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Juniper

Scientific Name(s): Juniperus communis L.
Common Name(s): "Boughs of the supernatural", Common juniper, Juniper, Juniperi fructus

Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Last updated on Dec 1, 2018.

Clinical Overview

Use

Juniper berries have been used as a flavoring component in alcoholic beverages (eg, gin) and as a seasoning in food; juniper has also been used in traditional medicine for various purposes. Limited animal and in vitro evidence suggests potential antimicrobial, antioxidant, cytotoxic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, and hypoglycemic effects; however, no clinical data exist to support use of juniper for any indication.

Dosing

Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia.

Essential oil: 0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily.

Fluid extract: 1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily.

Infusion: 2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily.

Contraindications

Avoid in renal impairment due to potential irritant activity.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested.

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Allergic reactions may occur. Kidney damage and inflammation may result from excessive use of juniper. Juniper berries may increase blood glucose in patients with diabetes.

Toxicology

Large doses of juniper berries may cause catharsis and convulsions. The juniper volatile oil may be nephrotoxic.

Scientific Family

  • Cupressaceae

Botany

The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreens native to northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Junipers are widely used as ornamental trees. The plants bear blue, reddish, or purplish-black fruit described as berries or berry-like cones. 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.ABC 2018, Bais 2014, Barnes 2002, USDA 2018

History

Juniper berries (the mature female cones) have been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages (eg, gin). Production by apothecaries and historical uses of gin have been reported. Traditionally, juniper has been used for multiple medicinal purposes, including as a carminative, an appetite stimulant, and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. Prepared extracts of juniper were used to treat snake bites and intestinal worms. The indigenous people of North America have used juniper as a tonic and in tuberculosis and cystitis, among other conditions. The oil of juniper has been noted to exert diuretic activity. The berries have also served as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters, as well as in perfumery and cosmetics. Juniper tar was also used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery. The German Commission E approved the use of juniper dried fruit preparation and oil to treat dyspepsia.ABC 2018, Carpenter 2012, FDA 2018, Johnson 2006

Chemistry

Juniper berries contain about 2% volatile oil, juniperin, resin (about 10%), proteins, and formic, acetic, and malic acids. In addition, hydrocarbons, fatty acids, sterol, terpenes, and aromatic compounds have been identified from extracts of ripe and unripe juniper berries. The volatile oil is responsible for many of juniper's therapeutic actions.ABC 2018

The essential oil of J. communis needles has been described. Chemical compounds sabinene, terpinen-4-ol, pinene, limonene, and myrcene are the major monoterpene hydrocarbons identified.ABC 2018, Cabral 2012, Cavaleiro 2006, El-Ghorab 2008, Smrke 2013 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, an aryltetralin cyclolignan, has been isolated from J. communis and further evaluated in in vitro studies.Benzina 2015, Tavares 2018

Uses and Pharmacology

Although members of the genus Juniperus are likely to have similar chemical constituents, and hence similar activities, information in this monograph is restricted to J. communis (common juniper), except for information regarding adverse events.

Anti-inflammatory activity

Animal data

Amentoflavone, isolated from the methanolic extract of J. communis, exerted anti-inflammatory activities in a rat model of arthritis.Bais 2017

Antimicrobial activity

In vitro data

Berry and leaf oils showed some activity against Aspergillus, Candida, and other fungi.Afsharzadeh 2013, Cabral 2012, Cavaleiro 2006 Activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Serratia liquefaciens, Enterobacter cloacae, and Klebsiella pneumoniae were demonstrated in vitro by the essential oil from J. communis. However, activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa was not noted.Yassine 2016 Antimicrobial activity against K. pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Acinetobacter baylyi, S. aureus, Escherichia coli, and P. aeruginosa was demonstrated by various extracts of J. communis berries.Fernandez 2016 Some in vitro activity against oral bacterial pathogens was demonstrated by a J. communis extract.Ferrazzano 2013 Different extracts, including essential oils, have been evaluated in vitro and in water samples for efficacy against Mycobacterium species.Carpenter 2012, Gordien 2009, Peruc 2018 Juniper fruit formulations were found to inhibit the growth and adhesion of Campylobacter jejuni in a polymerase chain reaction–based model.Klancnik 2018

