Many people know juniper berries as the ingredient to flavor gin. Indeed, the name gin is derived from the Dutch “jenever,” which means juniper. The Dutch were also the first to invent the juniper-flavored drink centuries ago. We also know juniper for its ornamental use, but it actually has many medicinal benefits as well.
Juniper berries have a warming, stimulating, diuretic action so they are beneficial for the kidneys and bladder. I use juniper berries combined with cleavers and uva ursi in a tincture for bladder and urinary tract difficulties. They are also an aid for chronic cystitis and help dissolve kidney stones. The berries improve the overall digestion by increasing the body fluids necessary to break down food. In topical remedies, juniper berries are effective for joint pain, rheumatoid arthritis and nerve and muscle problems. Juniper essential oil is helpful to relieve nausea and morning sickness. The berries and oil are valuable for chest colds, coughs and lung ailments in a topical balm that I prepare. According to one clinical study, juniper berries contain high amounts of antioxidants. However, excessive use of juniper may cause kidney irritation.
The berries have a bitter, pungent aroma and flavor. Crushed berries can be added to marinades for meats and in a stuffing for poultry. There are recipes for the berries with cabbage and mulled pears and other dishes. Juniper is a coniferous bush or tree. The berries are harvested after three years from the female plant, but you must have both male and female to cultivate berries. Berries are picked in the fall when they are deep blue. When dried they are a purplish-black color. Try out a juniper berry recipe for a stimulating herbal formula.