Munson Health
Juniper Berry

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Principal Proposed Uses

  • None

Other Proposed Uses

In Dutch, juniper is called "geniver," from which came the name "gin." But juniper is not only good for making martinis. Its berries (actually not berries at all, but a portion of the cone) were used by the Zuni Indians to assist in childbirth, by British herbalists to treat congestive heart failure and stimulate menstruation, and by American nineteenth-century herbalists to treat congestive heart failure, gonorrhea, and urinary tract infections.

What Is Juniper Berry Used for Today?

Contemporary herbalists primarily use juniper as a diuretic ("water pill") component of herbal formulas designed to treat bladder infections . A typical combination might include goldenrod , dandelion , uva ursi , parsley , cleavers, and buchu. The volatile oils of juniper reportedly increase the rate of kidney filtration, 1 thereby increasing urine flow and perhaps helping to "wash out" offending bacteria. However, there is no direct scientific evidence that juniper is effective for bladder infections. Only a double-blind placebo-controlled study can prove a treatment effective, and none have been reported with juniper
Recently, gin-soaked raisins have been touted as an arthritis treatment. This is probably just a fad, but some weak evidence suggests that juniper may possess anti-inflammatory properties. 2 Also, in test tube studies , certain constituents of juniper have been found to inhibit the herpes virus. 3 However, it is a long way from such studies to the conclusion that juniper is helpful for herpes infections .

Safety Issues

Individuals taking the medication lithium should use herbal diuretics such as juniper only under the supervision of a physician, as being dehydrated when taking this medication can be dangerous. 5
Some texts warn that juniper oil may be a kidney irritant, but there is no real evidence that this is the case. 6 Nonetheless, people with serious kidney disease probably shouldn't take juniper. Safety for young children, nursing women, or those with severe liver disease has also not been established.

Interactions You Should Know About

If you are taking lithium , do not use juniper except under the supervision of a physician.


Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:176.

Mascolo N, Autore G, Capasso F, et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res . 1987;1:28–31.

Markkanen T, Makinen ML, Nikoskelainen J, et al. Antiherpetic agent from juniper tree ( Juniperus communis ), its purification, identification, and testing in primary human amnion cell cultures. Drugs Exp Clin Res . 1981;7:691–697.

Agrawal OP, Bharadwaj S, Mathur R. Antifertility effects of fruits of Juniperuscommunis . Planta Med . 1980;(suppl):98–101.

Pyevich D, Bogenschutz MP. Herbal diuretics and lithium toxicity [letter]. Am J Psychiatry. 2001;158:1329.

Newall C, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals . London, England: Pharmaceutical Press; 1996:176.


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