Juniper berries are an “herb or spice” and they’re often added to flavored drinks or used in cooking. Its use in food is the most popular of juniper berry uses & benefits, but what are juniper berries?
Derived from the juniper tree, the tree grows in numerous regions of the world, including Asia, Europe, and North America. The tree produces what are known as juniper berries, which really are seed cones. When eaten, the berry has a tart, pine flavor and has been used for medicinal purposes since ancient times. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all used juniper berries in various foods and for medicinal purposes. In Germany, juniper is a common addition to foods.
Juniper Berry Uses
Juniper berries can be consumed as food, or you can use them in the form of essential oils. A lot of natural remedies are attributed to these berries. People have been using juniper berries for:
- Stomach-related issues
- Urinary tract infections
- Bladder or kidney stones
- Wound healing
Juniper berry oil is often taken orally, especially when trying to combat digestive issues. The berry can also be used as a condiment that adds flavor to drinks or food. The berry is made into cosmetics and fragrances, although in these cases, the additional ingredients may block many of the beneficial properties that this berry offers.
Dosing information depends on the benefit you hope to achieve by taking the berries. You can add the berries into food as a spice or the berry itself to add flavor to your food. When using the berries in oil form, it’s best to follow the directions on the bottle or to research the adequate dosing for each specific use.
Due to their ability to cause uterine contractions, pregnant women shouldn’t consume the berries in any form.
Juniper Berry Benefits
Juniper berry benefits in medicine are being studied, but there are some important benefits that have been documented in studies.
Anti-Inflammatory and Antioxidant
Antioxidants are known for protecting against cellular damage and are found in juniper berry essential oils. The antioxidants can help reduce inflammation, as was demonstrated in a test-tube study.
The study, from 2017, was the first of its kind that uses the oil on people that had human dermal fibroblasts. Researchers concluded that the signaling pathways in participants were affected greatly, leading to potential usages for:
- Cancer biology
Researchers concluded that the berry's oil is a promising candidate for inflammation of the skin. Animal studies further show that the flavonoids in juniper berries, including apigenin, rutin, and luteolin can offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents to users.
Juniper berries may have powerful antifungal and antibacterial properties, according to numerous studies. The main compounds found in the essential oil are responsible for this protection, primarily a-pinene, b-pinene, myrcene, limonene, and sabinene.
The oil was found to be most beneficial when used against dermatophytes, which is most associated with yeast infections. There have been additional studies confirming that the essential oil showed effectiveness against sixteen bacterial species.
Diabetes may be able to be helped with juniper berries, according to a recent study on rats. The rats in the study had their blood sugar and HDL cholesterol levels examined before and after administration of the juniper berry extract.
The study concluded that the rats given the extract had significantly lower blood sugar levels and an increase in HDL levels. HDL is the good cholesterol that protects the heart.
Additional studies had similar results, with one study from China showing the addition of a reduction in triglyceride levels in diabetic rats.
Researchers note that there need to be additional studies performed on humans to determine if the extract performs as well on humans as it does in rats. The reason behind the diabetic protection offered is believed to be the high antioxidant levels found in the berry and extract.
Improve Heart Health
Heart health is a major concern for millions of people worldwide. The rise in obesity worldwide has led to rising heart disease cases. Juniper berries may help promote heart health, according to numerous studies.
One study on rats found that the extract from juniper berries was able to:
- Reduce triglyceride levels by 37%
- Reduce total cholesterol by 57%
These benefits are on top of the good HDL cholesterol level increase, which is shown to protect the heart. While there is evidence that these berries can help with cholesterol levels and even reduce heart disease risk factors, it’s not yet clear if these berries can reduce the risk of heart disease on their own due to a lack of human studies.
A full nutritional outline of juniper berries hasn’t been completed, but it is known that eating the actual berries can provide 10% of your daily vitamin C in a single-ounce serving.
Juniper berries are a potent healer and protective oil that can help fight inflammation, protect against diabetes, promote heart health, and are filled with antioxidants.