Antioxidant effects

Animal and in vitro data

Antioxidant properties of juniper have been described.Fernandez 2016, Gumral 2015, Vasilijevic 2018, Ved 2017

Cytotoxic effects

Experimental and in vitro data

Cytotoxicity against human cervical cancer, colorectal carcinoma, lung carcinoma, and leukemia cell lines has been reported.Cabral 2012, Fernandez 2016, Och 2015, Pollio 2016, Vasilijevic 2018 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, a compound isolated from Juniperus species, has been associated with cytotoxic activity, along with anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and anti-angiogenic activity.Benzina 2015, Tavares 2018 Additionally, deoxyphyllotoxin and another derivative, isocupressic acid, exerted apoptotic effects against MB231 malignant breast cancer cells in an in vitro model.Benzina 2015

Diabetes

Animal and in vitro data

The administration of a juniper decoction in both normoglycemic (doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg) and streptozotocin-induced diabetic (dose of 125 mg/kg) rats reduced blood glucose levels. The authors concluded the glucose-lowering effect was due to an increase in peripheral glucose utilization and an enhancement of glucose-induced insulin secretion.Sanchez 1994 In an in vitro study, the hydroalcoholic extract of J. communis demonstrated activity against alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase.Orhan 2014

Hepatoprotective effects

Animal data

Hepatoprotective effects of juniper were demonstrated in paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats.Ved 2017 Another study found ethanolic extracts of J. communis exerted hepatoprotective effects in paracetamol- and azithromycin-induced liver injury in rats.Singh 2015

Neuroprotective effects

Animal data

Various extracts of J. communis exerted inhibition against acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase.Senol 2015 In an animal model of Parkinson disease, the methanolic extract of J. communis reduced catalepsy and muscle rigidity and increased locomotor activity. It was also associated with an increase in the level of glutathione and total protein, suggesting a potential neuroprotective effect.Bais 2015

Skin pigmentation effects

Animal data

An ethyl acetate derivative of J. communis demonstrated skin-lightening effects in melanin-possessing hairless mice and also reduced the production of melanin through down-regulation of tyrosine activity and protein expression in melanoma cells.Jegal 2017 Inhibition of melanogenesis was also noted in normal zebrafish.Jeong 2017

Dosing

Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia.ABC 2018

Essential oil

0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily.ABC 2018

Fluid extract

1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily.ABC 2018

Infusion

2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily.ABC 2018

Pregnancy / Lactation

Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. A combination of J. communis with suddab (Ruta graveolens) and natroon (Pinus sylvester) has been topically applied to the penis before sexual intercourse to serve as a contraceptive. The antifertility effects of the combination has been suggested to be via antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities.Daniyal 2015, Khan 2016

Interactions

None well documented.

Adverse Reactions

Junipers, together with cedars and cypresses, are known to be highly allergenic trees, and cross-reactivity between species and genera is common.Weber 2013

Because terpinen-4-ol has demonstrated irritant activity, excessive use of juniper may cause kidney inflammation and damage.ABC 2018

Juniper berries may increase blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes.ABC 2018

Toxicology

Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested.Daniyal 2015, Khan 2016

According to older literature, single, large doses of juniper berries have been reported to cause catharsis, and repeated large doses have been associated with convulsions.Windholz 1983 Older reports also suggest that juniper volatile oil contains nephrotoxic compounds; however, animal studies only show toxicity at very high dosages. Case reports of nephrotoxicity are lacking; however, alternative natural medicines are available for diuresis, and juniper should be avoided in renal impairment until definitive studies are available.Yarnell 2002

