Juniper comes in many different forms, from very low growing, carpet varieties, to conical tree varieties. The most commonly used species is common juniper, which has a very low profile, and scale like evergreen leaves.
Junipers make for great smudges, and the leaves contain a rich source of aromatic terpenes. Medicinally the berries are preferred. They have a strong pine taste, and contain a rich source of antioxidants and volatile compounds.
The berries are used as a urinary antiseptic, diuretic, carminative, and analgesic. They can be eaten whole or extracted.
Some of the more interesting and recent applications are for its ability to improve memory. This action is a fairly new application, as there is noting in the old literature that suggests it to be used this way. The mechanism is most likely through the acetylcholine pathway, which is a common mechanism for many nootropic substances.
The majority of junipers traditional usage involves its antiseptic abilities. It was consumed during outbreaks to slow the spread of infection. Many modern day herbalists keep a stash of these berries around to chew on whenever dealing with infectious patients.
- Urinary antiseptic
- Anti rheumatic
- Bitter digestive tonic
- Anti-inflammatory 
- Memory enhancing 
- Analgesic 
- Increases the elimination of uric acid metabolites
- Anti-cholinesterase 
Dried Ripe Fruit (Berry-like cones)
Liquid Extract (1:2):
- Cystitis (acute or chronic)
- Rheumatic disorders (gout, arthritis)
- Externally used to ease arthritic pain in joint and muscles
- Flatulent colic
- As a tonic for the cardiovascular system (short term or low dose)
- Juniper berry
- Common juniper
The British herbal pharmacopoeia 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 .
It was frequently burned by the ancient Greeks to combat epidemics, and was used by both the native Tibetans ans Native Americans for ceremonial purposes .
Juniper is also a popular addition to cooking, especially game meat and fish.
Juniper berries and essential oil is also popular amongst the perfume, aromatherapy, food, and liquor industries .
The Juniperus genus contains around 68 species, and 36 varieties. Of all the Junipers, Juniperus communis is the only species that can be found in both hemispheres .
Juniper has a small (5-8mm) fruit with a smooth, dark purple colored, waxy shell. The taste resembles pine, and has sweet overtones. .
It can grow up to 12 m tall, but is generally much smaller. The berries take roughly 3 years to mature. .
Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:
Juniper is native to Europe, Asia, and North America .
The best Juiper is suggested to come from northern Italy, Austria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and France .
Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:
When extracting juniper berry, hexane was found to yield a higher amount than both super critical carbon dioxide, and hydrodistillation .
- 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 super critical 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 .
- Volatile oil (0.5-2%)
- Resin (10%)
- Bitter principle (Juniperin)
- Organic acids
- Phenolic compounds (Antioxidant)
- Tannins (Anthocyanidins)
Juniper berries contain a volatile oil (0.2%-3.42%) (myrcene, sabinene, alpha and beta pinene, 4-cineole, camphene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, germacrene B, alpha-thujene, gamma-terpinene, beta-caryophyllene, and beta-farnesene), condensed tannins, diterpenes, falvonoids (amento-flavone, quercetin, isoquercetin, apigenin), sugars, resin, vitamin C [4, 7].
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
Juniper berries were found to possess powerful antioxidant activitys. It was shown to have metal chelating ability, strong hydrogen donating ability, and acted as a strong scavenger of hydrogen peroxide, superoxide, adn free radicals .
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 dependant manner . This shows indication that the inhallation of the volatile oils from juniperus communis can reduce the development and incidence of Alzheimers and dementai related to the buildup of amyloid-beta plaquing in the brain. More research is needed.
Toxicity and Contraindications:
- Kidney disease or inflammation
- Pregnancy (may cause uterin contractions) (based on well known emmenagogue actions)
- The volatile oils present may have antimicrobial actions, but can also damage the kidneys over long periods oftime. Long term use is not recommended.
Traditional Chinese Medicine:
Still compiling research.
Possible synergy with other urinary antiseptics such as buchu and uva-ursi
Recent Blog Posts:
- 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
- Battaglia, S. (2003). The complete guide to aromatherapy (2nd ed.). Brisbane, Australia: International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy.
- British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
- Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.
- 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.
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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