Scientific Name(s): Juniperus communis L.
Common Name(s): “Boughs of the supernatural”, Common juniper, Juniper, Juniperi fructus
Juniper berries have been used as a flavoring component in alcoholic beverages (eg, gin) and as a seasoning in food; juniper has also been used in traditional medicine for various purposes. Limited animal and in vitro evidence suggests potential antimicrobial, antioxidant, cytotoxic, neuroprotective, hepatoprotective, and hypoglycemic effects; however, no clinical data exist to support use of juniper for any indication.
Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia.
Essential oil: 0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily.
Fluid extract: 1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily.
Infusion: 2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily.
Avoid in renal impairment due to potential irritant activity.
Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested.
None well documented.
Allergic reactions may occur. Kidney damage and inflammation may result from excessive use of juniper. Juniper berries may increase blood glucose in patients with diabetes.
Large doses of juniper berries may cause catharsis and convulsions. The juniper volatile oil may be nephrotoxic.
The genus Juniperus includes 60 to 70 species of aromatic evergreens native to northern Europe, Asia, and North America. Junipers are widely used as ornamental trees. The plants bear blue, reddish, or purplish-black fruit described as berries or berry-like cones. The cone is a small, green berry during its first year of growth that turns blue-black during the second year. Small flowers bloom from May to June. ABC 2018 , Bais 2014 , Barnes 2002 , USDA 2018
Juniper berries (the mature female cones) have been used as a flavoring in foods and alcoholic beverages (eg, gin). Production by apothecaries and historical uses of gin have been reported. Traditionally, juniper has been used for multiple medicinal purposes, including as a carminative, an appetite stimulant, and as a steam inhalant in the management of bronchitis. Prepared extracts of juniper were used to treat snake bites and intestinal worms. The indigenous people of North America have used juniper as a tonic and in tuberculosis and cystitis, among other conditions. The oil of juniper has been noted to exert diuretic activity. The berries have also served as seasonings for pickling meats and as flavoring for liqueurs and bitters, as well as in perfumery and cosmetics. Juniper tar was also used for its gin-like flavor and in perfumery. The German Commission E approved the use of juniper dried fruit preparation and oil to treat dyspepsia. ABC 2018 , Carpenter 2012 , FDA 2018 , Johnson 2006
Juniper berries contain about 2% volatile oil, juniperin, resin (about 10%), proteins, and formic, acetic, and malic acids. In addition, hydrocarbons, fatty acids, sterol, terpenes, and aromatic compounds have been identified from extracts of ripe and unripe juniper berries. The volatile oil is responsible for many of juniper’s therapeutic actions. ABC 2018
The essential oil of J. communis needles has been described. Chemical compounds sabinene, terpinen-4-ol, pinene, limonene, and myrcene are the major monoterpene hydrocarbons identified. ABC 2018 , Cabral 2012 , Cavaleiro 2006 , El-Ghorab 2008 , Smrke 2013 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, an aryltetralin cyclolignan, has been isolated from J. communis and further evaluated in in vitro studies. Benzina 2015 , Tavares 2018
Uses and Pharmacology
Although members of the genus Juniperus are likely to have similar chemical constituents, and hence similar activities, information in this monograph is restricted to J. communis (common juniper), except for information regarding adverse events.