References

Afsharzadeh M, Naderinasab M, Tayarani Najaran Z, Barzin M, Emami SA. In-vitro antimicrobial activities of some Iranian conifers. Iran J Pharm Res. 2013;12(1):63-74.24250573
American Botanical Council. Juniper berry monograph. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E website. http://cms.herbalgram.org/expandedE/Juniperberry.html. Accessed on August 21, 2018.
Bais S, Abrol N, Prashar Y, Kumari R. Modulatory effect of standardised amentoflavone isolated from Juniperus communis L. against Freund's adjuvant induced arthritis in rats (histopathological and X Ray analysis). Biomed Pharmacother. 2017;86:381-392.28012393
Bais S, Gill NS, Kumar N. Neuroprotective effect of Juniperus communis on chlorpromazine induced Parkinson disease in animal model. Chinese Journal of Biology. 2015.10.1155/2015/542542
Bais S, Gill NS, Rana N, Shandil S. A phytopharmacological review on a medicinal plant: Juniperus communis. Int Sch Res Notices. 2014;2014:634723.27419205
Barnes J, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. 2nd ed. London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 2002.
Benzina S, Harquail J, Jean S, et al. Deoxypodophyllotoxin isolated from Juniperus communis induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells. Anticancer Agents Med Chem. 2015;15(1):79-88.24913660
Cabral C, Francisco V, Cavaleiro C, et al. Essential oil of Juniperus communis subsp. alpina (Suter) Čelak needles: chemical composition, antifungal activity and cytotoxicity. Phytother Res. 2012;26(9):1352-1357.22294341
Carpenter CD, O'Neill T, Picot N, et al. Anti-mycobacterial natural products from the Canadian medicinal plant Juniperus communis. J Ethnopharmacol. 2012;143(2):695-700.22877928
Cavaleiro C, Pinto E, Gonçalves MJ, Salgueiro L. Antifungal activity of Juniperus essential oils against dermatophyte, Aspergillus and Candida strains. J Appl Microbiol. 2006;100(6):1333-1338.16696681
Daniyal M, Akram M. Antifertility activity of medicinal plants. J Chin Med Assoc. 2015;78(7):382-388.25921562
El-Ghorab A, Shaaban HA, El-Massry KF, Shibamoto T. Chemical composition of volatile extract and biological activities of volatile and less-volatile extracts of juniper berry (Juniperus drupacea L.) fruit. J Agric Food Chem. 2008;56(13):5021-5025.18547046
FDA Poisonous Plant Database. Food and Drug Administration website. https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/plantox/detail.cfm?id=5133. Accessed August 21, 2018.
Fernandez A, Cock IE. The therapeutic properties of Juniperus communis L.: Antioxidant capacity, bacterial growth inhibition, anticancer activity and toxicity. Pharmacogn J. 2016;8:273-280.
Ferrazzano GF, Roberto I, Catania NR, et al. Screening and scoring of antimicrobial and biological activities of Italian vulnerary plants against major oral pathogenic bacteria. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:316280.24302963
Gordien AY, Gray AI, Franzblau SG, Seidel V. Antimycobacterial terpenoids from Juniper communis L. (Cuppressaceae). J Ethnopharmacol. 2009;126(3):500-505.19755141
Gumral N, Kumbul DD, Aylak F, Saygin M, Savik E. Juniperus communis Linn oil decreases oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzymes in the heart of rats administered a diet rich in cholesterol. Toxicol Ind Health. 2015;31(1):85-91.23293127
Jegal J, Chung KW, Chung HY, Jeong EJ, Yang MH. The standardized extract of Juniperus communis alleviates hyperpigmentation in vivo HRM-2 hairless mice and in vitro murine B16 melanoma cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2017;40(9):1381-1388.28867722
Jeong EJ, Jegal J, Chung KW, et al. Hypolaetin-7-ο-β-D-xyloside from Juniperus communis fruits inhibits melanogenesis on zebrafish pigmentation. Natural Product Communications. 2017;12(11):1687-1690.Jeong.2017
Johnson LM. Gitksan medicinal plants—cultural choice and efficacy. J Ethnobiol Ethnomed. 2006;2:29.16790066
Juniperus communis L. USDA, NRCS. 2018. The PLANTS Database (http://plants.usda.gov). National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, NC 27401-4901 USA. Accessed August 13, 2018.
Khan SMA, Shameem. Evidence based approach to unani contraceptives: a review. Int J Reprod Contracept Obstet Gynecol. 2016;5:268-275.
Klančnik A, Zorko Š, Toplak N, et al. Antiadhesion activity of juniper (Juniperus communis L.) preparations against Campylobacter jejuni evaluated with PCR-based methods. Phytother Res. 2018;32(3):542-550.29266487
