prevarication of the French word for juniper; genievre. Juniper makes a green dye the Native American weavers used to make Sally bags and Cornhusk bags. Juniper knots, used as torches, were used to light the dance floor in front of the Native American camps. Juniper berries (Juniperus monosperma), the bark, and needles were used for a brown-tan dye. They used the green juniper needles only and burned them, saved the ashes and added this to the dye. This was a fixant for the dye.
The Juniper berries were pierced by the Native Americans and used as beads. They placed the ripe berries over ant hills, scattered about, the ants ate out the sweet streak near the seed, leaving the desired perforation by which to string the beads.
In Sweden, the berries are made into a conserve. In Germany, a few berries are used in flavoring of sauerkraut. Laplanders drink a tea of the berries. Germans love the berries in Hasenbraten, Rehbraten and Schwabisches Sauerkraut. Wacholder Branntwein is a popular juniper berry flavored spirit sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Hunters, trappers and Native Americans used the berries to flavor wild duck, goose, quail, rabbit, venison, etc. A French source says the berries are used to flavor marinates, thrushes, blackbirds, etc. In France, Vin de Genievre and Juniper Hippocras are made with berries. The Laplanders have a kind of beer, flavored with juniper berries and also add juniper to add flavor to spruce beer.
The infusion of juniper berries is a popular domestic diuretic in Czechoslovakia. It contains considerable tannin and theine, a drug that goads body and nervous activity.
Back to Top
Juniper is normally taken internally by eating the berries or making a tea from them. It is useful for digestive problems resulting from an underproduction of hydrochloric acid, and is also helpful for gastrointestinal infections, inflammations, gout, palsy, epilepsy, typhoid fever, cholera, cystitis, urethritis, rheumatism, weak immune system, sciatica, to stimulate appetite, helps eliminate excess water, and cramps.
Relieves inflammation and sinusitis. Helps in treatment of pancreas, prostate, kidney, and gallstones, leukorrhea, dropsy, lumbago, hypoglycemia, hemorrhoids, scurvy, kills worms, treats snakebites, cancer, and ulcers. Regulates sugar levels. The lye made of the ashes will cure the itch, scabs, and leprosy. Used as a diuretic.
Juniper berries (Fructus juniperi) are most effective when used in combination with other herbs such as broom, uva ursi, cleavers, and buchu. Dried berries are excellent as a preventative of disease and should be chewed or used as a strong tea to gargle the throat when exposed to contagious diseases.
When juniper oil is used in a hot vapor bath, it is useful to inhale the steam for respiratory infections, colds, asthma, bronchitis, etc. The pure oil should not be rubbed on the skin as it can be very irritating and cause blisters.
The first day, take 4 berries, all of them at once or over the course of the day (at the beginning of the treatment, either way is possible). From the second day on, take one more berry each day than you did the previous day, until the daily dose totals 15 berries. The more berries you take each day, the more important it is to distribute them over the course of the day. It is advisable to divide the berries into 3 or 4 daily doses, drinking at least 1 full glass of water with each dose. Once you have reached a daily total of 15 berries, reduce the amount by one berry per day until you finally reach the initial dose of 4 berries again. This will stimulate appetite and glands. It should be performed twice a year, each time for a period of 24 days.
As a spice, juniper is often used to enhance flavor, and counteract flatulence. Juniper oil, derived from the berries, penetrates the skin readily and is good for bone-joint problems; but the pure oil is irritating and, in large quantities, can cause inflammation and blisters. Breathed in a vapor bath, it is useful for bronchitis, consumption, and infection in the lungs. Juniper tar, or oil of cade, is produced by destructive distillation of the wood of another species (Juniperus oxycedrus) and is used for skin problems and for loss of hair.
Back to Top
Infusion: steep 1 tsp. crushed berries in 1/2 cup water for 5-10 minutes in a covered pot and strain. Take 1/2 to 1 cup per day, a mouthful at a time. If desired, sweeten with 1 tsp. honey (or raw sugar) unless used for gastrointestinal problems.
Tea: use 1 tbsp. crushed berries in 4 cups water, cover saucepan with a lid. Boil down slowly to 2 cups. Strain and drink 1 cup during the day and a second cup at bedtime.
Jam or Syrup: Adults take 1 tbsp., 2 times per day, in water, tea, or milk. Children take 1 tsp., 3 times per day, in water. Take an hour before meals as an appetizer.
