The oil of juniper has been used medicinally for hundreds of years to treat stomach and digestive problems as well as kidney and bladder conditions. Native Americans used it to treat many illnesses, and it was also an important part of their diet. Dried juniper berries were ground and made into cakes that were used to prevent hunger when other food was scarce.
The active ingredients in the oil of juniper berries can help to reduce intestinal gas and stomach cramps. It can also help to dissolve and eliminate uric acid from the body, making it useful in the treatment of kidney stones, which are comprised of uric acid.
Juniper berry is also said to help reduce blood sugar levels. If taken in small amounts, it can help increase appetite, and it is thought to help decrease congestion associated with asthma as well.
Juniper berry is probably best known in nutritional circles for its strong diuretic properties. This herb is also used as an ingredient in gin. In fact, gin was originally produced as a diuretic by a Dutch pharmacist who lived in the 1500′s. Because it stimulates the flow of urine, juniper berry is excellent for flushing the kidneys and bladder to remove toxins and treat urinary tract infections.
It also helps to relieve bloating. Juniper berry has antiseptic properties that can further promote the health of the urinary system by fighting bacterial infections. It has anti-inflammatory properties as well and has long been used as a folk remedy for gout, arthritis and muscle pain. When used to treat conditions related to urinary function, juniper berry is often combined with other herbs.
There are dozens of active ingredients in juniper berries, including compounds known as monoterpenes. One of these is an alcohol (terpinene-4-ol) that produces the diuretic effect for which the herb is so well known. The berries are also excellent sources of a number of vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins, vitamin C, calcium, chromium and iron.
As a nutritional supplement, juniper berry is available in capsules, tablets and liquid extracts. It can also be used in bulk form or to make a tea.
While juniper berry is useful in treating urinary tract infections and acute kidney stones, it should not be used by people with chronic kidney disease as it may over-stimulate and further weaken the kidneys. This herb should only be used for short periods of time to treat acute conditions, specifically for no more than 30 days.
Prolonged use can cause an excess loss of potassium, a mineral that is important for muscles to function properly. Pregnant women should not use juniper berry as it may induce uterine contractions and cause miscarriage. In addition, women with heavy menstrual flow should avoid juniper berry because the herb may interfere with the absorption of iron which is lost in high amounts with heavy menstrual flow.