Juniper berries. Juniperus communis.

Botanical name: 

Related entry: Oil of Juniper

Juniper Berries. N. F. IV (U. S. P. 1880). Juniperus. Fructus Juniperi, P. G. Baccae Juniperi. Genievre, Bates de Genievre, Fr. Gemeiner Wachholder, Wachholderbeeren, G. Ginepro, It. Enebro, Bayas de Enebro, Sp.—"The carefully dried ripe fruit of Juniperus communis Linné (Fam. Pinaceae). Preserve Juniper Berries in airtight tin or glass containers, and reject old or insect-infected fruit." N. F.

Juniperus communis L. is an evergreen shrub, usually small, but sometimes twelve to fifteen feet high, with numerous very close branches, and varying from an erect shrub to a decumbent or even trailing arborescent plant.

The common juniper is a native of Europe and the northern regions of Asia and North America. Northward it becomes a trailing shrub, seldom more than 2 to 4 dm. high, spreading in all directions, throwing out roots from its branches, and forming beds which are often many rods in circumference. The name of J. depressa has been proposed for this variety. The common juniper flowers in May, but does not ripen its fruit until late in the following year. All parts of the plant contain a volatile oil, which imparts to them a peculiar flavor. The wood has a slight aromatic odor, and was formerly used for fumigation. A terebinthinate juice exudes from the tree and hardens on the bark. This has been erroneously considered as identical with the gum known commercially as sandarach.

The berries, as the fruit is commonly called, were formerly occasionally brought to the Philadelphia market from New Jersey. But, though equal to the European in appearance, they are inferior in strength, and are not much used. The best come from the south of Europe, particularly from Trieste and the Italian ports. They are "nearly globular, about 8 mm. in diameter; externally smooth, shining, black-brown to purplish-black with a blue-gray bloom, at the apex a three-rayed furrow marks the cohesion of the three fleshy bracta forming the pericarp; internally loosely fleshy, greenish-brown, containing numerous large schizogenous cavities; seeds three, triangular ovate, hard, brown, with large uneven oil glands on the surface. Odor aromatic; taste sweet, pleasant, terebinthinate, slightly bitter.

"Sections, when examined under the microscope, exhibit a pericarp consisting of an epiderm of a single row of rounded polygonal cells filled with a brown granular substance, at the sutures of the bracts these become blunt papillae; a hypodermis of two or three rows or brown-red, collenchymatous cells thickened at the angles; the fleshy portion (mesophyl) composed of loose, irregular parenchyma with large oval canals and traversed by fibro-vascular bundles with areolated fibers} a sclerenchymatous ring of six to eight rows of very thick cells with pitted walls, many enclosing prismatic crystals of calcium oxalate; the seed-testa shows a layer of two to ten rows of stone cells with radial markings on the walls and each enclosing a polygonal crystal of calcium oxalate; endosperm and embryo rich in fat and aleurone. Juniper Berries yield not more than 5 per cent. of ash." N. F.

These properties, as well as their medicinal virtues, they owe chiefly to a volatile oil. (See Oleum Juniperi.) The other constituents, according to Trommsdorff, are resin, sugar, gum, wax, lignin, water, and various saline substances. The proportion of these constituents varies according to the greater or less maturity of the berries. The volatile oil is most abundant in those which have attained their full growth and are still green, or in those which are on the point of ripening. In the latter Trommsdorff found 1 per cent. of the oil. In those perfectly ripe it has been partly changed into resin, and in those quite black, completely so. The berries impart their virtues to water and alcohol. They are very largely consumed in the preparation of gin.

The tops of juniper were formerly directed by the Edinburgh and Dublin Colleges. Their odor is balsamic, their taste resinous and bitterish, and they possess similar virtues with the berries.

Juniper berries are gently stimulant and diuretic, imparting to the urine the odor of violets, and producing occasionally, when largely taken, disagreeable irritation in the urinary passages. They are chiefly used as an adjuvant to more powerful diuretics in dropsical complaints. The infusion is a good preparation. It is made by macerating an ounce of the bruised berries in a pint of boiling water, the whole of which may be taken in the course of twenty-four hours. The fluidextract is recognized by the N. F. (see Part III), but for most purposes the oil is preferable. (See Oleum Juniperi.) Under the trade name of junol there appears on the market a hydroalcoholic extract of juniper berries recommended as a diuretic. Juniper berries are not administered in substance; the dose of the fluid extract is one fluidrachm (3.9 mils) (see Part III).

The Dispensatory of the United States of America, 1918, was edited by Joseph P. Remington, Horatio C. Wood and others.