Herbs

JUNIPER, Juniperis communis

Juniper Tree

Throughout the dark ages, there were strange superstitions connected to some herbs. For instance, if you planted a juniper beside the front door, it would keep the witches out, unless they could guess the number of needles on the tree. Also, if you burned a juniper bough during the time of childbirth, the smoke would prevent the bad fairies from substituting a changeling for your new born baby. For hundreds of years the juniper has been known to help folks with kidney or urination problems.


A young woman who was in one of our herb classes told of an airplane flight to this country. She had a little problem with her kidneys and bladder before getting on the airplane. This being first flight, she was nervous. She tried to use the restroom on the airplane, but couldn’t. As the flight wore on, her situation grew worse. She was crying when her friend met her at the airport. By the time they arrived at the friend’s home, she was doubled up in agony. She tried to use the bathroom but could not. The friend’s mother knew something about herbs, so she called the health food store to find if they had any juniper berries. The mother left her daughter with her friend, who was lying on the floor crying, and went to the health food store and got some juniper berries. When she got back, the daughter had some water boiling so they put in the juniper berries to steep. Finally, the tea cooled down enough to drink. A cup of the juniper berry tea was given to the girl who lay groaning on the floor. In just a little while, she smile, got up off the floor and went in the bathroom to void her urine.


The juniper is an evergreen, shrub-type tree that grows I the northern United States and in Northern Europe. It will grow as a shrub or as a tree from about six to thirty feet tall, depending on the species. The fruit, for the first year, is a little green berry that turns a blackish purple the second year. This little berry has three, five or seven little angular stones or seeds in it.


The early Native Americans used the juniper for many health purposes. The twigs and needles were soaked and boiled as a remedy for the flu, for colds and sore throats. Research scientists have discovered that pine and juniper twigs and needles are an excellent source of Vitamin C. The tea from the twigs and needles is also very cleansing, as well as healing, and is used to keep infection away from various wounds. The Indians used the juniper against arthritis and rheumatism by tying bundles of hot steaming boughs to their sore limbs. They did the same for bruises, sprains and swellings. The Indians ate a lot of berries to get rid of worms and to prepare themselves for war so they wouldn’t bleed to death.


For centuries, the primary medicinal use of juniper berries was its diuretic action. However, juniper and juniper berries have been used for many other problems. Some cultures made a habit of chewing berries to aid in digestion and assimilation. Some say they are helpful in high blood pressure, and some women take them in the last weeks of pregnancy to help in delivery. Some women use the tea to help PMS or start or to stimulate their periods.


To get the best effect as a diuretic, juniper berries should be taken in small doses or in combination with other diuretic herbs. Juniper berries are used in Grandma’s herbal Kidney formula. One of the main active ingredients in the juniper tree, and especially the berry, is a volatile oil (terpinen-4-ol) which increases the fluid filtering rate of the kidneys. However, you should observe caution against overuse. Also, pregnant women should avoid its use until the last month of pregnancy. Maybe you should find a real juniper tree and taste some berries. Remember-three, five or seven stones or seeds.

 

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