Och M, Och A, Cieśla Ł, et al. Study of cytotoxic activity, podophyllotoxin, and deoxypodophyllotoxin content in selected Juniperus species cultivated in Poland. Pharm Biol. 2015;53(6):831-837.25720974
Orhan N, Hoçbaç S, Orhan DD, Asian M, Ergun F. Enzyme inhibitory and radical scavenging effects of some antidiabetic plants of Turkey. Iran J Basic Sci. 2014;17(6):426-432.25140204
Peruč D, Gobin I, Abram M, et al. Antimycobacterial potential of the juniper berry essential oil in tap water. Arh Hig Rada Toksikol. 2018;69(1):46-54.29604199
Pollio A, Zarrelli A, Romanucci V, et al. Polyphenolic profile and targeted bioactivity of methanolic extracts from Mediterranean ethnomedicinal plants on human cancer cell lines. Molecules. 2016;21(4):395.27023497
Sanchez de Medina F, Gamez MJ, Jimenez I, Jimenez J, Osuna JI, Zarzuelo A. Hypoglycemic activity of juniper "berries". Planta Med. 1994;60:197-200.
Senol FS, Orhan IE, Ustun O. In vitro cholinesterase inhibitory and antioxidant effect of selected coniferous tree species. Asian Pac J Trop Med. 2015; 8(4):269-275.25975497
Singh H, Prakash A, Kalia AN, Majeed AB. Synergistic hepatoprotective potential of ethanolic extract of Solanum xanthocarpum and Juniperus communis against paracetamol and azithromycin induced liver injury in rats. J Tradit Complement Med. 2015;6(4):370-376.27774421
Smrke S, Vovk I. Comprehensive thin-layer chromatography mass spectrometry of flavanols from Juniperus communis L. and Punica granatum L. J Chromatogr A. 2013;1289:119-126.23566918
Tavares WR, Seca AML. The current status of the pharmaceutical potential of Juniperus L. metabolites. Metabolites. Medicines (Basel). 2018;5(3).30065158
Vasilijević B, Knežević-Vukčević J, Mitić-Ćulafić D, et al. Chemical characterization, antioxidant, genotoxic and in vitro cytotoxic activity assessment of Juniperus communis var. saxatilis. Food Chem Toxicol. 2018;112:118-125.29287791
Ved A, Gupta A, Rawat AK. Antioxidant and hepatoprotective potential of phenol-rich fraction of Juniperus communis Linn. leaves. Pharamcogn Mag. 2017;13(49):108-113.28216892
Weber RW. Allergen of the month—Chinese juniper. Ann Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2013;110(5):A27.23622018
Windholz M, ed. The Merck Index. 10th ed. Rahway, NY: Merck and Co; 1983.
Yarnell E. Botanical medicines for the urinary tract. World J Urol. 2002;20(5):285-293.12522584
Yassine EZ, Abdellah F, Saad M, Abdelhakim EOL. In vitro antibacterial efficacy of essential oils from Moroccan plants against pathogenic bacteria isolated from hospital environment in Morocco. Int J Pharm Clin Res. 2016;8:610-615.

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This information relates to an herbal, vitamin, mineral or other dietary supplement. This product has not been reviewed by the FDA to determine whether it is safe or effective and is not subject to the quality standards and safety information collection standards that are applicable to most prescription drugs. This information should not be used to decide whether or not to take this product. This information does not endorse this product as safe, effective, or approved for treating any patient or health condition. This is only a brief summary of general information about this product. It does NOT include all information about the possible uses, directions, warnings, precautions, interactions, adverse effects, or risks that may apply to this product. This information is not specific medical advice and does not replace information you receive from your health care provider. You should talk with your health care provider for complete information about the risks and benefits of using this product.

This product may adversely interact with certain health and medical conditions, other prescription and over-the-counter drugs, foods, or other dietary supplements. This product may be unsafe when used before surgery or other medical procedures. It is important to fully inform your doctor about the herbal, vitamins, mineral or any other supplements you are taking before any kind of surgery or medical procedure. With the exception of certain products that are generally recognized as safe in normal quantities, including use of folic acid and prenatal vitamins during pregnancy, this product has not been sufficiently studied to determine whether it is safe to use during pregnancy or nursing or by persons younger than 2 years of age.

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