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Juniper

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  • Botanical: Juniperus communis
  • Family: Cupressaceae
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Juniper

Botanical

Juniperus communis

Family

Cupressaceae

Known as

Juniperus communis L., Wacholder, Gemeiner Wacholder, Genevrier commun, Juniper

Old Use

Digestive problems, disease of the kidney and bladder

Collection Times

October

Parts Used

berries, needle, roots, sprout, wood

Aroma

fresh, fruity, forest, sweet, woody

Medicinal

acne, anxiety, arthritis, bronchitis, blood cleansing, blood forming, bronchitis, colds, coughs, cystitis, diabetes, dropsy, eczema, flatulence, flu, gout, hair loss, headache, hemorrhoids, liver weakness, indigestion, infections, irritability, migraine, psoriasis, rheumatism, stress relief, oily skin, varicose veins, wounds

Heart & Circulation

blood cleansing, blood forming, hemorrhoids, varicose veins

Infection & Inflammation

flu, infections

Muscle & Joints

arthritis, gout, rheumatism

Mind & Nerves

anxiety, headache, irritability, migraine

Respiratory System

bronchitis, colds, cough

Stomach & Intestinal

cystitis, diabetes, flatulence, liver weakness, indigestion

Skin & Hair

acne, dermatitis, hair loss, psoriasis, oily skin, wounds

Properties

analgesic, antibacterial, antiseptic, antispasmodic, antirheumatic, antitoxic, astringent, aphrodisiac, carminative, cicatrisant, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic, emmenagogue, expectorant, nervine, parasiticide, rubefacient, sedative, stomachic, sudorific, tonic, vulnerary

Note

middle

Extraction

steam distillation

Description

Juniperus communis L. is a coniferous evergreen shrub or a small columnar tree, multistemmed, decumbent or rarely upright. The crown is generally depressed. It grows very slowly. The morphological characteristics including growth form differ somewhat according to variety. Adventitious root development can occur when branches come in contact with the ground become buried. Juniper has a thin, brown, fibrous bark which exfoliates in thin strips.

The branches are spreading or ascending; branchlets are erect. Twigs are yellowish or green when young, turn brown and harden with age. The leaves are simple, stiff and arranged in whorls of three with pungent odour. They are green but sometimes appearing silver when glaucous, spreading; abaxial glands are very elongate.

The adaxial surface has a glaucous stomatal band. The apex is acute to obtuse, mucronate. Young leaves tend to be more needlelike whereas mature leaves are scalelike. The fruits are berrylike seed cones. They have straight peduncles and are of globose to ovoid shape, 6-13 mm, red at first, ripening to a glaucous bluish black, resinous to obscurely woody.

Male stroboli are sessile or stalked, and female strobili are made up of green, ovate or acuminate scales. Juniper berries take two or three years to ripen, so that blue and green berries occur on the same plant. Each cone has 2-3 seeds of 4-5 mm. The seeds require a period of cold stratification.

Properties & Uses

Juniper fruits are commonly used in herbal medicine, as a household remedy, and also in some commercial preparations. They are especially useful in the treatment of digestive disorders plus kidney and bladder problems. The fully ripe fruits are strongly antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, strongly diuretic, rubefacient, stomachic and tonic. They are used in the treatment of cystitis, digestive problems, chronic arthritis, gout and rheumatic conditions.

They can be eaten raw or used in a tea, but some caution is advised since large doses can irritate the urinary passage. Externally, it is applied as a diluted essential oil, having a slightly warming effect upon the skin and is thought to promote the removal of waste products from underlying tissues. It is, therefore, helpful when applied to arthritic joints etc. The fruits should not be used internally by pregnant women since this can cause an abortion.

The fruits also increase menstrual bleeding so should not be used by women with heavy periods. When made into an ointment, they are applied to exposed wounds and prevent irritation by flies. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is 'Toxin elimination'. 

Other Uses

A decoction of the branches is used as an anti-dandruff shampoo. The essential oil distilled from the fruits is used in perfumes with spicy fragrances. In hot countries the tree yields the resin 'Sandarac' from incisions in the trunk. This is used in the production of a white varnish. The stems were at one time used as a strewing herb to sweeten the smell of rooms. The whole plant can be burnt as an incense and fumigant.

It was used during epidemics in the belief that it would purify the air and cleanse it of infection. Fresh or dried juniper branches also make a good insect repellent. Many forms of this species are good ground cover plants for sunny situations. Forms to try include 'Depressa Aurea', 'Dumosa', 'Effusa', and 'Repanda'. 'Prostrata' can also be used. The bark is used as cordage and as a tinder. Wood - strong, hard, fragrant, very durable in contact with the soil and very close-grained, but usually too small to be of much use. It makes an excellent fuel.

Cautions

Although the fruit of this plant is quite often used medicinally and as a flavouring in various foods and drinks, large doses of the fruit can cause renal damage. Juniper should not be used internally in any quantities by pregnant women. Diarrhoea with repeated use. Avoid in kidney disease. Do not use internally for more than 6 weeks

Distribution

Northern temperate zone, incl Britain, south to the mountains of N. Africa, Himalayas and California

Constituents

June bitter Perin, betulin, camphor, citric acid, flavones, pentosan, phosphorus, gallic acid, tannin, tannic acid, resin acid, linolenic acid, manganese, menthol, oxalic acid, terpineol, umbelliferone, zinc, essential oil

Of Interest

Juniper berries are the only spice derived from conifers. Their use goes back many centuries, having been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. Juniper berries are the main ingredient in Gin.
The Greeks used the berries in many of their Olympic events because they believed that the berries helped to increase physical stamina. In traditional Indian medicine, the oil is applied externally to relieve rheumatic pain to counteract alopecia; as a styptic and to wounds.