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Juniper

Medically reviewed on Jun 7, 2018

What is Juniper?

The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of scented 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. The cone is a small, green berry during its first year of growth that turns blue-black during the second year. Small flowers bloom from May to June.

Scientific Name(s)

Juniperus communis

Common Name(s)

Juniperi fructus, common juniper, "boughs of the supernatural"

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Juniper berries (the mature female cone) have been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages such as gin. In herbal medicine, juniper has been used for indigestion and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. The native people of North America have used juniper as medicine that refreshes/restores and in tuberculosis, among other conditions. The berries also serve as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters. Other uses include perfumery and cosmetics. Juniper tar also is used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery.

General uses

Juniper berries have been used as a flavoring for beverages and as a seasoning for cooking, as well as in traditional medicine. Limited clinical evidence exists for effectiveness or harm, and use should be limited to low concentrations.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are no clinical studies of juniper to guide dosage.

Contraindications

Avoid in kidney impairment.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Possible antifertility, abortion, and menstruation effects based on animal studies.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

Allergy is common.

Toxicology

Information is limited. Juniper tar and related cade oil should be considered toxic, especially in infants.

References

1. Juniper. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; January 2015.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

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