Juniper, an evergreen tree, grows mainly in the plains regions of Europe as well as in other parts of the world. The medicinal portions of the plant are referred to as berries, but they are actually dark blue-black scales from the cones of the tree. Unlike other pine cones, the juniper cones are fleshy and soft.
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3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Refer to label instructions
The volatile oils in juniper cause an increase in urine volume and in this way can theoretically lessen edema.
Horsetail has a diuretic (urine flow increasing) action that accounts for its traditional use in reducing mild edema. Although there is no clinical research that yet supports its use for people with edema, the German government has approved horsetail for this use. The volatile oils in juniper cause an increase in urine volume and in this way can theoretically lessen edema;2 however, there is no clinical research that yet supports its use for people with edema.
Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
Refer to label instructions
Juniper acts as a digestive stimulant and may be helpful for indigestion.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.3 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.4 Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Urinary Tract Infection
Refer to label instructions
Juniper may relieve UTI symptoms by increasing urinary volume and helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis), birch (Betula spp.), couch grass (Agropyron repens), goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea),horsetail, Java tea (Orthosiphon stamineus), lovage (Levisticum officinale), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), spiny restharrow (Ononis spinosa), and nettle are approved in Germany as part of the therapy of people with UTIs. These herbs appear to work by increasing urinary volume and supposedly helping to flush bacteria out of the urinary tract.5Juniper is used in a similar fashion by many doctors. Generally, these plants are taken as tea.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Aside from being used as the flavoring agent in gin, juniper trees have contributed to the making of everything from soap to perfume.1 Many conditions have been treated in traditional herbal medicine with juniper berries, including gout, warts and skin growths, cancer, upset stomach, and various urinary tract and kidney diseases.
How It Works
How It Works
The volatile oils, particularly terpinen-4-ol, may cause an increase in urine volume.6 According to some sources, juniper increases urine volume without a loss of electrolytes such as potassium.7 Juniper contains bitter substances, at least partly accounting for its traditional use in digestive upset and related problems.
How to Use It
The German Commission E monograph suggests 1/2–2 teaspoons of the dried fruit daily.8 To make a tea, 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water is added to 1 teaspoon (5 grams) of juniper berries and allowed to steep for twenty minutes in a tightly covered container. Drink one cup (250 ml) each morning and night. Juniper is often combined with other diuretic and anti-microbial herbs. As a capsule or tablet, 1–2 grams can be taken three times per day, or 1/4–1/2 teaspoon (1–2 ml) of tincture can be taken three times daily.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Herbs that have a diuretic effect should be avoided when taking diuretic medications, as they may increase the effect of these drugs and lead to possible cardiovascular side effects. These herbs include dandelion, uva ursi, juniper, buchu, cleavers, horsetail, and gravel root.9
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
Excessive applications (greater than the recommended amounts) may cause kidney irritation. People with either acute or chronic inflammation of the kidneys or kidney failure should not use juniper. Juniper should not be taken for greater than four weeks without first consulting a healthcare professional. One report suggests that people with diabetes should use juniper cautiously as it may raise glucose levels.10
Application of the volatile oil directly to skin can cause a rash. Pregnant women should avoid juniper until further information is available, as it may cause uterine contractions.
4. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425–6.
5. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 428.
6. Tyler VE. Herbs of Choice: The Therapeutic Use of Phytomedicinals. Binghamton, NY: Pharmaceutical Products Press, 1994, 76–7.
7. Blumenthal M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. Herbal Medicine: Expanded Commission E Monographs. Newton, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 2000, 218–20.
8. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 155–6.
9. Brinker F. Herb Contraindications and Drug Interactions. Sandy, OR: Eclectic Institute, 1997, 102–3.
10. ESCOP. Juniperi fructus. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherpay, 1997.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2014.
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