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31 Mar 2014 By

Spice of the Month – Juniper Berries

Juniperus communis is commonly known as juniper berries and are found widely throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The juniper berry plant is a small evergreen shrub. The berries are the medicinal part of the plant, although they are not a true berry but dark blue-black scales from the cones of the shrub.

Juniper berries are mainly used for their essential oils, which gives the berries a bitter taste and turpentine-like smell. The oils also contain tannins, sugar, flavonoid glycosides, resin, tar and terpenes. Other nutrients of the juniper berry include copper, chromium, calcium, iron, limonene, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C.

In traditional herbal medicine, the berries have been used to treat digestive issues, cancer, gout, water retention due to its diuretic effects, along with urinary tract and kidney diseases such as urethritis and cystitis. Juniper berries may be used for indigestion, bloating, belching, heartburn, flatulence, diabetes or menstrual problems. Various inflammatory conditions including rheumatism, gout and arthritis may improve from juniper’s anti-inflammatory properties, as the diuretic effect helps to reduce fluid retention from around the joints. Externally, a compress is used for skin growths, warts, athlete’s foot, dandruff and acne.

Due to juniper berries’ effect on the kidneys, it should be avoided by those with kidney disease. Juniper should not be used on open wounds, as the topical oil may lead to swelling and irritation at the application site.

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