Herbs & Plants

Juniperus occidentalis

Botanical Name: Juniperus occidentalis
Family: Cupressaceae
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Pinophyta
Class: Pinopsida
Order: Pinales
Genus: Juniperus
Species:J. occidentalis

Synonyms: Juniperus pyriformis.

Common Names: Western juniper

Habitat: Juniperus occidentalis is native to western N. America – British Columbia to the Sierra Nevada.It is usually found on thin rocky or sandy soils on desert foothills and lower mountains, also on windswept peaks up to elevations of 3,000 metres where they become low gnarled shrubs.

Juniperus occidentalis is an evergreen Tree growing to 18 m (59ft 1in) at a slow rate.The shoots are of moderate thickness among junipers, at 1–1.6 mm diameter. The leaves are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three; the adult leaves are scale-like, 1–2 mm long (to 5 mm on lead shoots) and 1–1.5 mm broad. The juvenile leaves (on young seedlings only) are needle-like, 5–10 mm long. The cones are berry-like, 5–10 mm in diameter, blue-brown with a whitish waxy bloom, and contain one to three seeds; they are mature in about 18 months. The male cones are 2–4 mm long, and shed their pollen in early spring.

It is in leaf all year, and the seeds ripen in October. The species is monoecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but both sexes can be found on the same plant) and is pollinated by Wind. The plant is not self-fertile.

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very alkaline soils.
It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought. The plant can tolerates strong winds but not maritime exposure.

Edible Uses:
Fruits are edible the are eaten – raw or cooked- thin dry flesh with a resinous flavour. The fruit is sweet and nutritious, it can also be dried or ground into a powder and mixed with cereal flours to be made into a bread.The cones are about 10mm in diameter, they take 2 years to mature.

Medicinal Uses:
Juniperus occidentalis was quite widely employed as a medicinal herb by a number of native North American tribes who used it to treat a variety of complaints, especially those related to the kidneys and the skin. It is rarely, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are blood tonic and laxative. A decoction is used in the treatment of constipation, coughs and colds. An infusion of the leaves has been taken by pregnant women prior to giving birth in order to relax the muscles. A poultice of the pounded moistened leaves has been applied to the jaw to treat swollen and sore gums and toothaches. The berries are analgesic, blood tonic and diuretic. A decoction is used to relieve the pain of menstrual cramps and to induce urination. Externally, the decoction is used as a poultice on rheumatic joints. The young twigs are antiseptic, blood tonic and febrifuge. A decoction is used in the treatment of kidney problems, fevers, stomach aches, smallpox, influenza and haemorrhages. The branches have been used in a sweat bath to ease rheumatism. A poultice of the twigs has been used as a dressing on burns and as a drawing agent on boils or splinters. A decoction has been used as an antiseptic wash on sores. The leaves or young twigs have been burnt and the smoke inhaled to ease the pain of headaches.

Other Uses:
The bark is employed as a tinder and is also made into a slow match. The crushed bark was twisted into a rope, tied at intervals with yucca (Yucca species), and wrapped into a coil. The free end was set on fire and kept smouldering by blowing on it at intervals. Fire could be carried in this fashion for several hours. The bark can be wound around a stick and used as a torch to provide light and carry fire to a new campsite. The bark can be rubbed between the hands until it is soft and the fibres can then be woven into clothing. The bark can also be rolled into rope, coiled and then sown to form sandal shoes. The root fibre is used to make twined baskets. The branches have been burnt as an incense and fumigant in the home. The dried seeds have been used as beads or as the ‘rattle’ in rattles. Wood – very close-grained, light, soft, exceedingly durable. It is easily worked and can be exquisitely finished. Because of its small size, however, it is mainly used for fencing, fuel.

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.


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