Dried berries: Chew a few a day.
Back to Top
Sugars and vitamin C
Back to Top
Extract: use 10 to 20 drops in liquid, up to 3 times daily.
Tea: drink 1 cup, up to 3 times daily.
Back to Top
May interfere with iron absorption and other minerals when taken internally.
The pure oil should not be rubbed on the skin as it can be very irritating and cause blisters.
In large doses, or with prolonged use it can irritate the kidneys and urinary passages; therefore it is not recommended for those with bladder and kidney problems. Also large and/or frequent doses may cause kidney failure, convulsions, and digestive irritation. Avoid if acute cystitis or acute kidney problems are present until consulting a doctor.
Not recommended during pregnancy nor nursing mothers, as it is a uterine stimulant. May be taken during labor and delivery.
Back to Top
Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss; Back to Eden Publishing Co., Loma Linda, CA 92354, Original copyright 1939, revised edition 1994
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Dorling Kindersley, Inc, 232 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016, First American Edition, copyright 1993
Culpeper’s Complete Herbal & English Physician: Updated With 117 Modern Herbs, by Nicholas Culpeper, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1990, (reprint of 1814)
Indian Uses of Native Plants, by Edith Van Allen Murphey, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1958, print 1990
The Herbalist Almanac, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, copyright 1988, fifth printing, 1994
Earl Mindell’s Herb Bible, by Earl Mindell, R.Ph., Ph.D., Simon & Schuster/Fireside, Rockefeller Center 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, New York 10020
Prairie Smoke, by Melvin R. Gilmore, Minnesota Historical Society Press, St. Paul, Minnesota 55101, copyright 1987.
The Herb Book, by John Lust, Bantam Books, 666 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY. copyright 1974.
Indian Herbalogy of North America, by Alma R. Hutchens, Shambala Publications, Inc., Horticultural Hall, 300 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, 1973
Eastern/Central Medicinal Plants, by Steven Foster and James A. Duke., Houghton Mifflin Company, 215 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10000
Old Ways Rediscovered, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, published from 1954, print 1988
The Nature Doctor: A Manual of Traditional and Complementary Medicine, by Dr. H.C.A. Vogel; Keats Publishing, Inc., 27 Pine Street (Box 876) New Canaan, CT. 06840-0876. Copyright Verlag A. Vogel, Teufen (AR) Switzerland 1952, 1991
Herbal Gardening, compiled by The Robison York State Herb Garden, Cornell Plantations, Matthaei Botanical Gardens of the University of Michigan, University of California Botanical Garden, Berkeley., Pantheon Books, Knopf Publishing Group, New York, 1994, first edition
Planetary Herbology, by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., O.M.D., Lotus Press, PO Box 325, Twin Lakes. WI 53181., Copyright 1988, published 1992
American Folk Medicine, by Clarence Meyer, Meyerbooks, publisher, PO Box 427, Glenwood, Illinois 60425, 1973
Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Fifth Edition: A Practical A-to-Z Reference to Drug-Free Remedies Using Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs & Food Supplements, by James F. Balch, M.D. and Phyllis A. Balch, C.N.C., Avery Publishing Group, Inc., Garden City Park, NY
Webster’s New World Dictionary, Third College Edition, Victoria Neufeldt, Editor in Chief, New World Dictionaries: A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 15 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 10023
How Indians Use Wild Plants for Food, Medicine & Crafts, by Frances Densmore, Dover Publications, Inc., 180 Varick Street, New York, NY 10014, first printed by the United States Government Printing Office, Washington, in 1928, this Dover edition 1974
Secrets of the Chinese Herbalists, by Richard Lucas, Parker Publishing Company, Inc., West Nyack, NY, 1987.
The Yoga of Herbs: An Ayurvedic Guide to Herbal Medicine, by Dr. David Frawley & Dr. Vasant Lad, Lotus Press, Twin Lakes, Wisconsin, Second edition, 1988.
An Instant Guide to Medicinal Plants, by Pamela Forey and Ruth Lindsay, Crescent Books (January 27, 1992).
The Rodale Herb Book: How to Use, Grow, and Buy Nature’s Miracle Plants (An Organic gardening and farming book), edited by William H. Hylton, Rodale Press, Inc. Emmaus, PA, 18049., 1974
The Healing Plants, by Mannfried Pahlow, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc. 250 Wireless Blvd., Hauppauge, NY 11788, 1992