Many benefits and uses come from the female seed cone that produces Juniper “berries”; the properties including delightful information by Jeanne Rose is fascinating and useful.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil/ Hydrosol Profile
By Jeanne Rose ~ 12/25/16
Common Name/Latin Binomial and Family: Juniper berry, Juniperus communis is in the evergreen or conifer family, Cupressaceae, it is the berry oil, the essential oil that is steam-distilled from the merged scales of the cone, the berries, that we usually just call Juniper oil.
However, there are other Juniper trees of the genus Juniperus that are also commercially used just not in the same way, such as (Juniperus virginiana often called –cedar or pencil Cedar). Do not confuse these two oils.
Name: Juniperus simply means Juniper and communis means common.
Some Other Commonly used Junipers: J. bermudiana L. timber for pencils; J. californica Carr. berries for gin or hydrosol; J. cedrus Webb & berth. In the Canary Island forest; J. chinensis L. ornamental and berries for gin; J. communis L. the common Juniper berries used to flavor gin and liqueurs and eaten with meat, there is a French form has rather sweet berries that I prefer to use to flavor drinks; J. excelsa M, Bieb. used as medicine; J. occidentalis Hook., the wood is used in fencing and berries to flavor local liquor; J. oxycedrus L., the heartwood that gives the parasiticidal oil of Cade through a destructive distillation; J. sabina L., the twigs are medicinal and insecticidal and berries are toxic; and
J. virginiana L. incorrectly named ‘cedar’ or red cedar and native to North America the wood of which is used to make pencils, making medicinals and wood for insect-proof chests and small pieces placed among clothing, the oil used to scent soap and it has many cultivars. This oil/hydrosol was profiled in Jeanne-blog.com http://jeanne-blog.com/cedar-wood-virginia/
fig. 1. JR photo of Juniperus occidentalis from Oregon
Countries of Origins: Juniperus communis, the common juniper, is a species of conifer that has the largest geographical range of any woody plant, with a distribution throughout the cool temperate Northern Hemisphere from the Arctic south in mountains to around 30° N latitude in North America, Europe and Asia. Relict populations can be found in the Atlas Mountains of Africa.
Eden Botanicals Harvest Location: Juniper berry organic from Bulgaria; Juniper berry CO2, cultivated and kosher grown in India; and Juniper leaf/branch grown in Slovenia.
Endangered or Not: Common Juniper (Juniperus communis, is threatened or endangered in a number of states. Bermuda Cedar, Bermuda Red Cedar, Bermuda Juniper bermudiana, this species is currently listed as Critically Endangered.
General description of Plant habitat and growth: Evergreen shrub or tree growing up to eighteen feet with narrow, stiff, prickly needles and little brown cones called berries that turn black in the second or third year. The common Juniper, Juniperus communis, is a native to the Northern Hemisphere. “…A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers. It is not a true berry but a cone with unusually fleshy and merged scales, which give it a berry-like appearance. The cones from a handful of species, especially the Juniperus communis, are used as a tasty spice, and also give gin its distinctive flavor.
Juniper berries have been called the only spice derived from the conifers although tar and inner bark from pine trees is sometimes considered a spice as well….” —Wikipedia
Portion of the plant used in distillation, how distilled, extraction methods and yields: The essential oil is either a CO2 extract or a a steam distillation of the berries (merged scales) and has a very rich, deep aroma. The ripe fruit is dried, crushed, or slightly dried, and then steam distilled or it is carbon dioxide extracted or the leaf and branch is hydro-distilled.
Yield: 0.2-2.0% for the berry oil.
Color: the Juniper berry can be a rich Golden Yellow to a colorless oil; the Juniper berry CO2 is a pale yellow to dark yellow, while the Juniper leaf/branch oil is colorless.
Viscosity: Non-viscous, although I have experienced a few berry oils that were somewhat viscous.
Intensity of Odor: leaf is a 3, CO2 is a 3-4 and the SD berry oil will be 4-5.
[Scale is 1-10 with 10 being the most intense]
Taste: herby, bitter, Astringent
Aroma Assessment: The scent of Juniper berry depends upon terroir. If it is from France it often has a citrus and fruity back note whereas when it is from the USA it has an herbaceous and sometimes mild camphoraceous back note. The three I photographed and smelled most recently; the leaf/branch oil was quite herby and a conifer needle scent, Juniper berry was woody and herbaceous and the CO2 herby and citrus. But each was different from the other. I suggest that you first purchase samples and choose the one you like the best to use.
fig. 2. Juniper Oil of leaf and berry – courtesy Eden Botanicals
Properties of the Essential Oil
(General Properties and Uses) of juniper berry and leaf oil: Properties are by IG=ingestion or IN=inhalation or AP=application). By application the properties are antiseptic, diuretic, emmenagogue, antiparasitic, tonic, and depurative (purifying) and by Ingestion they are diuretic, depurative, and antiseptic; by Inhalation it is tonic, brain tonic, and respiratory expectorant.