Amentoflavone, isolated from the methanolic extract of J. communis, exerted anti-inflammatory activities in a rat model of arthritis. Bais 2017
In vitro data
Berry and leaf oils showed some activity against Aspergillus, Candida, and other fungi. Afsharzadeh 2013 , Cabral 2012 , Cavaleiro 2006 Activity against Staphylococcus aureus, Serratia liquefaciens, Enterobacter cloacae, and Klebsiella pneumoniae were demonstrated in vitro by the essential oil from J. communis. However, activity against Pseudomonas aeruginosa was not noted. Yassine 2016 Antimicrobial activity against K. pneumoniae, Proteus mirabilis, Proteus vulgaris, Acinetobacter baylyi, S. aureus, Escherichia coli, and P. aeruginosa was demonstrated by various extracts of J. communis berries. Fernandez 2016 Some in vitro activity against oral bacterial pathogens was demonstrated by a J. communis extract. Ferrazzano 2013 Different extracts, including essential oils, have been evaluated in vitro and in water samples for efficacy against Mycobacterium species. Carpenter 2012 , Gordien 2009 , Peruc 2018 Juniper fruit formulations were found to inhibit the growth and adhesion of Campylobacter jejuni in a polymerase chain reaction–based model. Klancnik 2018
Animal and in vitro data
Antioxidant properties of juniper have been described. Fernandez 2016 , Gumral 2015 , Vasilijevic 2018 , Ved 2017
Experimental and in vitro data
Cytotoxicity against human cervical cancer, colorectal carcinoma, lung carcinoma, and leukemia cell lines has been reported. Cabral 2012 , Fernandez 2016 , Och 2015 , Pollio 2016 , Vasilijevic 2018 Deoxypodophyllotoxin, a compound isolated from Juniperus species, has been associated with cytotoxic activity, along with anti-inflammatory, antitumor, and anti-angiogenic activity. Benzina 2015 , Tavares 2018 Additionally, deoxyphyllotoxin and another derivative, isocupressic acid, exerted apoptotic effects against MB231 malignant breast cancer cells in an in vitro model. Benzina 2015
Animal and in vitro data
The administration of a juniper decoction in both normoglycemic (doses of 250 and 500 mg/kg) and streptozotocin-induced diabetic (dose of 125 mg/kg) rats reduced blood glucose levels. The authors concluded the glucose-lowering effect was due to an increase in peripheral glucose utilization and an enhancement of glucose-induced insulin secretion. Sanchez 1994 In an in vitro study, the hydroalcoholic extract of J. communis demonstrated activity against alpha-glucosidase and alpha-amylase. Orhan 2014
Hepatoprotective effects of juniper were demonstrated in paracetamol-induced liver damage in rats. Ved 2017 Another study found ethanolic extracts of J. communis exerted hepatoprotective effects in paracetamol- and azithromycin-induced liver injury in rats. Singh 2015
Various extracts of J. communis exerted inhibition against acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase. Senol 2015 In an animal model of Parkinson disease, the methanolic extract of J. communis reduced catalepsy and muscle rigidity and increased locomotor activity. It was also associated with an increase in the level of glutathione and total protein, suggesting a potential neuroprotective effect. Bais 2015
Skin pigmentation effects
An ethyl acetate derivative of J. communis demonstrated skin-lightening effects in melanin-possessing hairless mice and also reduced the production of melanin through down-regulation of tyrosine activity and protein expression in melanoma cells. Jegal 2017 Inhibition of melanogenesis was also noted in normal zebrafish. Jeong 2017
Generally, 2 to 10 g/day of the whole, crushed, or powdered fruit (corresponding to 20 to 100 mg of essential oil) has been used for dyspepsia. ABC 2018
0.02 to 0.1 mL 3 times daily. ABC 2018
1:1 (g/mL); 2 to 3 mL 3 times daily. ABC 2018
2 to 3 g steeped in 150 mL of boiled water for 20 minutes 3 times daily. ABC 2018
Pregnancy / Lactation
Avoid use. Juniper possibly possesses anti-implantation and abortifacient activities. A combination of J. communis with suddab (Ruta graveolens) and natroon (Pinus sylvester) has been topically applied to the penis before sexual intercourse to serve as a contraceptive. The antifertility effects of the combination has been suggested to be via antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities. Daniyal 2015 , Khan 2016
None well documented.
Junipers, together with cedars and cypresses, are known to be highly allergenic trees, and cross-reactivity between species and genera is common. Weber 2013
Because terpinen-4-ol has demonstrated irritant activity, excessive use of juniper may cause kidney inflammation and damage. ABC 2018
Juniper berries may increase blood glucose levels in patients with diabetes. ABC 2018
Antiprostaglandin and antiprogestational activities leading to antifertility effects have been suggested. Daniyal 2015 , Khan 2016
According to older literature, single, large doses of juniper berries have been reported to cause catharsis, and repeated large doses have been associated with convulsions. Windholz 1983 Older reports also suggest that juniper volatile oil contains nephrotoxic compounds; however, animal studies only show toxicity at very high dosages. Case reports of nephrotoxicity are lacking; however, alternative natural medicines are available for diuresis, and juniper should be avoided in renal impairment until definitive studies are available. Yarnell 2002
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