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Juniper (Juniperus communis)
Parts used and where grown: Juniper, a type of evergreen tree, grows mainly in the plains regions of Europe as well as in other parts of the world. The medicinal portion of the plant are referred to as berries, but they are actually dark blue-black scales from the cones of the tree. Unlike other pine cones, the juniper cones are fleshy and soft.
In what conditions might juniper be supportive?
¥ edema (water retention)
¥ urinary tract infection
Historical or traditional use: Aside from being used as the flavoring agent in gin, juniper trees have contributed to the making of everything from soap to perfume.1 Medicinally, many conditions have been treated with juniper berries including gout, warts and skin growths, cancer, upset stomach, and various urinary tract and kidney diseases.
Active constituents: The volatile oils, particularly 4-terpineol, cause an increase in urine volume.2 Some evidence suggests it may lower uric acid levels, although further study is required to confirm this action. Although juniper lignans inhibit the herpes simplex virus in laboratory studies, treatment for human herpes infections by juniper has yet to be proven.3 Juniper contains bitter substances, at least partly accounting for its traditional use in digestive upset and related problems.
How much should I take? To make a tea, 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water is added to 1 U.S. teaspoon (15 grams) of juniper berries and allowed to steep for twenty minutes in a tightly covered container. One cup can be drunk each morning and night. Juniper is often combined with other diuretic and antimicrobial herbs. As a capsule or tablet, 1-2 grams can be taken three times per day, or 1-2 ml of tincture can be taken three times per day.
Are there any side effects or interactions? Due to potential damage to the kidneys, juniper should never be taken for more than six weeks continuously. Anyone with serious kidney diseases or taking diuretic drugs should not take juniper. Application of the essential oil directly to skin can cause a rash. Pregnant women should avoid juniper, as it may cause uterine contractions.
1. Duke JA. CRC Handbook of Medicinal Herbs. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1985, 256. 2. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76-7. 3. Markkanen T, Markinen ML, Nikoskelainen J, et al. Antiherpetic agent from juniper tree (Juniperus communis), its purification, identification and testing in primary human amnion cell cultures. Drugs Exptl Clin Res 1981;7:691-7.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Disclaimer: These pages are presented solely as a source of INFORMATION and ENTERTAINMENT and to provide stern warnings against use where appropriate. No claims are made for the efficacy of any herb nor for any historical herbal treatment. In no way can the information provided here take the place of the standard, legal, medical practice of any country. Additionally, some of these plants are extremely toxic and should be used only by licensed professionals who have the means to process them properly into appropriate pharmaceuticals. One final note: many plants were used for a wide range of illnesses in the past, but be aware that many of the historical uses have proven to be ineffective for the problems to which they were applied.