General Uses: It is an expectorant and antiseptic and can be used externally as a cleanser, and in massage oils and cosmetics. It has been used as a medication for urinary problems, genital warts, itchy vulva or jock itch in the form of a sitz bath. Juniper berry essential oil can be taken in very small amounts to act as a diuretic for cystitis and to detoxify the body, but a tea of the berries is more highly recommended, especially mixed with Rosemary herb and Fennel seed. Juniper berries, 1 or 2, can be eaten as an aid to jet lag or for ‘change of location’.
I view aromatherapy as a branch of herbalism,
and learning when use of the herb is preferable to use of the essential oil.
This is an important aspect of aromatherapy training.
Specific Physical Uses & How used (IG or AP):
- Application: It is antiseptic and used externally as a cleanser and for problem skin. It may also be diluted and applied for pain relief for arthritis, rheumatism, sciatica or to relieve itchy vulva, jock itch, acne, eczema, and premenstrual bloating. Juniper berry or leaf is a valuable addition to skin and body care products due to its astringent and antiseptic qualities and is a wonderful addition in an astringent cleanser for the skin it and a wonderful odor and deodorizer in men’s products.
- Inhalation: to alleviate mental exhaustion, in a blend for asthma, hay fever, and nervous tension.
•Ingestion: Juniper Berry oil may be taken internally, in very small amounts. It helps the body release fluids and is used for obesity, urinary infections, and gout. It is used in tiny amounts as a diuretic for cystitis, to detoxify the body (depurative), and for overindulgence of food. (1 drop/herbal capsule such as Marshmallow root). It is used in the making of Gin and in flavoring meat foods.
- Emotional Uses or Energetic Uses: Juniper Berry oil is inhaled to aid the memory, and to visualize being guarded from negativity and danger or use in a bath for depleted energy. I quite like this oil as a ‘change of location’ scent — to inhale or to eat a berry when flying and even to alleviate jet lag.
- Diffuse/Diffusion: Juniper berry oil can be diffused in a blend with other oils that are less intense in scent, such as Rosemary, Lavender, citrus oils. It has a very cleansing effect on the air, is refreshing and helpful for concentration in a work space.
- Perfumery: I especially prefer the Juniper berry oil from France in perfumery where it works well with citrus scents such as Bergamot and with Lavender and other conifers and when using Juniper berry from the U.S. I use it with base notes such as Galbanum and Oakmoss
- HYDROSOL Properties and Uses: The USA sample was tested and was largely camphor and terpinene-4-ol with smaller amounts of borneol and other components. This Juniper hydrosol would be wonderful in the bath for aches and pains or as a compress for injuries. European Juniper hydrosol might better be used in facial care and toners and air sprays.
PLEASE NOTE: A true hydrosol should be specifically distilled for the hydrosol, not as a co-product or even a by-product of essential oil distillation. The plant’s cellular water has many components most of which are lost under pressurized short steam runs for essential oil, or by using dried material. We recommend that the producers specifically distill for a product by using plant material that is fresh. Also, a hydrosol does not have the same components as does the essential oil, the components are often very different and in very much smaller amounts.
fig. 3. Juniper berries
~ FAVORITE RECIPES ~
- Jeanne’s Favorites Uses of the herb, oil and hydrosol: I use Juniper berries whenever I travel. I just chew a few as sort of an anti-jetlag food, or I chew one to make my breath taste better. For these uses I need to use the sweet Juniper berries that come from France. I also use the Juniper berries (especially the ones from the NW or here in California) as an ingredient in my famous ‘Bruise Juice’. It is remarkable for adding more anti-pain therapeutics to my product. Regarding the essential oil, I add it equally to Sage oil, Basil oil, Cypress oil and Rosemary oil as an application for aching muscles and for temporary external use for pain-relief from sports injuries like painful legs, arms, golf elbow, etc.
- Jeanne Rose Skin Care Formula
For aging skin, dry skin, sensitive skin or acneic skin,
Use a few drops of the following daily as an application before going outside.
Mix all together carefully before using.
6 drops sweet high altitude Lavender
4 drops true Clary Sage from the flowers
1 drop Galbanum
5 drops sweet Juniper berry
32 drops of your favorite carrier or lotion.
