Junipers are coniferous plants in the genus Juniperus /dʒuːˈnɪpərəs/ of the cypress family Cupressaceae. Depending on taxonomic viewpoint, between 50 and 67 species of juniper are widely distributed throughout the Northern Hemisphere, from the Arctic, south to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the mountains of Central America and Ziarat Pakistan. The highest-known Juniper forest occurs at altitude of 4,900 metres in south-eastern Tibet and the northern Himalayas, creating one of the highest tree-lines on earth.
Junipers vary in size and shape from tall trees, 20–40 m (66–131 ft) tall, to columnar or low spreading shrubs with long trailing branches. They are evergreen with needle-like and/or scale-like leaves. They can be either monoecious or dioecious. The female seed cones are very distinctive, with fleshy, fruit-like coalescing scales which fuse together to form a “berry”-like structure, 4–27 mm (0.16–1.06 in) long, with 1–12 unwinged, hard-shelled seeds. In some species these “berries” are red-brown or orange but in most they are blue; they are often aromatic and can be used as a spice. The seed maturation time varies between species from 6–18 months after pollination. The male cones are similar to those of other Cupressaceae, with 6–20 scales. In zones 7 through 10, junipers can bloom and release pollen several times each year. A few species of juniper bloom in autumn, while most species pollinate from early winter until late spring.
Detail of Juniperus chinensis shoots, with juvenile (needle-like) leaves (left), and adult scale leaves and immature male cones (right) Many junipers (e.g. J. chinensis, J. virginiana) have two types of leaves: seedlings and some twigs of older trees have needle-like leaves 5–25 mm (0.20–0.98 in) long; and the leaves on mature plants are (mostly) tiny (2–4 mm (0.079–0.157 in)), overlapping and scale-like. When juvenile foliage occurs on mature plants, it is most often found on shaded shoots, with adult foliage in full sunlight. Leaves on fast-growing ‘whip’ shoots are often intermediate between juvenile and adult.
In some species (e. g. J. communis, J. squamata), all the foliage is of the juvenile needle-like type, with no scale leaves. In some of these (e.g. J. communis), the needles are jointed at the base, in others (e.g. J. squamata), the needles merge smoothly with the stem, not jointed. The needle-leaves of junipers are hard and sharp, making the juvenile foliage very prickly to handle. This can be a valuable identification feature in seedlings, as the otherwise very similar juvenile foliage of cypresses (Cupressus, Chamaecyparis) and other related genera is soft and not prickly. Juniper is the exclusive food plant of the larvae of some Lepidoptera species including Bucculatrix inusitata and juniper carpet, and is also eaten by the larvae of other Lepidoptera species such as Chionodes electella, Chionodes viduella, juniper pug and pine beauty; those of the tortrix moth C. duplicana feed on the bark around injuries or canker.
What is Juniper Essential Oil?
The essential oil of juniper is obtained through steam distillation of the needles, wood and powdered fruits of juniper. Its main components are Alpha Pinene, Camphene, Beta Pinene, Sabinene, Myrcene, Alpha Phellandrene, Alpha Terpinene, Gamma Terpinene, Cineole, Beta Phellandrene, Para Cymene, Terpineol, Bornyl Acetate and Caryophyllene and trace amounts of Limonene, Camphor, Linalool, Linalyl Acetate, Borneol and Nerol.
It is used in many industries, as well as to flavor alcoholic beverages like gin. Juniper is an evergreen shrub that is very common in Europe. Smelling nice is great, but there was far more to juniper and its essential oil in terms of impressive health benefits, and that is where our interest lies. Let’s explore some of the impressive qualities and benefits that juniper essential oil can add to your body.
Juniper berries themselves are high in flavonoid and polyphenol antioxidants that have strong free radical scavenging abilities. As protectors of health – both emotional and physical — in the medieval times, juniper berries were believed to help ward off witches. And for years, French hospital wards burned juniper and rosemary to help protect patients against lingering bacteria and infections.
The main chemical components of juniper oil are a-pinene, camphene, b-pinene, sabinene, myrcene, a-phellandrene, a-terpinene, y-terpinene, 1,4-cineole, b-phellandrene, p-cymene, terpinen-4-ol, bornyl acetate, cayophyllene and trace amounts of limonene, camphor, linalool, linalyl acetate, borneol and nerol.
Juniper oil is extracted from dried, crushed or slightly dried ripe fruit by steam distillation and yields 0.2 % – 2 %.
Uses of Juniper Berry Oil
The fresh and calming aroma of juniper berry oil is widely renowned for relieving stress and anxiety. When diffused, it can also cleanse and purify the air. If you want to use juniper berry oil to get its healing and calming effects, try these methods:
- Vapor therapy. Use a burner or vaporizer to diffuse the oil, which helps relieve emotional issues, such as addiction, nervous tension, and hangovers.
- Massage oil or added to bath water. This works well for pain relief, such as for arthritis, pain in passing urine, swollen joints, gout, and muscle fatigue.
- Add to lotions and creams. Try this for skin-related problems, such as oily skin, acne, dermatitis, psoriasis, and weeping eczema.
- Use in a compress. Ideal for eczema, arthritis, and general infections.
Health Benefits of Juniper Essential Oil
Juniper essential oil used to be a well known antiseptic in the past and people wounded or injured in wars or athletics were treated with it. It was even used in injuries sustained by both the mother and child during difficult labors. It efficiently protects wounds from becoming septic or developing tetanus.
Juniper essential oil promotes and improves blood circulation. It also helps in the removal of toxins like uric acid from the body. Both of these properties help fight ailments like rheumatism, arthritis, gout, and renal calculi, which are related to improper circulation and the accumulation of toxins in the body. This essential oil also relieves swelling.
