Common Name: Juniper berry
Habitat: Juniper is native to the northern hemisphere, including the Himalayas, these plants can be found easily. This herb is very popular in regions of Europe, North America, especially Texas and North Asia.
Juniperus communis nana is an evergreen Shrub growing to 9 m (29ft 6in) at a slow rate.
It is in leaf all year, in flower from May to June, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid and very alkaline soils.
It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerate maritime exposure.
Succeeds in hot dry soils and in poor soils. Succeeds in most soils so long as they are well drained, preferring a neutral or slightly alkaline soil. Does well in chalky soils. Grows well in heavy clay soils. Tolerates a pH range from 4 to 8. Succeeds in light woodland but dislikes heavy shade. Established plants are very tolerant of drought. Although the fully dormant plant is cold-tolerant throughout Britain, the young growth in spring can be damaged by late frosts. A very polymorphic species, there is a huge range of cultivars of widely diverse habits. At least some forms tolerate maritime exposure, there is a thriving colony in an exposed position at Land’s End in Cornwall. Seed takes 2 – 3 years to ripen on the plant. Plants are usually very slow growing, often only a few centimetres a year. Resists honey fungus. Plants are sometimes attacked by a rust, this fungus has an aecidial stage on hawthorn (Crataegus spp.). Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.
Fruits are eaten raw or cooked. It is usually dried. The fruit is often used as a flavouring in sauerkraut, stuffings, vegetable pates etc, and is an essential ingredient of gin. The aromatic fruit is used as a pepper substitute according to one report. An essential oil is sometimes distilled from the fruit to be used as a flavouring. Average yields are around 1%. The cones are about 4 – 8mm in diameter and take 2 years to mature. Some caution is advised when using the fruit, see the notes above on toxicity. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. A tea is made by boiling the leaves and stems. A tea made from the berries has a spicy gin-like flavour.
Juniper fruits are commonly used in herbal medicine, as a household remedy, and also in some commercial preparations. They are especially useful in the treatment of digestive disorders plus kidney and bladder problems. The fully ripe fruits are strongly antiseptic, aromatic, carminative, diaphoretic, strongly diuretic, rubefacient, stomachic and tonic. They are used in the treatment of cystitis, digestive problems, chronic arthritis, gout and rheumatic conditions. They can be eaten raw or used in a tea, but some caution is advised since large doses can irritate the urinary passage. Externally, it is applied as a diluted essential oil, having a slightly warming effect upon the skin and is thought to promote the removal of waste products from underlying tissues. It is, therefore, helpful when applied to arthritic joints etc. The fruits should not be used internally by pregnant women since this can cause an abortion. The fruits also increase menstrual bleeding so should not be used by women with heavy periods. When made into an ointment, they are applied to exposed wounds and prevent irritation by flies. The essential oil is used in aromatherapy. Its keyword is ‘Toxin elimination’
A decoction of the branches is used as an anti-dandruff shampoo. Yields the resin ‘Sandarac’, used in the production of a white varnish. The stems were at one time used as a strewing herb. The whole plant can be burnt as an incense and fumigant. It makes a good insect repellent. The bark is used as cordage and as a tinder. An excellent fuel wood. Many forms of this species are good ground cover plants for sunny situations.
Although the fruit of this plant is quite often used medicinally and as a flavouring in various foods and drinks, large doses of the fruit may cause renal damage. Juniper should not be used internally in any quantities by pregnant women.
Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider