Juniper (Juniperus communis)

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Juniper Summary

Juniper is a common conifer species that can be found all over North America, Europe, and Asia. It has been a particularly successful species worldwide for its ability to thrive in both hot and cold, wet and dry, and sunny or shaded areas.

The berries are used as a medicine and have a distinctive pine fragrance and flavor. Juniper berries are high in many of the same volatile compounds that can be found in the pine tree and other conifers, and share a similar antimicrobial profile as well.

Juniper is mainly used for urinary tract infections, and for its antimicrobial actions.

New research is suggesting junipers use as a nootropic to enhance memory.

 

+ Indications

  • As a diuretic
  • As a tonic for the cardiovascular system (short term or low dose)
  • Bacterial infections (topically and internally)
  • Bloating
  • Colic
  • Cystitis (acute or chronic)
  • Dyspepsia
  • Gout* Arthritis
  • Urethritis

+ Contraindications

  • Kidney infection
  • Kidney inflammation
  • Pregnancy

Herbal Actions:

  • Urinary Antiseptic
  • Diuretic
  • Alterative
  • Antirheumatic
  • Carminative
  • Bitter
  • Antinflammatory
  • Nootropic
  • Analgesic
 

What is Juniper Used For?

The berries of juniper are high in antiseptic volatile oils, which makes it useful for microbial infection inclusinding topical and upper respiratory tract infections. It is also a popular urinary antiseptic and diuretic for treating lower urinary tract infections.

Newer use involves junipers antiacetylcholinesterase activity for enhancing memory.

 

Traditional Uses of Juniper Berry

The British herbal pharmacopeia lists juniper as a diuretic, antiseptic, carminative, stomachic, and anti-rheumatic useful for acute or chronic cystitis, flatulent colic, edema, and rheumatism. It is listed as a topical application for rheumatic pain in the joints and muscles [3].

It was frequently burned by the ancient Greeks to combat epidemics and was used by both the native Tibetans and Native Americans for ceremonial purposes [2].

Juniper is also a popular addition to cooking, especially game meat and fish.

Juniper berries and the essential oils are popular in the perfume, aromatherapy, food, and liquor industries [7].

 

Technical Datasheet: Juniper

Weekly Dose

Part Used

  • Berries

Family Name

  • Cupressaceae

Distribution

  • Junipers are widesspread throughout North America, Europe, and Asia

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Constituents of Interest

  • Volatile oil comnponent

Common Names

  • Juniper Berry
  • Common Juniper

CYP450

Unknown

Pregnancy

Not recommended for use while pregnant or breastfeeding.

Duration of Use

  • Avoid long-term use in therapeutic doses.
 

Botanical Information

Juniperus is a genus of conifers, containing between 50 and 67 species. It is a member of the Cupressaceae family or "cypress family" of plants. This family comprises 27-30 genera of mainly monoecious trees and shrubs. The other principal medicinal members of this family is Thuja spp. (incense cedar).

Juniper has a small (5-8mm) fruit with a smooth, dark purple colored, waxy shell. The taste resembles pine and has sweet overtones. [3].

It can grow up to 12 m tall but is generally much smaller. The berries take roughly 3 years to mature. [2].

 

Habitat Ecology, & Distribution:

Juniper is native to Europe, Asia, and North America [3].

The best Juniper is suggested to come from northern Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and France [2].

 

Harvesting Collection, & Preparation:

When extracting juniper berry, hexane was found to yield a higher amount than both super critical carbon dioxide, and hydrodistillation [7].

If terpene hydrocarbons are desired, extraction by hydrodistillation is best. If the resin is desired (including long-chain oaraffinic acids, and hexadecanoic acid) then the heaxane or supercritical CO2 is the best extraction method. These methods will also produce a more stable extract. If terpinen-4-ol is desired (diuretic), supercritical CO2 extraction is the best. [7].

 

Pharmacology & Medical Research

Antioxidant

Juniper berries were found to possess powerful antioxidant activities.

It was shown to have heavy-metal chelating ability, active hydrogen donating ability, and acted as a strong scavenger of hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, and free radicals [5].

Antiacetylcholinesterase (Nootropic & Anti-Alzheimer's Disease)

Juniper berry (Juniperus communis) volatile oil (via hydrodistillation) was found to inhibit acetylcholinesterase and oxidative damage in the brain (rodent models) after inhalation in a dose-dependent manner [11]. This shows an indication that the inhalation of the volatile oils from Juniperus communis can reduce the development and incidence of Alzheimers and dementia related to the buildup of amyloid-beta plaquing in the brain. More research is needed.

 

Clinical Applications Of Juniper:

Juniper is reliable as a mild urinary antiseptic for mild cases of urinary tract infection and is showing promise as a new nootropic agent. Its antimicrobial effects are well studied and can be applied both topically and internally.

 

Cautions:

Do not use if kidney disease or kidney inflammation, or during pregnancy (may cause uterin contractions).

 

Author:

Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated May 2019)

 

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References:

  1. Lesjak MM, Beara IN, Orcic´ DZ, Anackov GT, Balog KJ, Franciskovic MM, Mimica-Dukic NM (2011) Juniperus sibirica Burgsdorf. as a novel source of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. Food Chem 124:850–856

  2. Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.

  3. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.

  4. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

  5. Elmastass, M., Gülçin, I., Beydemir, S., Irfan Küfreviioğlu, O., & Aboul-Enein, H. (2006). A Study on the In Vitro Antioxidant Activity of Juniper (Juniperus communis L.) Fruit Extracts. Analytical Letters, 39(1), 47-65.

  6. Adams, R.P. (2000). Systematics of smooth leaf margin Juniperus of the western hemisphere based on 300 leaf essential oils and RAPD DNA fingerprinting. Biochem. Syst. Ecol., 28: 149–162

  7. Damjanovic, B. M., Skala, D., Petrovic-Djakov, D., & Baras, J. (2003). A Comparison Between the Oil, Hexane Extract and Supercritical Carbon Dioxide Extract of Juniperus communis L. Journal Of Essential Oil Research, 15(2), 90-92. doi:10.1080/10412905.2003.9712076

  8. O¨ zturk M, Tu¨men I˙, Ugur A, Aydogmus¸-O zturk F, Topc¸u G (2011) Evaluation of fruit extracts of six Turkish Juniperus species for their antioxidant, anticholinesterase and antimicrobial activities. J Sci Food Agric 91:867–876

  9. Cioanca O, Mircea C, Trifan A, Aprotosoaie A, Hritcu L, Hancianu M (2014) Improvement of amyloid-b-induced memory deficits by Juniperus communis L. volatile oil in a rat model of Alzheimer’s disease. FARMACIA 62:514–520

  10. Moreno L, Bello R, Beltran B, Calatayud S, Primo-Yufera E, Esplugues J (1998) Pharmacological screening of different Juniperus oxycedrus L. extracts. Pharmacol Toxicol 82:108–112

  11. Cioanca O, Hancianu M, Mihasan M, & Hritcu L. (2015). Anti-acetylcholinesterase and Antioxidant Activities of Inhaled Juniper Oil on Amyloid Beta (1-42)-Induced Oxidative Stress in the Rat Hippocampus. Neurochemical Research, 40(5), 952 60. doi:10.1007/s11064-015-1550-0