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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   JUNIPER BERRY    (Juniperus communis; Coniferae)

Other Names:    ginepro, enebro    (2)

Character/Energetics: pungent, slightly bitter-sweet, hot dry  (15)

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:   kidneys, stomach      (7)

Part used:   berrie  (7); dried ripe berries.(8)                                                                                                           

Identification & Harvesting:    A tree or shrub found in various forms from 2-10 m. in height.  The bark is smooth and yellow-brown at first, later fissured, grey-black and peeling.  Needles in whorls of three spreading from the branchlets;  evergreen, stiff, pointed, prickly and sea green.  Yellowish male flowers in elliptical catkins;  greenish female flowers ovoid and consist of three fruit-bodies that become fleshy and in the second year when ripe form pea-sized, dark-brown to violet, blue-frosted berries.  The berries ripen for 2 or 3 years so that ripe blue berries and unripe green berries are found on the same tree.  Seeds are light brown, oblong-triangular.  Found in northern hemisphere from tropical to temperate latitudes. (2)

Ripe, unshrivelled berries should be collected in autumn and dried slowly in shade, to avoid losing the volatile oil.    (8)

Pick after they have turned from green to purplish-blue; this process can take two years.  (15)                       

Berry is approx. 3/8 inch in diameter and globular.  Purplish black with a triangular line at the apex, indicating the junction of the three fleshly bracts forming the fruit, which contains three seeds.  Tastes aromatic and turpentiney.  Smells characteristic and turpentiney.    (57)

A common, evergreen, low-growing shrub or eastern North America;  however the same species grows in Europe into a taller shrub shaped like a Christmas tree.  Most of the commercial supply comes from eastern and northern Europe.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Volatile oils 1-2%, very dependent on source, chiefly monterpene hydrocarbons such as alpha-pinene, beta-myrcene, gamma-mu-urolen, sabinene, limonene, beta-elemene, beta-caryophyllene, beta-pinene, gamma-cadinene, terpinene-4-ol;  Diterpenes;  Catechin tannins;  inverted sugars 20-30%;  flavonoids.    (2)

Rich in essential oil which contains monoterpenes and sesquiterpenes;  invert sugar;  flavone glycosides;  resin;  tannin;  organic acids (8);

volatile oil, flavonoids, sugars, glycosides, tannins, podophyllotoxin (an antitumor agent), vitamin C    (15)

Actions:    Diuretic, hypotensive;  animal tests show an increase in urine excretion (2);

    stimulant, diuretic, astringent, carminative, lithotriptic (7); diuretic, antiseptic, carminative, anti-rheumatic (8); …antispasmodic, anodyne aromatic (14); Diuretic urinary antiseptic…digestive tonic, uterine stimulant, anti-rheumatic (15; , stimulant, carminative.    (57))

Confirmed anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic activity.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Treats urinary tract infections, kidney and bladder stones, dyspeptic disorders.  (2)

Juniper berries are a stimulating diuretic, beneficial in the treatment of urine retention, gravel, pains in the lumbar region, bladder discharges and uric acid buildup….It is a useful carminative for indigestion and flatulence.      (7)

An excellent antiseptic for cystitis.  The bitterness eases flatulent colic.  Treats rheumatism and arthritis.  Applied externally, eases joint painor muscle pain.    (8)

Allergies, arthritis, bed wetting, bladder diseases, blood purifier, coughs, cystitis, diabetes, gas, hay fever, intestinal purification, leukorrhea, lumbago, nephritis, moist eczema, psoriasis, skin parasites, wounds

…Juniper berries…are effective as a tea for urine retention, bladder problems, catarrh of the bladder, leukorrhea, gonorrhea, etc.  Three drops of the oil can be taken three times a day for these ailments. It is a good douche for vaginal infections. 

It is an excellent digestive tonic. The decoction or oil taken internally is good when there’s putrification and gas in the stomach and intestines.

The berries, boiled and used as a spray will disinfect the rooms where sick people have been. Those who are nursing patients with serious illnesses such as scarlet fever, smallpox, typhus, cholera, etc. should chew a few juniper berries to protect themselves from pathogenic substances which may be inhaled.   (14)

The ripe, blue berries are mainly used for urinary infections and prescribed to clear wastes from the system in arthritis and gout. They reduce colic and flatulence, stimulate the digestion, and encourage uterine contractions in labor.

