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  • The Fantastic Spices World

JUNIPER ( Juniperus communis L. )
SYNONYMS: Genevrier, Ginepro, Enebro, Baccae Juniperi

Names in Other Languages:

English Juniper
French Genévrier, Genièvre
German Wacholder, Machandel, Kranawitt
Spanish Enebro, Cedro, Bayas de enebro, Junípero, Nebrina
Italian Ginepro, Coccola di ginepro
Turkish Ardıç yemişi
Japanese セイヨウスズ Seiyō-suzu

FAMILY: Cupressaceae

ORIGIN:   It grows all over Europe and Asia.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Juniper is an evergreen coniferous shrub or small tree grows up to 10m in height; it can be either prostrate or erect.. The leaves, 5-20mm long, are needle-like and stalkless, occurring in whorls of three, and are pale green below and dark shiny green on the other three sides. The male plant bears a cone 1cm long, the female a much smaller one; the fruit, about 1cm in diameter, appears on the female plant. Initially green, it turns purplish-black with a greyish bloom in the second and third year and has a triangular indentation at the apex.

USEFUL PARTS: The berry-like cones


SENSORY PROPERTIES: Aromatic with a sweet accent

MAIN CONSTITUENTS:

The primary chemical constituents of this herb include essential oil (camphene, cineole, myrcene, pinene, terpinene), sesquiterpenes (cadinene, elemene), flavonoids, glycosides, tannins, podophyllotoxin, and vitamin C.

Juniper berries owe their use in the kitchen to an essential oil (0.2 to 2%, dependent on provenance) apart from up to 33% sugars and 10 % resin. The essential oil is mainly composed of monoterpenes: 80% α- and β-pinene, thujene, sabinene, 5% terpinene-4-ol, α-terpineol, borneol and geraniol; sesqiterpenes (α- and β-cadinene, caryophyllene) are found in traces. [1]

MAIN USES IN FOOD PROCESSING:

The berries have been used as a flavoring agent in gin and luncheon meats. Juniper berries perform a quite unique role, by contributing as much to the character of food through their 'freshening' ability, as they do by way of their specific taste profile. Juniper berries blend well with other herbs and spices, especially thyme, sage, oregano, marjoram, bay leaves, allspice and onions and garlic. It seasons pâtés and sauces and in Sweden. Goulash and Sauerkraut often feature a juniper taste, as do some home-pickled meats like salt beef, salt pork and ham. Generally juniper can well be used in any dish requiring alcohol. Fruit dishes, such as apple tart and pickled peaches, also harmonize with this flavour. [2]

Ripe juniper cones


MEDICINAL PROPERTIES:  

Juniper berries have the diuretic effect, increasing the elimination of acid metabotites; antiseptic, carminative, stomachic, antirheumatic, uterine stimulant and anti- inflammatory.

It is specifically indicated in the absence of renal inflammation. The properties of gren unripe berries are more pronounced than the ripe fruits. Juniper berries and leaves are used to support healthy kidney and urinary tract function, and to promote healthy blood pressure. It is often found in natural formulas designed to promote regularity. Many conditions have been treated with Juniper Berries by several cultures, including gout, warts and skin growths, cancer, upset stomach, and various urinary tract and kidney diseases.

Juniper Berries are beneficial in treating infections, especially within the urinary tract, bladder, kidneys, and prostate. Their antiseptic properties help remove waste and acidic toxins from the body, stimulating a fighting action against bacterial and yeast infections. Juniper Berries also help increase the flow of digestive fluids, improving digestion and eliminating gas and stomach cramping. As a diuretic, Juniper berries eliminate excess water retention contributing to weight loss. Juniper Berries' anti-inflammatory properties are ideal for relieving pain and inflammation related to rheumatism and arthritis. Juniper Berries are beneficial in reducing congestion, as well as treating asthma and colds; they make an excellent antiseptic in conditions such as cystitis. [2]


Ripe juniper cones
Therapeutics and Pharmacology:

Juniperus is primarily used in the treatment of urinary tract infections such as cystitis and urethritis. The antiseptic volatile oil is excreted in the urine, disinfecting the urinary tract as it passes through. This action is enhanced by a diuretic effect which dilutes the urine. The volatile oil component, terpinen-4-ol, is reported to increase the glomerular filtration rate of the kidneys. Juniperus is also applicable to urinary calculi.

It is a useful remedy for gastric conditions resulting from an underproduction of hydrochloric acid and is also of benefit in gastrointestinal infections, inflammations and cramps. The bitter action aids digestion and relieves flatulent colic.

Juniperus is often used in the treatment of rheumatism, arthritis and gout, and other arthritic conditions associated with the accumulation of acid waste. Here, it promotes the excretion of uric acid at the kidney. Applied externally, the diluted essential oil penetrates the skin to help relieve joint and muscle pain and neuralgia. It warms the tissues by perfusing them with blood. The undiluted oil is irritant and is likely to cause inflammation and blisters.

As a vapour bath, Juniperus is helpful in the treatment of bronchitis and lung infections. when chewed, the berries freshen the breath and help heal infected gums. Anti-viral activities exhibited by the volatile oil have been partially attributed to the flavonoid amentoflavone.

Juniperus stimulates uterine muscle and so can be used in delayed menstruation,

Caution:

The volatile oil is stimulating to the kidney nephrons, so Juniperus should never be used in patients with renal disease (a warning sign is albuminuria). A uterine stimulant, it must never used during pregnancy and should never be used in the treatment of children. Juniperus is irritant to many tissues and the turpentine-like oil can cause cramps when inhaled. It should not be taken internally for more than six weeks and the internal use of the oil must always be supervised by a qualified practitioner.

The essential oil present in this herb is quite stimulating to the kidney nephrons, and so Juniper should be avoided by those suffering from kidney disease.

REFERENCES and SOURCES:

[1]http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Juni_com.html
[2] http://www.theepicentre.com/Spices/juniper.html
http://www.indianetzone.com/1/juniper_fruit.htm
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