- Juniperus communis L.
- Juniperus oxycedrus L.
- Pine family
Parts Usually Used
Berries and new twigs
Description of Plant(s) and Culture
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.
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.
Analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, carminative, diuretic, diaphoretic,
disinfectant, rubefacient (causes redness of the skin), stomachic,
tonic, uterine stimulant, anti-rheumatic
Alcohols, cadinene, camphene, flavone, flavonoids, glycosides, podophyllotoxin
(an anti-tumor agent), vitamin C, volatile oils, resin, sabinal, sugar,
sulfur, tannins, and terpinene
Legends, Myths and Stories
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.
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,
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,
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
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.
Formulas or Dosages
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.
Sugars and vitamin C
Extract: use 10 to 20 drops in liquid, up to 3 times daily.
Tea: drink 1 cup, up to 3 times daily.
May interfere with iron absorption and other minerals when taken
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
Not recommended during pregnancy nor nursing mothers, as it is a
uterine stimulant. May be taken during labor and delivery.