Juniper berries are small blue “berries” that grow on evergreen shrubs or trees.
It’s fine to keep them around for purely aesthetic purposes in the garden. Tiny juniper bonsai trees are grown by some people.
Though the genus Junipera contains some 60 recognised species, Juniperus communis is by far the most widespread.
Picking that plant without protective gear could result in painful scratches from the plant’s sharp needles.
Edible berries can also be found on Juniperus communis.
Some species are too poisonous to eat, and others are too bitter.
Explore the links below to find out more about Juniper.
How can I find juniper trees?
The Juniperus communis is widespread across the northern hemisphere, but it is especially abundant in the Nordic region. It is a type of conifer that retains its needles year round.
However, juniper plants can adapt to a wide range of conditions.
All over the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic to tropical Africa, from Pakistan to eastern Tibet, and in the mountains of Central America, you can find junipers of varying species.
In fact, among woody plants, juniper has the widest distribution.
How do Junipers appear?
The juniper is a tree or shrub that keeps its needles year-round.
Naturally, it varies in appearance depending on the species. However, the appearance of a single species can vary, depending on its native environment. Characteristics of junipers vary according to latitude, soil, and climate.
You can feel the breeze through the needles of some junipers. As I mentioned, not all junipers are poisonous, but if you plan on eating the berries, you should steer clear of the ones that are soft or scaly.
The juniperus communis you seek is characterised by extremely sharp needles. Needles that are a little difficult to pick due to their design. That means you should take on tasks of increasing difficulty.
Flowering the first year, junipers produce green berries the second, and by the third year their dark blue berries are ready to be harvested, dried, or used in any other way you see fit.
Depending on the juniper’s age, the same branch may produce either green or blue berries.
Remember to only pick the blue ones and to wait a little while longer for the green ones to ripen.
A juniper berry is actually a cone, not a berry.
Many people believe that junipers bear fruit, but the fruit is actually a cone rather than a berry.
The juniper cone looks like a berry because its scales have fused together and become unusually fleshy.
This, along with the widespread use of the name “juniper berry,” leads us to continue referring to the cones as berries.
Can Juniper Berries Be Eaten Safely?
There are some juniper berry species that are edible.
The most common species, Juniperus communis, is the best and safest edible variety.
In contrast, the Savin Juniper, or Juniperus Sabina, is highly toxic. One’s life may end if they consume the Savin oil. Check out our piece titled “Are Juniper Berries Poisonous?” if you want to learn more about the toxicity of juniper. Should I Always Stay Away From Them?
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The most widely used variety of juniper for culinary purposes is the Juniperus communis. That variety is also the one that has the best reputation for food safety.
Some varieties are thought to be too toxic or bitter to eat. What Do Juniper Berries Taste & Smell Like? is an article we wrote to answer the question, “What does juniperus communis taste like?”
However, it’s important to keep in mind that juniper berries, which come from the Juniperus communis plant, are quite potent, and can have a significant impact on the kidneys and even increase their stress levels when consumed in typical amounts.
Where Do Juniper Berries Fit Into Your Life?
You’ll often find juniper berries used as a seasoning in meat and game dishes.
Dried berries are what give food its flavour. Since the berries’ outer shell lacks much flavour, you’ll want to crush them before using them as a spice.
Gin flavouring is another common use for juniper berries, and it’s also one of the most well-known. The flavour of juniper berries is said to be familiar to anyone who has sampled gin.
Juniper berries can also be brewed into a refreshing beverage. Making it is as simple as lightly crushing some dried berries and adding them to a pot of hot water. However, you should exercise caution and limit how often you consume it. It has a high risk of adverse effects if misused. In our article titled “Juniper Berries,” you can learn more about this delicious beverage.
Indeed, junipers are widely distributed. Wherever you call home, you can have these shrubs as garden ornaments. It’s important to get the right kind of berry if you’re going to eat them, though. It is the juniperus communis that you seek. Needles on a juniperus communis plant are notoriously sharp.
Take care when harvesting berries from a branch because both ripe and unripe berries can coexist. Select only the fully mature fruits.
In most cases, juniper berries are used as a seasoning. The flavour of the berries is enhanced when they are used in cooking. At our house, you can always find a jar of dried junipers. Use it to add depth of flavour to your stew or game dish.
The juniper berry is a potent diuretic, meaning it stimulates the kidneys and encourages the body to excrete more fluid through the urinary tract. This results in the elimination of uric acid and its crystals, which can prevent the development of such unpleasant conditions as gout, arthritis, and kidney stones.
