Juniperus communis belonging to the Family Cupressaceae, is an evergreen shrub or tree with some of the varieties growing up to 6 meters or more. It is native to the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere. The major producers include Italy, Hungary, France, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Germany, Poland, Russia and Spain. The berries collected in northern Italy, Hungary, France, Austria and the Czech Republic are considered superior in quality than those collected in other regions. The part used is the dried, mature female cone, which is generally called “berry” because of its berrylike appearance. A colourless to pale green essential oil is obtained through steam distillation of the crushed, dried, partially dried, or fermented berries. The essential oil produced from unfermented berries is considered to be superior in flavor qualities. The essential oil yield is approximately 0.2 – 3.42% and more usually 1 – 2% but this depends on the geographic location, altitude, degree of ripeness and other factors. The major chemical components are monoterpenes at approximately 58% with a-pinene, myrcene and sabinene being the main ones present and a smaller amount of limonene, r-cymene, g-terpinene, b-pinene, a-thujene, camphene and others. Other components found in this oil also include small amounts of the sesquiterpenes – caryophyllene, cadinene and elemene; the oxide – 1,4- cineole; the alcohol – terpinen-4-ol and some esters.
Juniper berries are famous for being used to flavor gin and alcoholic bitters however, the extracts and oils are also used in many major food categories including alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, frozen dairy desserts, candy, baked goods, gelatins and puddings as well as meat and meat products. Maximum use levels reported are 0.006% for the oil in alcoholic beverages and 0.01% for the extract in alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages. The berries and extracts have also been used as components in certain diuretic and laxative preparations. In addition he oil is used as a fragrance component in soaps, detergents, creams, lotions and perfumes with the maximum use level of 0.8% in perfumes. Juniper berry is often used in men’s fragrances where it can impart a fresh resinous top note.
In Traditional Medicine, Juniper Berry has been used as a carminative and diuretic as well as to treat flatulence, colic, snakebite, intestinal worms and gastrointestinal infections.
Juniper berry blends well with bergamot, cedarwood, cypress, frankincense, geranium, lavender, neroli, petitgrain, rosemary, sandalwood, vetiver, oakmoss, clary sage, pine, benzoin, citrus. Tony Burfield gives the odour profile of this oil as having a powerful terpenic, conifer-like odour becoming bitter after a short while with a dry-out which is sweet with a hint of fir-needle balsam absolute, slightly resinous.
Psychologically, Juniper has aphrodisiac and relaxing properties. It is useful for helping to reduce anxiety, insomnia, depression and jet lag. Juniper is also thought to strengthen and clear away negative energy.
On the physiological level Juniper Berry has analgesic, diuretic, antispasmodic properties. It can be considered in cases of acne, dermatitis and weeping eczema. It may also be helpful when cellulite and water retention are a problem because of its diuretic properties. Its analgesic and antispasmodic properties make it useful for muscle aches and pains.
Contraindications:. It is generally recommended to avoid using this oil during pregnancy. This oil has diuretic properties and so it is generally considered advisable to also avoid its use in cases of kidney disease or acute kidney and bladder infections.
Albert Y. Leung & Steven Foster , Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients used in Food, Drugs, and Cosmetics, John Wiley & Sons, 1996
Tony Burfield , Natural Aromatic Materials — Odours & Origins, The Atlantic Institute of Aromatherapy, Tampa, Florida, 2000
Beverley Hawkins, Aromatherapy 101 Course 1999 revised 2000, 2001,2002, 2003