Juniper

Scientific names: Juniperus communis

Efficacy-safety rating:

ÒÒ...Ethno or other evidence of efficacy.

Safety rating:

...Little exposure or very minor concerns.

What is Juniper?

The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreens native to Northern Europe, Asia, and North America. The plants bear blue or reddish fruit variously described as berries or berry-like cones. Junipers are widely used as ornamental trees.

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What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Juniper berries (the mature female cone) have long been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages such as gin. Production by apothecaries and other historical uses for gin have been reported. Gin's original preparation used juniper for kidney ailments. The berries also serve as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters. Other uses include perfumery and cosmetics. Oil of juniper, also known as oil of sabinal, is used for preserving catgut ligatures. Juniper tar also is used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery.

In herbal medicine, juniper has been used as a carminative and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. In traditional Swedish medicine, Juniperus communis has been used to treat wounds and inflammatory diseases. It also is used to control arthritis. Because of its local irritant action on the bladder, juniper also has been used as a diuretic. Use is limited to low concentrations. Further clinical proof is necessary to confirm any of the medicinal effects of juniper.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are no recent clinical studies of juniper. However, classical use of the oil called for dosage of 0.1 mL or 20 to 100 mg of the essential oil, or 2 to 10 g of the berry, for dyspepsia, as a diuretic, or emmenagogue (to stimulate menstrual flow).

How safe is it?

Contraindications

Juniper is contraindicated in those patients with reduced renal function.

Pregnancy/nursing

Documented adverse effects include allergenic, catharsis in large doses, diuretic, and increases uterine tone (ie, possible anti-implantation, abortive, and emmenagogue/stimulating menstrual flow effects). Nursing women and women planning pregnancy should avoid use. Juniper should not be ingested by pregnant women.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Skin and respiratory allergic reactions may occur.

Toxicities

Applied juniper may cause potentially carcinogenic DNA damage and, in large doses, convulsions and renal damage. Juniper should not be ingested by pregnant women.

References

  1. Juniper. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 [online]. 2004. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 17, 2007.

Copyright © 2009 Wolters Kluwer Health

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