Juniper berries come from the evergreen shrub Juniperus communis L. The shrub produces seed cones that are called juniper berries, also known as common juniper, juniperi fructus, and “boughs of the supernatural.”
Juniper berries are mostly blue in colour, have a woody or spicy aroma and pine-like taste. The berries are commonly used as a flavouring agent in drinks and as a spice in cooking and preserving foods.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), juniper berries have been used as a stimulant for kidneys and bladder to flush out the toxins from the body.
The juniper shrub is rich in aromatic oils, catechins, resins, flavonoids, tannins, lignins, terpenic acids, alkaloids and leucoanthocyanidin.
Though the nutritional information of juniper berries is limited, research studies have shown that juniper berries possess some health benefits, which we’ve listed some below:
1. May promote heart health
Juniper berries may help improve heart health by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol. Animal studies have shown that juniper berry extract lowered total cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic rats compared to a control group.
2. May manage diabetes
Juniper berries possess antidiabetic properties which are due to the high concentration of antioxidants in it. A study published showed juniper berry extract that was given to diabetic rats experienced a significant reduction in blood sugar levels and increased good cholesterol.
3. May reduce inflammation
Juniper berries are rich in flavonoids and essential oils, which have been shown to exhibit powerful anti-inflammatory properties. A study showed that juniper berry essential oil significantly lowered inflammation on human skin cell.
4. Acts as an antioxidant
Antioxidants are compounds that prevent the damage to cells caused by free radicals. Free radicals play a role in causing cancer, heart disease and other chronic diseases. The presence of antioxidants in juniper berry essential oil has been shown to protect cells from free radical damage.
5. May fight bacterial and fungal infections
Studies have shown that juniper berries possess strong antibacterial and antifungal properties, thanks to the compounds in juniper essential oil such as limonene, sabinene, myrcene, alpha-pinene and beta-pinene. Studies have shown that the antibacterial and antifungal effects of juniper berry essential oil against 16 species of bacteria, yeasts, seven species of yeast-like fungi and four species of dermatophyte.
Another study also found that juniper berries can help fight against Campylobacter jejuni and Staphylococcus aureus bacteria.
6. May manage cancer
A review study published showed that juniper berry extract was tested against two cancer lines: colorectal carcinoma cells and cervical cancer cells. The results showed that the berry extract had the ability to stop the growth of cancer.
Possible side effects of Juniper berries
There are limited studies regarding the safety consumption of juniper berries. These berries are used only in small amounts to flavour foods. Juniper berries are available in dried whole and crushed form; however, fresh berries are also available.
Juniper berry supplements are available in the market and human studies are lacking regarding the dosage of these supplements. Pregnant women and children should completely avoid consuming juniper berries.
It is recommended to consult your doctor before consuming juniper berry supplements.
The more you understand yourself, the more silence there is, the healthier you are. —Maxime Lagacé