By Hwaa Irfan
Juniperus communis is the commercial variety most used today, but there are 70 species of juniperus. The female cones have been used to flavor foods, drinks, and in cosmetics and perfumes. Oil of juniper has been used for ritual cleansing, and was bruned in ancient Egyptian temples as a part of a ritual of purification. In Europe, juniper berries were used to preserve catgut ligatures, and in herbal medicine is well known for its role in the prevention of contagious diseases like cholera, typhoid fever and the plague.
Known as Kuei (China), ‘ar-‘ar (Egypt), Genévrier (France), hapusha (India – Sanskrit), Enebro (Spain), Gemeiner Wachholder (Germany, Switzerland), juniperus communis is a member of the Cupressaceae family of the plant kingdom, it is native to North Africa, North Asia, and North America. It is a small evergreen shrub which grows very slowly, with a preference for limestone soils, and sunny slopes – it does not like shade. The bark is thin, brown, and peels, and when a branch comes into contact with the ground, and buried, the branches develops roots. The bark is fibrous, and branches erect, with yellowish-green young twigs which turn brown with age. The pine needle-shaped leaves appear in groups of three, and are green yet sometimes have a silver affect. The actual fruits, are berrylike seed cones of an ovoid shape with male and female features, and the seeds after experience a cold period can live for a very long times.
The fresh blue ripe berries are used for the essential oil in preference over the green berries which are used for medicinal purposes. The berries take up to 3 years to ripen, and once picked and laid to dry a little, the blue oxygenizes to the familiar black. However the oil is most plentiful just before ripening and darkening. After darkening it becomes a resin. The oil is obtained through steam distillation.
When buying look out for a clear – pale yellow liquid. There are varieties like Juniper Berry Wild Himalyan, and Juniper Berry Wild Tyro, which differ only in color, consistency, and aroma . The aroma has a balsamic overtone, with an undertone of pine, but is warming, radiant, yet earthy.
Unfortunately, one can find adulterated products on the market readily, usually adulterated with synthetics and can be mainly reconstructions. This is done not by the local growers, but by the international traders for increased profits. Adulterated juniper berry oil can be found with terpene hydrocarbons (i.e. synthetic a-pinene and d-3-carene, along with Juniper branch oil, which is a lower grade.
The essential oil of Juniperus communis contains over 200 constituents, and 50 compounds, which includes:
- α -phellandrene
- α –terpinene
- β -phellandrene
- Bornyl acetate
- Diterpene acid
- Formic acid
- Linalyl acetate
- Malic acid
- Pinene (oil)
Pinene, myrcene, and sabinene are monoterpenes which act as mild antiseptics, as a decongestant for upper respiratory infections, as a rubefacient that improves circulation and pain relief for muscular pains, and stiffness, can act as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and anti-viral. Monoterpenes are high in lipophils, and thus penetrates the skin easily. They are also effective with air-bourne infections and can be used to spray to fumigate an enclosed space.
Terpinen-4-ol increases renal glomerular filtration rate facilitating the oils reputation as a stimulant to the kidneys.
In a Serbian study by Sandra Glisic and team, it was found that the antimicrobial activity of juniperus communis was exhibited by the constituents sabinene, and a-pinene against yeast and fungal infections.
In an Iranian study by Sahar Rezvani and team, there was notable anti-bacterial activity against E.coli, Staphylococcus and Sodomunas.
The scent plays an important therapeutic role in releasing buried toxins, whether emotional or physical.
Some of the therapeutic properties are as follows:
- Stimulant (skin, circulatory system. Nervous system, renal system)
- Tonic (nervous system)
For glossary see It All Makes Good Scents!
Juniper berry oil is non-toxic, but when it oxidizes can cause irritation to the skin unless used in low amounts in baths or massage oils. It has been found that the Chinese, Japanese and Filipinos are more sensitive to the pollen than Caucasians. The oil extracted from the Juniperus Sabina, is mainly contraindicated in cases of kidney disease/weak kidneys, and pregnancy. Juniperus communis however acts as a stimulant to the kidneys, and to the uterine muscle, so it should be avoided.
The oil can only be used for external use, and when used it should be diluted by means of Carrier Oils like … Oil. Drops of no more than 5 should be used for:
Circulatory – purifies the blood –
Mind – Tonic to the nervous system, cleanses the auric and emotional body, releases negative thinking
Musculoskeletal – prevents and/or relieves chronic rheumatic pain and swelling. Increases localized blood flow and circulation reducing pain and swelling, relieves spasms and cramps
Oral – strengthens gums, haemorrhaging,
Renal – increases urination – cystitis, kidney stones, fluid retention, uric acid (relieving pain from gout, rheumatism and arthritis),
Reproductive – Regulates the menstrual cycle – painful periods,
Respiratory – Bacterial infections, upper respiratory tract infections,
Skin – Contracts, tightens tissues, and prevents tissue degeneration – cellulite, acne, eczema, oily skin, weeping eczema, psoriasis, dandruff, septic wounds
Spiritual – Cleanses the auric, mental and emotional bodies.
Application (1 – 5 drops)
Vapor therapy – Anxiety, spiritual development, contagious diseases, skin infections
Massage/bath oil – colic in adults, arthritis, cellulitis, nervous tension, cystitis, swollen joints, liver problems, muscle fatigue and overweight.
Juniper berry oil can also be added to creams, oils, shampoos, mists and facial masks for skin inflammations
Burfield T. “The Adulteration of Essential Oils and the Consequences to Aromatherapy & Natural Perfumery Practice.” London. 2005
Ladner, J. “Juniperus communis L.” http://www.fao.org/ag/AGP/AGPC/doc/Gbase/data/pf000461.htm
Glisic , S B. et al “Antimicrobial activity of the essential oil and different fractions of Juniperus communis L. and a comparison with some commercial antibiotics.” J . Serb. Chem. Soc. 72 (4) 311–320 (2007) UDC 582.475/.477:665.5:615.28+615.33 JSCS–3560
Rezvania, S. et al. “Analysis and Antimicrobial Activity of the Plant Juniperus Communis.” Rasayen J. Chem. V2, No.2 (2009), 257-260 ISSN: 0974-1496 CODEN: RJCABP