Juniper (Juniperus communis)

Juniper (Juniperus communis)

Other common names: Old field juniper, mountain juniper, prostrate juniper, dwarf juniper, gemeiner wachholder (German), hackmatack


Diagram courtesy of Franz Eugen Köhler, Köhler’s Medizinal-Pflanzen

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Family: Cupressaceae


Irritating diuretic, stimulant, appetite stimulant, rubefacient, carminative, antirheumatic, antimicrobial, aromatic, astringent, decongestant, anti-tussive, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, tonic, diaphoretic, nervine, stomachic, liver tonic, lowers blood sugar.


Harvest ripe berries in late summer or early autumn (depending on the location), can be used fresh or dried. Dry slowly and keep in a shaded, well-ventilated area during the process so as not to lose the valuable volatile oils. Check and turn berries often to prevent mould.

Part used: Ripe, dried berries.


Lignans, volatile oils/monoterpenes (myrcene, alpha- and beta-pinene, sabinene and cineole), waxes, resins, gums and salines, diterpenes, Vitamin C, tannins,  limonene, terpinene-4-ol, alpha terpineol, geraniol, borneol, sesquiterpenes, esters, sugars, flavonoids, phenols, proanthocyanidins, thujone and deoxypodophyllotoxin.


Has been used to heal skin conditions, boost appetite and immune function, encourage hair growth, treat internal and external infections, fluid/urinary retention, cold and flu, nervous exhaustion, anxiety, enlarged prostate, indigestion, PMS, gas/bloating,  acne, psoriasis, weeping/moist skin conditions, congestion, coughs, dandruff, rheumatoid arthritis and uric acid accumulation leading to gout. It even helps to reduce the appearance of cellulite.

Medicinal preparations:


Some use the fresh berries, others dry…the fresh have more potent constituents, of course. Either way, you need to decoct them in order to make a tea, and crush them directly before use (volatile oils leave very quickly after processing). They can be tinctured if the alcohol content is very high, and this tincture can be used to make syrups, elixirs and other products.

Do not take internally for longer than four weeks. 



Photo courtesy of Stan Shebs / Wikimedia Commons

Tincture can be applied to skin for external conditions, and a  poultice can be made from the decocted dried berries. Either of these preparations can be used in making other products for internal use, as well – such as salves, washes, shampoos, soaps, etc. Do not apply to large or open wounds. May cause irritation in sensitive individuals (even when diluted as it was meant to be). It may also be used in a steam inhalation, as long as it is adequately diluted and used in moderation.

Essential oil of juniper should not be taken internally and should be well-diluted before using topically. Be sure you don’t accidentally purchase cade oil, a product distilled from juniper wood instead of from the berries. Read the fine print on the label. No juniper oil should ever be taken internally, and for topical use it must indicate on the bottle that it is intended for therapeutic or culinary purpose – some oil manufacturers use juniperus subspecies that are quite toxic.



Photo courtesy of Willy Horsch / Wikimedia Commons

Do not use if pregnant or nursing, or if you suffer from kidney disease or acute kidney infection. Some have used juniper to expel gallstones or kidney stones, but it can be overstimulating to the kidneys and dangerous if used to expel stones without talking to a doctor first to ensure they are small enough to be passed safely. Do not use in high doses or for a long period of time (more than four weeks – this may result in irritation of the urinary tract and kidneys, seizures and blood in the urine). If you experience sweet-scented urine (described by some as smelling like violets) or bleeding, stop taking juniper immediately. Consult with a physician before use if you are taking any pharmaceuticals. Do not take with diabetes medications or diuretics/water pills. Stop taking juniper two weeks before undergoing surgery. May cause contact dermatitis and stomach irritation in some.

I suggest consulting a pharmacist or physician before starting any herbal supplement if you are taking a prescription medication or have serious underlying health concerns. 

Energetic/traditional use:

First Nations people have used this plant for centuries, valuing it as a blood tonic, cold remedy, painkiller and stomach aide. It has also been used to make ceremonial incenses and tools, and burned to keep away undesirable spirits and negative energy. It is associated with masculine energy, the element of fire and the sun. It is cleansing, protective, and encourages male potency, love, psychic development, safety in the woods (when carried) and the breaking of curses.

Disclaimer: The information on this website is intended as general education on herbs and is not intended to take the place of medical care. Please consult a health care professional before embarking on any health regime.

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