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What is juniper? Why is it used for?

Juniper is a type of evergreen tree similar to a pine cone tree. It grows in the temperate regions of Europe, Asia and North America. Unlike most pine cones, juniper cones are soft and fleshy. The medicinal parts of the tree are its "berries," which really aren’t berries, but dark, greenish-black scales that grow from the tree’s cones.

The main ingredient in juniper berries is 4-terpinen, a compound found in the tree’s volatile oils. Studies have shown that 4-terpinen increases the volume of a person’s urine and may lower uric acid levels. Laboratory tests have found other substances called juniper lignans, which may stop the herpes simplex virus from spreading. Juniper also contains a variety of bitter substances, which may help explain its use in resolving upset stomach and other digestive problems.

How much juniper should I take?

The German Commission E recommends 2-10 grams of dried juniper berries daily, which corresponds to 20-100 milligrams of the essential oil. Some practitioners also recommend a form of juniper tea, which is made by placing one teaspoon of juniper berries in one cup of boiling water and allowing them to steep for 20 minutes in a tightly covered container.

What forms of juniper are available?

Dried juniper berries are available at some health food and specialty stores. Juniper capsules, tablets, extracts and tinctures are also available.

What can happen if I take too much juniper? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

Because prolonged use or overuse of juniper may cause kidney damage, it should not be taken for more than six weeks continuously. Patients with existing kidney diseases or damage should never take juniper. Because it may cause uterine contractions, juniper should also not be taken by pregnant or lactating women.

Other Resources :

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• Bruneton J. Pharmacognosy, Phytochemicstry, Medicinal Plants. Paris: Lavoisier Publishing, 1995.
• ESCOP. Juniperi fructus. Monographs on the Medicinal Uses of Plant Drugs. Exeter, UK: European Scientific Cooperative on Phytotherapy, 1997.
• Sanchez de Medina F, et al. Hypoglycemic activity of juniper berries. Planta Med 1994;60(3):197-200.
• Schlicher H. Juniper berry oil in diseases of the efferent urinary tract. Med Monatsschr Pharm 1995;18(7):198-99.
• Wichtl M, Bisset NG (eds.) Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: Medpharm Scientific Publishers, 1994.





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