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Using juniper berries.

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You can chew a berry, you can make a berry tea, you can make a berry tincture ...

Juniper (Juniperus communis) is a very nice example of how the same part of the same plant gives different medicinal actions depending on how you prepare it.

Medicinal uses

Chew the berry: the bitters come first. A bitter taste on your tongue will get your saliva and other digestive juices (including bile) going very nicely. Your fat digestion will pick up, too. Don't use juniper berries unless you're going to eat something within half an hour - the digestive effect of chewed berries is so pronounced that your blood sugar takes a dive if you don't eat something within half an hour.

Make a tea from the berry: the essential oils (EOs) come first, and if you have lung troubles your blood supply to the lungs is enhanced, so the EOs vent over those, killing any viruses and bacteria they find. Good for coughs, in other words. If you don't have lung trouble the EOs give the kidneys a good kick, getting them to work harder (= diuretic action), and move on to the bladder, where they'll again take care of bacteria and viruses.

Tincture the berry: the resins are first, and they aren't as volatile as the oils. This time the effect is primarily on the kidneys, again kicking them into stronger action (= diuretic), then moving on to the bladder, again killing off baddies.

Because juniper berries irritate the kidneys into working harder they're not a good idea.

  • if you have or have had a kidney infection (lower kidney capacity)
  • if you only have one kidney (it works for two anyway)
  • if you're pregnant (your two kidneys work for two).

Sorry, I don't know if the leaf works in the same three-fold way. Nor do I know if you can use the leaf or berry of other junipers. I do know that the leaf contains kidney-irritating resins and essential oils, though.


Every now and then a mindboggling regimen involving juniper berries surfaces. It goes something like "Eat 3 berries today, 6 tomorrow, 9 day after, until you're at 27 berries, then back down until you're back at 0".

What have your kidneys ever done to you to warrant such treatment? If you want to get rid of gunk in your interstitial fluid and lymph go with gentle lymphatics like chickweed, burdock, cleavers and the like instead.

Culinary uses

The berries give a taste of game to tame meat. Add a dozen or so berries (and perhaps a green juniper twig or two) to the stewing mix when you cook your steak until tender. This works nicely with lean beef, which you can then serve as moose to unsuspecting foreigners.

It's also nice to make a bed of juniper twigs to put your fresh and freshly gutted wild salmon on, before you bake it in the oven. Put a bit of dill and salt, pepper and lemon juice inside, and add some lemon and salt on top, too. Serve when done. Yum!

Related entries: Picking juniper berries - Juniper salmon - Juniper berry toxicity.

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