The terpinen-4-ol found in abundance in juniper berries is thought to speed up the kidneys’ filtration process, leading to more frequent urination and a more thorough cleansing of the urinary tract of bacteria. Some patients who use Juniper for urinary tract infections report feeling better within 24 to 72 hours, making it a fast-acting and effective treatment. A urinary tract disinfectant, juniper is even recommended by the British Pharmacopoeia.
The bitter compounds found in juniper berries help to increase bile production and the activity of digestive enzymes. This facilitates digestion and increases nutrient uptake by the body. Their astringent qualities make them ideal for treating indigestion and heartburn.
In addition to calming an upset stomach, juniper can be used to treat colitis, GI infections, appetite loss, and worms in the digestive tract.
The powerful antioxidant activity shown by these berries is the source of many of the health benefits associated with Juniper. These berries contain a whopping 87 different antioxidant compounds, including the phytochemicals alpha-pinene, cadinene, limonene, myrcene, borneol, caryophyllene, and germacrene.
Catalase, glutathione peroxidase, and superoxide dismutase are all increased by consuming juniper berries. Antioxidants are naturally occurring substances in the body that defend cells from free radicals. By definition, free radicals are unbalanced atoms or atomic groups that have lost at least one electron and are therefore seeking to restore their stability by stealing electrons from nearby molecules. As might be expected, this can wreak havoc on the body and lead to a wide variety of health issues.
By preventing free radical damage, regenerating damaged skin cells, and dampening inflammation, antioxidants play a key role in keeping skin looking young and healthy.
The natural insulin found in juniper berries has been shown to be just as effective in the body as its synthetic counterpart, leading to the berries’ frequent designation as “Nature’s Insulin.” Scientific studies on animals have revealed that the berries contain compounds that stimulate insulin production and bring about a decrease in blood sugar levels. Juniper berries may therefore be a useful tool in the fight against diet-controlled (type 2) diabetes.
Oil Extracted From Juniper Berries
There are numerous applications for the essential oil extracted from the juniper berry due to its high concentration of beneficial compounds and antioxidants. You can use it as a massage or bath oil by diluting it with a carrier oil to stimulate your body while clearing your lymph glands and detoxification pathways.
Inhaling juniper berry oil has been shown to have a beneficial effect on the brain’s relaxation responses, making it one of the most effective essential oils for coping with anxiety caused by internal trauma.
You can use this essential oil for cleansing and purification on the spiritual, emotional, and physical planes.
Tradition and past events
The earliest known use of juniper berries for medicinal purposes is found in a recipe for treating tapeworm infestations, which was written on an Egyptian papyrus around 1500 BCE. Culpeper, a famous mediaeval herbalist, recommended juniper berries for a wide range of conditions, including the treatment of flatulence. The Romans used the berries for purification and stomach ailments.
In mediaeval times, juniper was used to counteract the effects of witchcraft and other forms of dark magic. The aromatic smoke from these plants was used in cleansing rituals and was thought to improve clairvoyance. Juniper was burned at the Celtic Fire Festival of Samhain, a time when the veil between the worlds was thought to be at its thinnest, in order to encourage communication with the Otherworld.
Juniper berries, despite their name, are not berries at all but rather the female seed cone of the juniper plant. Traditional uses for the spice Juniper Berries date back centuries; they are best known for imparting their distinctive flavour to gin.
In traditional medicine, juniper berries were used to treat a wide variety of conditions, from kidney infections and urinary tract infections to digestive problems, gout, warts, and skin growths. Tea made from juniper berries was traditionally used to sterilise surgical equipment due to its well-documented antiseptic properties.
A Cup of Juniper Berry Tea
You need 1 tablespoon of juniper berries, plus enough boiling water to cover them. Then you need to let the mixture steep for 20 minutes.
Oil Extracted From Juniper Berries
Oil extracted from juniper berries can be used aromatically in a diffuser or a bath. A massage oil or cream could benefit from having this ingredient added. Put 6-8 drops into a running bath, or 10-18 drops into 30ml of carrier oil.
The juniper berry contains the monoterpenes, alpha and beta-pinene, sabinene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, borneol, geraniol5, myrcene, camphene2, camphor, and alpha-eudesmol.
Women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid juniper because it stimulates the contraction of smooth muscles.
Diabetes, glucose regulation, and hypoglycemia medications should not be used in conjunction with Juniper.
If you are already taking prescription drugs, you should talk to your doctor before using this herb.
Never apply an essential oil neat to the skin; always dilute it first. Keep out of the reach of the eyes and mouth.