What is Juniper Berry?
Juniper berry comes from the juniper tree (x), an evergreen shrub prevalent in many parts of the globe, including North America, Asia and Europe. This tree produces seed corns that many people call juniper berries. In reality, juniper berries do not meet the criteria of a berry or fruit (x). These berries come in many colors, though the deep blue variety is the most common (x). The berries have a woody or spicy aroma and a pine-like flavor, which makes them excellent spices (x). Juniper berries have culinary and medicinal functions (x). The berries also have many health benefits.
Some juniper berries are used as a spice (x), especially in European cuisine. The aroma and taste of the berries give food a distinct flavor (x). These berries are some of the few spices that come from conifers.
Juniper berries are also used in the production of gin (x). The berries have diuretic properties and can boost appetite (x). Ancient communities used juniper berries to treat the symptoms of arthritis and rheumatism (x). The term gin is believed to be derived from the French or Dutch genievre or jenever, respectively. Both terms are derived from the word juniper (x).
Communities in Europe (x), especially Scandinavia, have long used juniper to impart a distinct flavor to meat dishes and game meats. A traditional Germanic dish of sauerkraut and meats has, for a long time, featured juniper berries. These berries also feature prominently in Czech, Hungarian, German and Austrian cuisine (x).
In addition to being a culinary ingredient, juniper berries have also been used for medicinal purposes. Ancient Egyptians (x) used their oils as a laxative. In addition, some of the Native American (x) tribes used juniper to assist in childbirth. British explorers (x) used them to treat menstrual cramps. In the 19th century (x), many communities in the U.S. used juniper berries to treat the symptoms of gonorrhea, urinary tract infections and cardiac disorders.
Benefits of Juniper Berry
While there is limited information about the nutritional content of juniper berries, they are believed to contain a wide range of vitamins and useful plant compounds (x). Like other berries, juniper is rich in vitamin C (x), which plays a crucial role in promoting immune and cardiovascular health. In addition, vitamin C supports the synthesis of collagen (x).
Provides Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant Effects
A significant benefit of juniper berries is their ability to minimize oxidative stress (x) caused by free radicals in the body. The berries contain bioflavonoids, which are powerful antioxidants (x). Juniper berries are loaded with more than 80 antioxidant compounds (x). The ripeness of the berries determines the amount of antioxidants they contain (x).
Juniper berries also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (x). The berries contain chemical compounds that promote good health and provide protection against neurodegenerative conditions (x). Foods rich in antioxidants promote good health and protect cells from damage that may cause infections (x).
Juniper berries contain flavonoids (x) that prevent inflammation. In addition, the berries are rich in essential oils that stimulate enzymatic action (x). Many of the health benefits of juniper berries are due to their antioxidant properties (x). Their antioxidant properties help to prevent wrinkles and promote skin health (x).
Many communities throughout the world use juniper berries as traditional medicine (x) for diabetes. Consuming the berries may help to regulate blood sugar and cholesterol levels (x). Some researchers believe the high levels of antioxidants in juniper berries give them the antidiabetic effect (x).
Some people refer to juniper berries as nature’s insulin because of their ability to regulate blood glucose levels (x). Research (x) indicates they contain chemical compounds that promote the production and release of insulin into the bloodstream.
Juniper berries (x) promote cardiac health by regulating the levels of good cholesterol in the body. Studies (x) indicate consuming these berries is one of the best ways to minimize the risk of cardiac disorders.
Juniper berries are powerful diuretics (x) that promote the flow of urine and excess fluids from the body, including the kidneys. They help rid the body of toxic substances such as uric acid and crystals that may cause various health complications, including arthritis, kidney stones and gout (x).
Juniper berries contain high concentrations of volatile oils (x) that improve the rate of kidney function. The oils support kidney filtration and urine flow, which helps to rid the body of bacteria in the bladder and kidney (x). This is the reason why juniper berries provide excellent treatment for urinary tract infections (x).
Juniper berries have been used for many years as a form of folk medicine (x) for digestive problems. Studies indicate eating juniper berries helps to improve digestive behavior and relieve bloating (x).