Jeanne Rose’s Tomato Tales with Juniper Berry: I have used Juniper berry oil, the berry (herb), and hydrosol for as long as I have used anything and have never had an unpleasant or wildly or even a mildly memoristic experience with them that I can remember. It is one of the easiest herbs and oils to use. In food the berry is delicious particularly with meats and fowl, the oil works great in massage blends to relieve muscle pain and the hydrosol is just a wonderful addition to the bath for skin cleansing.
Key Use: The oil of Edema. [for obesity, urinary infections, skin problems, arthritis, and gout and massage for aching muscles]
Chemical Components: Constituents: Juniper berry essential oil contains 8% resins; 0.4% Juniperene; Pinene and Terpinenes. Monoterpenes (which make up most of the essential oil) alpha- and beta-pinene, sabinene, limonene, terpinene-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, borneol, geraniol, myrcene, camphene, camphor, alpha-eudesmol and many others.
Sesquiterpenes such as beta-caryophyllene, delta-cadinene, Diterpenes, Neolignan glycosides, lignan (podophyllotoxin is present and is toxic to the nerves, gut and liver), tannins, flavonoids, resin in the essential oil include cedrene, alpha-pinene pectin, sabinene, cedrol, myrcene, terpinene-4-ol, limonene, beta-phellandrene, alpha-terpinene, gamma-terpinene, beta-pinene, alpha-eudesmol which may inhibit calcium channels and appears to be neuroprotective in a stroke model.
Antifungal compounds are found in the juniper parts such as oidiolactone C. Isocrupressic acid in Juniperus communis has been identified as an active abortifacient compound, Alpha- and beta-cedrene from Juniperus occidentalis have antimicrobial activity.
Historical Uses and Interesting Information: Common juniper was used by Native Americans of the Great Basin as a blood tonic. Native Americans from the Pacific Northwest used tonics made from the branches to treat colds, flu, arthritis, muscle aches, and kidney problems. Cones were used by the southern Kwakiutl of British Columbia for treating stomach ailments and wood or bark was used to treat respiratory problems. The Interior Salish used cones to make medicines for a variety of ailments. Eurasians made tonics from common juniper for kidney and stomach ailments, and for muscular uses and rheumatism.
Common juniper contains a volatile oil, terpinene-4-ol, which is known to increase kidney action. Common juniper extract, which can be fatal in even fairly small amounts, was used to make gin and as a meat preservative. Common juniper is highly valued as an ornamental plant and is widely cultivated and provides good ground cover even on stony or sandy sites. This species was first cultivated in 1560.
Contraindications: Do not confuse Juniper berry oil with Cade oil from Juniperus oxycedrus or the toxic oil from Juniperus sabina. Juniper berry oil and herb (Juniperus communis) is contraindicated in those patients with reduced renal function.
Harman, Ann. Harvest to Hydrosol. botANNicals. 2015
Herbal Studies Course/ Jeanne Rose & Berkeley, California: North Atlantic Books, 1992
Mabberley, D. J. Mabberley’s Plant-Book, 3rd edition, 2014 printing, Cambridge University Press.
Rose, Jeanne. 375 Essential Oils and Hydrosols. Berkeley, California: Frog, Ltd., 1999
Rose, Jeanne. The Aromatherapy Book: Applications & Inhalations. San Francisco, California: http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/juncom/all.html
fig. 4. Jeanne Rose photo of J. communis in Golden Gate Park
Patch Test: If applying a new essential oil to your skin always perform a patch test to the inner arm (after you have diluted the EO in a vegetable carrier oil). —Wash an area of your forearm about the size of a quarter and dry carefully. Apply a diluted drop (1 drop EO + 1 drop carrier) to the area. Then apply a loose Band-Aid and wait 24 hours. If there is no reaction, then go ahead and use the oil in your formulas. —The Aromatherapy Book, Applications & Inhalations, p. 64
Do not Ingest essential oils: Although some oils are important flavoring oils in the flavor industry and thus ingested in very small amounts in many foods, especially meats and sausages, it is not a good idea to use them yourself either in capsules or honey to take internally.
Safety Precautions: Do not apply the essential oil neat, especially to the underarms or delicate parts of the body. Most oils are probably not to be used on babies, children or pregnant women. Many aromatherapist suggest that there are some oils not be used at all. However, as with many plants, essential oil chemistry is subject to change depending on species and terroir.
DISCLAIMER: This work is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for accurate diagnosis and treatment by a qualified health care professional. Dosages are often not given, as that is a matter between you and your health care provider. The author is neither a chemist nor a medical doctor. The content herein is the product of research and personal and practical experience. Institute of Aromatic & Herbal Studies – Jeanne Rose©
fig. 5. Botanical illustration of Juniper communis