Juniper essential oil is also effective on nearly all forms of cramps, whether it is muscular, intestinal, respiratory or any other area. It relaxes muscle cramps and helps cure spasmodic cholera as well. Being an antispasmodic, it helps cure many of the other problems related with cramps or spasms.
Being an astringent, juniper essential oil helps cure toothaches, stops hair loss, strengthens the grip of gums on your teeth and protects them from loosening or falling out. It also tightens loose muscles and gives a feeling of firmness, fitness and youth. This property can also be used to cure diarrhea as well. The most important benefit of this property is in the fact that as an astringent, it can cause blood vessels to contract and reduce the chances of hemorrhaging.
Carminative agents help in the removal of gases from the intestines. Gas, when trapped in the intestines and forced upwards, can be very dangerous, and sometimes can even be fatal. When gas pushes upwards, it can choke a person, create chest pain, indigestion and uneasiness, raise the blood pressure, threaten your heart health and give acute stomach aches. In this respect, juniper oil can help you a lot. It effectively removes gases through the downward passage and does not let additional gases form. Juniper oil is also very good for those who are suffering from chronic gas trouble.
The essential oil of juniper cleans the blood of toxins and thus acts as a detoxifier or blood purifier. This property is also known as depurative, meaning ‘One which purifies’. It helps to remove the common toxins like uric acid, heavy metals, pollutants and certain compounds and hormones produced by the body itself. It empties the blood of these common toxins as well as other foreign toxins which get into the blood accidentally.
Juniper oil is diuretic in nature, meaning that it promotes urination. It increases both the frequency and volume of urination. Therefore, it is very beneficial for people who are suffering from an accumulation of water in the body, or swelling due to minor or chronic renal failure. It relieves these patients by removing extra water from the body through the urine. It also helps people lose weight because each time you urinate, some fats are lost from the body. This reduces blood pressure, removes extra salts and dangerous toxins like uric acid from the body.
As the name goes, Rubefacient means an agent that makes your face look red. However, this is not limited to the face, but also with the rest of the body. Such an agent, when applied on the skin, increases blood circulation just below the skin to such as extent that the skin begins to look red in color. This may also cause irritation on the skin if applied in excess. Again, increased blood circulation below the skin certainly benefits the skin and keeps it healthy and well-oxygenated.
A sudorific substance is an agent which can bring about heavy sweating or perspiration. This is nothing to get annoyed at. The occasional perspiration makes you feel lighter, healthier, and helps in the removal of toxins, excess salt, and water through the sweat. This cleans the skin pores and openings of sweat and sebum glands, which prevents acne and other skin diseases. Juniper oil has powerful sudorific properties.
Some of the properties of juniper oil like its abilities as an Emenagogue, Galactogogue and Diuretic substance result from a single property of this oil as a Stimulant. Being a stimulant, it stimulates all the activities within the body. This stimulating effect also helps overcome fatigue, dizziness and depression. It increases the activity of the brain and neurons, nervous system, secretions from the endocrine and exocrine glands, which includes secretion of milk, sebum, sweat, tears, urine and discharges during menses, digestive system and the excretory system.
Juniper oil is stomachic, that is, it keeps the stomach in order and keeps it functioning well. It also helps cure stomach disorders and ulcers and ensures the proper flow of bile, gastric juices and acids into the stomach for digestion. Sometimes, the inner lining of the stomach is injured due to prolonged acidity and ultimately results in the formation of ulcers. Juniper oil can help you avoid this situation as well, since it maintains the proper secretions of bile in stomach. Bile is basic in nature and neutralizes the acids.
Have you ever heard of health tonics? Have you had any? Juniper oil is also considered a tonic, because it tones up everything, including the muscles, tissues, skin, and various other systems functioning inside the body. This includes the respiratory, circulatory, nervous, digestive and excretory systems. This tonic effect helps retain youth for a long time and maintains proper health for all your years.
If a diluted solution of this oil is applied on wounds or blended with a skin cream and applied, it helps your wounds heal faster and keeps them protected from infections. This oil is equally beneficial in healing internal wounds, cuts and ulcers.
Other Benefits: It disinfects air and helps cure kidney stones, inflammation, urinary tract infections, acne, eczema, skin diseases, dandruff and enlargement of the prostate gland.
Juniper Berry Essential Oil Recipes
- Aromatically: Juniper berry oil can be diffused throughout your home just like a scented candle or inhaled directly from the bottle. There’s a good deal of evidence showing that essential oils are absorbed into the bloodstream when inhaled because the large amount of blood vessels in the lungs absorb the oils and then circulate them throughout the body. The scent from juniper berry and other essential oils can also reach the brain quickly due to their fast-acting effects on the olfactory system.
- Topically: You should always first dilute juniper oil with a carrier oil like coconut oil in a 1:1 ratio before applying it directly to your skin. Use several drops of essential oil mixed with one to two teaspoons of coconut or jojoba oil, then massage it into any affected area. The oil penetrates your skin and passes into the bloodstream, then makes its way into different areas of the body for pain reduction and other therapeutic benefits.
- Internally: Juniper berry essential oil is FDA-recognized as safe for consumption (21CFR182.20). However, ingesting juniper essential oil is ONLY recommend when you use a very high-quality oil brand. How do you know if your oil is safe to consume? Look for therapeutic-grade oil that comes from the proper plant species and is grown in the indigenous region. Purchasing organic 100 percent pure oil is also important because this ensures it was grown without chemical pesticides or herbicides.
Oil Specific: Avoid in kidney or liver disease and while pregnant.
General: As with all essential oils, never use them undiluted, in eyes or mucus membranes. Do not take internally unless working with a qualified and expert practitioner. Keep away from children. If applying an essential oil to your skin always perform a small patch test to an insensitive part of the body (after you have properly diluted the oil in an appropriate carrier.