“A remedy to treat tapeworm; juniper berries 5 parts, white oil 5 parts is taken for one day.” Egyptian, c. 1550 B.C.)       (15)

Given in conjunction with other remedies for kidney complaints.  Extracted oil is also widely used.    (57)

Traditionally used to aid digestion, usually as a tea, and applied externally to treat rheumatism, arthritis and snakebite.  Today, most widely used as a diuretic and urinary antiseptic.  Approved for use in Germany to treat dyspeptic complaints and as an appetite stimulant;  nonetheless little clinical research has been done.    (61)

Combinations:   Given in conjunction with other remedies for kidney complaints.    (57)

Precautions:    Contraindications include pregnancy and inflammatory renal diseases.  Long-term use can cause kidney irritation or damage.    (2)

Large doses are irritating to the urinary tract. Juniper berries should not be used when there’s inflammation of the kidneys.   (7)

The essential oil stimulates kidney nephrons, so this herb is contraindicated in kidney disease.  Avoid during pregnancy.    (8)

Juniper should not be used alone in large doses or with prolonged use during urinary tract or inflammatory problems.   (14)

Avoid (Juniper) in pregnancy, because it is uterine stimulant; may be taken during labor.

Juniper may irritate the kidneys in long-term use, so do not take internally for more than six weeks without a break, or at all if there is already kidney damage.     (15)  

German authorities warn against use during pregnancy and inflammatory kidney diseases.  Do not use longer than 4 weeks;  overuse or overdose can cause kidney damage.  It can irritate the bladder and kidneys.  Can raise glucose levels.    (61)

Tincturing Process:


Essential Oil: Made by steam distillation of ripe berries, the oil is a popular external remedy for arthritic and muscle pains. Internally, the oil increases the filtering of waste products by the kidneys, and is effective against many bacteria. 

            Cade Oil: Made by dry distillation of the heartwood of various types of juniper tree, cade oil is also known as juniper tar oil. It contains phenol and has a mild disinfectant action. Applied externally, it is a non-irritant and is mainly used for chronic skin conditions, such as scaling eczema and psoriasis.    (15)

        Four to six drops of the oil, taken with honey, three or four times a day, has been a successful home remedy for these ailments.    (7)

See text (14), pg. 136 for applications concerning specific internal and external conditions.


Dosage:     {see Precautions}.    

See text (14), pg. 136 for applications concerning specific internal and external conditions.

Infusion: Sip a weak infusion (15 g berries to 500 ml water) for stomach upsets and chills or menstrual pain.

Tincture: Take 2 ml. three times a day, for urinary infections, such as cystitis, or to stimulate digestion.        

Essential Oil: 

Lotion–add 5 drops of oil to 50 ml equal parts rose water and witch hazel for oily skin and acne.

Chest Rub–Dilute 10 drops juniper oil and 10 drops thyme in 20 ml almond oil, and rub into the chest for stubborn coughs.  

Oil–Add 5 drops to bath water for arthritic, gout, or muscle pains.             

Massage Oil: Dilute 10 drops juniper oil in 5 ml almond oil, and massage into arthritic joints.

Cade Oil: 

Ointment–Add 10 drops to 20 ml melted ointment base. Allow to cool, and apply to chronic, scaling eczema or psoriasis.

Hair Rinse–For psoriasis, affecting the scalp, add 10 drops to 500 ml hot water and mix well. Leave on the hair for at least 15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly (15) 

Infusion of 1 oz. to a pint of boiling water is given in half-cup doses.  Powder dose, 5-15 grains.    (57)

1 tsp crushed berries a day, or up to 3 g. capsules daily.    (61)

General Notes:      Long associated with ritual cleansing, juniper was burned in temples as part of regular purification rites. Several medicinal recipes survive in Egyptian papyri dating to 1550 B.C. In central European folk medicine, the oil extracted from the berries was regarded as a cure-all for typhoid, cholera, dysentery, tapeworms, and other ills associated with poverty.     (15)       

Berries are best known for the characteristic flavoring of gin.  Little clinical research has been done.  (61)




(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 918-19

(7) The Way of Herbs by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D.,   pg. 99

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 209

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH,   pgs. 135-137

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody,  pg. 72

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 193-94

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 122-23


PHOTO: Wikipedia