Gin was named after genièvre, the French word for juniper berry, which gives gin its characteristic flavor. The British said that an infusion of berries could restore lost youth; however, juniper’s more important role was for protection. It traditionally was planted at the entrance of homes to guard against evil and ghosts.
Burning the branches was found to ward off contagious diseases, so medieval physicians chewed the berries while on duty and burned the branches in hospitals. In World War II, the French returned to burning juniper in hospitals as an antiseptic when their supply of drugs ran low. Juniper berry essential oil has myriad aromatherapy applications.
Fresh berries offer the highest quality oil, but needles, branches, and berries that have already been distilled to flavor gin are sometimes used. Everyone is familiar with the lively scent of juniper wood because it is used for making pencils. With many of the same properties as cedarwood, it also acts as a wool moth repellent.
Principal constituents of juniper berry: Pinene, myrcene, sabinene, limonene, cymene, borneol, camphene, juniperine, terpenic alcohol, and terpineol
Scent of juniper berry: The fragrance is pungent, herbaceous, peppery, pinelike, and camphorous. The needles produce a turpentinelike scent called juniper tar.
Therapeutic properties of juniper berry: Antiseptic, astringent; relieves the aches of rheumatism, arthritis, and sore muscles; increases urination and circulation; encourages menstruation; aids digestion
Uses for juniper berry: Juniper berry essential oil is used in massage oils, liniments, and baths to treat arthritic and rheumatic pain, varicose veins, hemorrhoids, fluid retention (especially before menstruation), and bladder infection. Inhale it in a steam to relieve bronchial congestion, infection, and bronchial spasms. Inhalation may also lift your spirits, as sniffing the oil seems to work as a pick-me-up and to counter general debility. Cosmetically it is suitable for acne complexions and eczema. Add approximately 6 drops per ounce to shampoos for greasy hair or dandruff.
Warnings for juniper berry: Juniper can overstimulate the kidneys, so do not use it when they are inflamed or infected. Inflamed or infected kidneys can be very serious, so be sure to seek a doctor’s advice.
To learn more about Aromatherapy and other alternative medicines, see:
- Aromatherapy: Learn about aromatherapy, how it works, what part essential oils play, and how to use aromatherapy.
- Essential Oils Profiles: We have collected profiles of dozens of plants that are used to produce essential oils. On these pages, you will learn the properties and preparations for the most popular essential oils.
- How to Treat Common Conditions With Aromatherapy: Aromatherapy can be used to treat a number of conditions, from asthma to depression to skin problems. Here you will learn how to treat some common medical problems with aromatherapy.
- Home Remedies: We have gathered over a hundred safe, time-tested home remedies for treating a wide variety of medical complaints yourself.
- Herbal Remedies: Herbal remedies and aromatherapy can be very similar, and they stem from similar historic roots. On this page, you will find all of our herb profiles and instructions for treating medical problems with herbal remedies.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kathi Keville is director of the American Herb Association and editor of the American Herb Association Quarterly newsletter. A writer, photographer, consultant, and teacher specializing in aromatherapy and herbs for over 25 years, she has written several books, including Aromatherapy: The Complete Guide to the Healing Art and Pocket Guide to Aromatherapy, and has written over 150 articles for such magazines as New Age Journal, The Herb Companion, and New Herbal Remedies. This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.