The juniper is a native of Europe but has become naturalized in this country and grows wild in most parts of the U.S.
The FRUITS and TOPS of the juniper are the only official parts. Although equal to the European in appearance, the best berries are imported from So. Europe. The fruits do not ripen until late in the 2nd year.
They have an agreeable, somewhat aromatic odor and a sweetish, warm, bitter, sightly turpentine taste. They owe their medical virtues chiefly to an essential oil. The berries impart their virtues to water and alcohol. The tops contain similar virtues.
Influencing primarily the kidneys and the bladder, the berries are best suited to torpid conditions of the renal organs. It increases the urine in retention of the urine, and in gravel they are often useful. They may also be used in cases of pain in the lumbar region, catarrh of the bladder, and have some reputation in cases where uric acid is retained in the system, also in sluggish conditions of the uterine function, in typhoid fever, dropsy, cystic catarrh, and renal congestion. They have been recommended in scorbutic and cutaneous diseases, and atonic conditions of the alimentary canal and uterus.
Used in conjunction with other remedies, they have a place in the treatment of rheumatism and sciatica. It is, however, NOT well to use them in acute inflamed conditions unless combined with gravel root in excess.
The oil of juniper, extracted from both the berries and the wood, has long been used as a home remedy for backache and kidney troubles in doses of 4 to 6 drops on a little sugar.
Although more stimulating, the oil very much resembles the berries in properties and may be used for the same general purpose. With Vaseline or glycerine, it is useful on irritated surfaces.
In suppression of the menstrual flow from cold and exposure, the cold infusion will be useful: crush 1 oz. berries and infuse in 1 pt. boiling water. Cover until cold. Strain and take wine-glassful doses every 3 or 4 hours.
A very fine diuretic mixture is made as follows: 1/2 oz. each juniper berries, buchu leaves, white poplar bark, and marshmallow root simmered in 2 pts. water for 15 min. Strain and take 3 or 4 T. 3 or 4 times daily.
When the berries are not available the fluid extract may be used; mix 1 oz. each FE juniper and FE gravel rt. with 2 oz. syrup of ginger and take 1 1. 4 times daily.
They may be taken in substance, triturated with sugar, in the dose of 1 or 2 drachms., repeated 3 or 4 times a day; but the infusion is a more convenient form. It is prepared by crushing 1 oz. bruised berries and. steeping in 1 pt. boiling water. Cover till cold. Strain and take in wine-glassful doses every 3 or 4 hrs. Extracts are prepared from the berries and taken in the dose of 1 of 2 Dr., but in consequence of the evaporation of the essential oils, they are probably not stronger than the berries in substance.
Juniper berries form an ingredient in gin and in food seasoning. In the old days, juniper was used as a strewing herb, the pine-like color of which was considered extremely healthy.
Tradition has it that when the Virgin and the infant Christ were fleeing from Herod into Egypt, they took refuge behind a juniper bush.
The wood was formerly used for fumigation.