Juniper berries contain chemical compounds that support enzymatic action (x). Eating the berries after meals facilitate the digestion and absorption of foods. In addition, they provide relief from heartburn and stomach upset (x). They can also be useful as a treatment for various gut problems, including colic and infections (x). Eating the berries may even help to flush out some intestinal worms (x).
Juniper berries are essential in promoting skin health (x). The berries’ essential oils can treat skin infections, such as rash and eczema (x). What makes them so effective in treating skin infections is the level of antioxidants they contain (x). Research (x) indicates they may treat vitiligo as well as other problems with skin pigmentation. Juniper berry may also minimize the appearance of cellulite on the hips, thighs and backside (x).
Supports Restful Sleep
Many health professionals recommend juniper berry essential oil as a relaxant that can improve the quality of sleep. The essential oil is believed to have a positive effect on brain chemistry (x). It encourages relaxation, which can be beneficial for people with sleeping disorders (x). Juniper berry essential oil provides a natural way for insomniacs to decrease over-reliance on sleep medication (x).
How to Find Juniper Berries
You can find juniper berries in food stores throughout the country. They may also be sold online. Products are available in various forms, including crushed, dried, whole and fresh. Many add extracts into their foods to add flavor and a rich aroma (x). You can also use crushed juniper berries to make a sauce. Whatever you decide to do, do not overcook the berry extracts because it will make your food bitter (x).
Side Effects of Juniper Berry
When consuming juniper extracts, be sure to use the amount that is naturally found in food (x). Overdose is likely to cause adverse side effects. The extract should be taken by mouth in small amounts over a short period. Applying juniper extract on the skin may cause swelling, redness, irritation and a burning sensation (x). In addition, taking juniper extract for a prolonged period may cause seizures and kidney problems.
Juniper extract can lower blood sugar (x), which may have adverse effects, especially in people with diabetes. In addition, taking the extract may cause abdominal discomfort due to irritation of the stomach and intestines (x).
Juniper extract may affect blood pressure (x) and may make it difficult for people with cardiac problems to maintain healthy blood pressure levels. It is advisable to avoid taking juniper extracts at least three weeks before a scheduled surgery.
Juniper Berry Warnings
Do not consume juniper berries or extract if you are pregnant or lactating. The berries may stimulate menstruation and cause miscarriage or spontaneous abortion (x). In addition, avoid using these products if you have diabetes or have a history of blood sugar problems (x). They can lower blood sugar to significantly low levels. It may also cause fluctuations in blood pressure, which can be quite dangerous, especially to people with high blood pressure (x).
Avoid using juniper extracts if you are allergic (x) to the berries or oils. In addition, discuss supplementation with your physician if you have kidney problems. The same applies to people on diuretic medication. Mixing juniper extract with antidiuretics may cause over diuresis, which may lead to serious health complications (x).
Juniper extract has a moderate interaction with antidiabetics (x). Along with diabetes medication, juniper can lower blood sugar, which can be quite dangerous. Juniper extract may also interact with water pills and cause dehydration (x).
Standard Safety Precautions
Always dilute juniper essential oils before consuming. In addition, avoid touching the eyes or mucous membranes (x) after coming in contact with juniper essential oils. In case the essential gets into your eyes, do not use water to clean it off. Instead, wipe the eyes gently with a piece of non-fluff tissue paper dipped in vegetable oil (x). Seek immediate medical attention if itching persists.
Keep all juniper products out of reach of children and pets. Call 911 in case your child ingests juniper extract or oil.
The Bottom Line
Juniper berries come from the juniper tree, which grows in North America and parts of Europe (x). The berries are associated with many health benefits due to their high concentration of antioxidants (x). Many ancient communities have used juniper berries for culinary and medicinal purposes (x). Consuming juniper can treat or minimize the symptoms of various health conditions, including cardiac disorders, diabetes and digestive problems (x). In addition, juniper berry essential oil can be applied to the skin to promote skin health (x).