Juniper is a powerful diuretic – a herb that increases the flow of urine, helping to cleanse the system of excess fluids and stimulating the kidneys. This causes the body to flush out uric acid and excess crystals that can cause many problems including gout, arthritis and kidney stones.
The Juniper Berry is rich in volatile oils, in particular terpinen-4-ol, which is reported to increase the rate of kidney filtration, which in turn increases urine flow whilst helping to flush out bacteria from the kidneys and bladder. This makes Juniper exceptionally useful in the treatment of urinary tract infections, with some patients reporting relief after just 24-72 hours of use. The British Pharmacopoeia even lists Juniper as a urinary tract disinfectant.
Juniper Berries contain bitter compounds that stimulate bile flow and the production of digestive enzymes. This allows the body to breakdown foods more easily and enhances nutrient absorption. Due to their astringent properties they are particularly effective at relieving heartburn and other digestive upsets.
Juniper can also be useful in the treatment of upset stomachs, colitis, gastrointestinal infections, loss of appetite and intestinal worms.
Many of Juniper’s health benefits stem from the potent antioxidant activity displayed by these berries. They are rich in antioxidant phytochemicals including; alpha-pinene, cadinene, limonene, myrcene, borneol, caryophyllene and germacrene, to name but a few of the staggering 87 antioxidant compounds found in these humble berries.
Juniper berries also promote the activity of catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase. These are vital antioxidants found in the body that protect from free radical damage. Free radicals are rogue atoms or atomic groups that have lost at least one electron, forcing them to steal electrons from neighbouring molecules in the hope of stabilising themselves. Unsurprisingly, this can cause havoc in the body, leading to a whole host of health problems.
Antioxidants also help to maintain youthful and healthy skin by fighting wrinkles, aiding in cell regeneration and reducing inflammation.
Juniper Berries are sometimes referred to as “Nature’s Insulin”, and they have indeed been shown to contain natural insulin that can work in the body just like its pharmaceutical counterpart. Animal research shows that the berries contain certain compounds that increase insulin production, thus lowering blood sugar levels. This could make Juniper Berries a powerful ally when addressing diet controlled (type 2) diabetes.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper Berry essential oil is packed with healing compounds and antioxidants and as such has a wide range of uses. It can be diluted in a carrier oil to create a massage or bath oil that can help to clear sluggish lymph glands and detoxification pathways, leaving you feeling both stimulated yet relaxed.
Juniper Berry oil is considered one of the most effective essential oils for dealing with anxiety related to inner trauma, exerting a positive effect on the relaxation responses in the brain when it is inhaled.
It is a wonderful essential oil to cleanse and purify on all levels – spiritually, emotionally and physically.
Folklore and history
The earliest recorded medicinal use of Juniper Berries occurs in an Egyptian papyrus dating back to 1500 BCE, in a recipe to cure tapeworm infestations. The Romans used the berries for purification and stomach ailments, while the famous medieval herbalist Culpeper recommended them for a wide variety of conditions including the treatment of flatulence, for which Juniper oil is still used today.
Back in medieval times Juniper was seen as a protective herb and was used to ward off witchcraft and black magic. Its aromatic smoke was used for ritual purification and was said to aid in clairvoyance. On the Celtic Fire Festival of Samhain, Juniper was burned to stimulate contact with the Otherworld when the veil between the worlds was considered at its thinnest.
Despite their name, Juniper Berries are not technically a berry, they are actually the female seed cone of the Juniper plant. Most famously used to give gin its distinctive flavour, Juniper Berries are classed as a spice and have a long history of traditional use.
Juniper Berries were used traditionally to treat all manner of complaints ranging from kidney infections, urinary tract infections and digestive issues to gout, warts and skin growths. Their antiseptic properties were well known and Juniper tea was once used as a disinfectant for surgeons’ tools.
Juniper Berry Tincture:
Traditionally Taken: 2-3ml taken 2-3 times per day, or as directed by a Herbal Practitioner.
Juniper Berry Tea
Use 1 Tbsp Juniper Berries, cover with boiling water and leave to steep for 20 minutes.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper Berry essential oil can be used in the bath, or vaporized in an oil burner. It can be added to a massage oil or cream. Use 6-8 drops per bath and 10 -18 drops per 30ml of carrier oil.
Constituents of the Juniper Berry include; monoterpenes, alpha and beta-pinene, sabinene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, borneol, geraniol5, myrcene, camphene2, camphor and alpha-eudesmol.
Juniper stimulates the contraction of smooth muscles and should therefore not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding women.
Do not use Juniper if you are taking prescription medication for diabetes, glucose regulation or hypoglycemia.
Please consult your healthcare professional if you are taking any other prescription medications before using this herb.
Essential oils need to be diluted first; never apply an essential oil directly to the skin. Avoid contact with eyes and mouth.