by Paul Bergner
Medical Herbalism 07-31-94 6(2): 13
Juniper berries are not berries but
fleshy cone scales which pass for berries. They were an official
medicine in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia from 1820 until 1936. They are rich
in volatile oils which are highest in the green berries. Dr.
Christopher says to use the second year berries, with a dark blue or
purple color. As the berries turn blue and purple, the oils are partly
changed into resins. The U.S. Dispensatory (1947) states that when the
berries turn black, the oils have been completely changed to resins.
The oils give the berries antiviral, antibiotic, and antifungal
properties, as well as carminative and irritant diuretic properties.
According to Wade Boyle, ND, “In the old days doctors would chew them
while treating epidemic infections to set up an antiseptic barrier.”
(Lecture notes, Tempe Arizona, September 1992) It’s main medical use is
as a urinary tract antiseptic and diuretic. It increases filtration by
the kidney. Juniper should not be pigeonholed as a “kidney herb,”
however. Felter recognized it as a carminative and stomachic, and noted
that it improves nutrition. Dr. Boyle states that its constituent
juniperine has bitter properties, and promotes digestion. R.F. Weiss
called it an “ anti-dyscratic,” for “depraved states of humor,” and
prescribed it for chronic arthritis, gout, neuralgia, and rheumatism.
He would give dandelion in the Spring and juniper in the Fall for
degenerative joint disease.