Juniper, latin name Juniperus communis, is a short evergreen shrub whose fruit and oil provides a flavoring agent used extensively in the food, perfume and soap industries. Juniper berry is probably best known as the unique flavoring agent of gin, an important component of the dry martini, a popular intoxicant and putative calmative revered by western culture for over 300 years. As a medicinal remedy, juniper has a long history of use employed as a treatment for numerous diseases by ancient Greek and Arab healers, as well as native American Indians.
Juniper berries contain a volatile oil, terpinen-4, that acts as a kidney irritant to stimulate increased kidney filtration and output. For this reason Juniper is commonly utilized as a diuretic to treat conditions involving the kidneys and bladder, to increase urine output, and for relief from symptoms of gout and kidney stones. Juniper berries, consumed raw, are also believed to act as a stimulant to increase appetite, and also serve as a remedy for rheumatism and arthritis. Lastly, Juniper berries, either eaten raw or brewed as a spicy sweet tea, are used as an effective remedy to relieve gas, stimulate digestion, and relieve colic.
While generally recognized as a safe herb, pregnant women are cautioned to avoid consuming Juniper products due to the likelyhood of increased contractions of the uterus. Those suffering from kidney ailments should also avoid Juniper products which can irritate the kidneys and bladder. When taking Juniper, if excessive urination or kidney irritation occur, cease using the product immediately.