Coniferous shrub sometimes growing to 49 ft (15 m). Has slender twigs with whorls of needle-like leaves, yellow male and blue female flowers on separate plants, and spherical blue-black fruit.
Habitat & Cultivation
Juniper is found in Europe, southwestern Asia up to the Himalayas, and North America, where it grows from southern coastal sites to more northerly moorland and mountainous regions. The ripe fruit (berries) is gathered in autumn.
Fruit, essential oil.
Juniper contains 1–2% volatile oil, consisting of over 60 compounds, which include myrcene, sabinene, alpha- and beta-pinene, and cineole. Juniper also contains tannins, diterpenes, sugars, resin, and vitamin C.
History & Folklore
Juniper is the main flavoring used in gin. Juniper berries are still mostly gathered from the wild. In former times, sprigs of juniper flung into the fire were thought to protect against evil spirits.
Medicinal Actions & Uses
Juniper is tonic, diuretic, and strongly antiseptic within the urinary tract. It is a valuable remedy for cystitis, and helps relieve fluid retention, but should be avoided in cases of kidney disease. In the digestive system, juniper is warming and settling, easing colic and supporting the function of the stomach. Taken internally or applied externally, juniper is helpful in the treatment of chronic arthritis, gout, and rheumatic conditions.
Applied externally as a diluted essential oil, it has a slightly warming effect on the skin and is thought to promote the removal of waste products from underlying tissues. Juniper also stimulates menstruation and tends to increase menstrual bleeding.
Oil of Cade is produced from J. oxycedrus and is applied to treat skin rashes. Savin (J. sabina) is toxic and a powerful abortifacient. The Japanese J. rigida is used as a diuretic.
Do not use juniper during pregnancy or if prone to heavy menstrual bleeding. Do not take if suffering from a kidney infection or kidney disease. Do not take the essential oil internally except under professional supervision.