095. Juniperus communis. Common juniper.

Botanical name: 

095. Juniperus communis. 095. Juniperus communis. C. Also see 094. Juniperus sabina. Common savin.
Synonyma. Juniperus. Pharm. Lond. & Edinb.
Juniperus vulgaris fruticosa. Bauh. Pin. p. 488.
Juniperus vulgaris. Park. Theat. p. 1028. Gerard. Emac. p. 1372. Raii. Hist. p. 1411. Synop. p. 44.
Juniperus foliis convexo-concavis, aristatis, baccis alaribus, sessilibus. Hal. Stirp. Helv. n. 1661. Hudson. Flor. Ang. p. 436. Withering. Bot. Arrang. p. 1129. Mill. illust. ic.
β Juniperus foliis ternis patentibus, acutioribus, ramis erectioribus, bacca longioribus. Mill. Dict. Swedish Juniper.
γ Juniperus minor montana, folio latiore, fructuque longiore. Bauh. Pin. 489. Procumbent Juniper.

Class Class Dioecia. Ord. Monadelphia. Lin. Gen. Plant. 1134.
Ess. Gen. Ch. Masc. Amenti Calyx squamae. Cor. o. Stam. 3.
Fem. Cal. 3-partitus. Petala 3. Styli 3. Bacca 3-sperma, tribus tuberculis calycis inaequalis.
Spec. Char. J. foliis ternis patentibus mucronatis bacca longioribus.

This species usually rises much higher than the Sabina; it is covered with brownish bark, and divides into many branches: the leaves are very numerous, long, narrow, pointed, of a deep green colour, and stand in ternaries: the flowers are male and female on different plants, and answer to the description of those which we have given of Juniperus Sabina: [Of the Sabina we ought to have remarked, that the essential oil and the watery extract, are kept in the shops, and that it is an ingredient in the pulv. e myrrha compositus.] the berries continue two years upon the tree before they become perfectly ripe, when they are of a blackish colour, round, filled with a brownish pulp, and each contain three irregular hard seeds. It grows in several heathy parts of England, and flowers in May.

Juniper is supposed to be the (greek) of the ancients, [The odour of the Juniper-tree, though extremely fragrant, was, by Virgil, thought to be noxious: Surgamus; solet esse gravis cantantibus umbra: Juniperi gravis umbra: nocent & frugibus umbrae. Ecl. x. v. 75.] who distinguished it into two kinds. [See Pliny. Lib. xvi. cap. 25. Gum Sandrach, known also by the name of pounce, is the product of this species of Juniper: it exudes through the crevices of the bark, or the perforations made by insects.] Both the tops and berries of this plant are directed for use in our Pharmacopoeias, but the latter are usually preferred, and are brought to us chiefly from Holland and Italy. "They have a moderately strong not disagreeable smell, and a warm pungent sweetish taste, which if they are long chewed or previously well bruised, is followed by a considerable bitterness. The sweetness appears to reside in the juice or soft pulpy part of the berry; the bitterness, in the seeds; and the aromatic flavour, in oily vesicles, spread throughout the substance both of the pulp and the seeds, and distinguishable even by the eye. The fresh berries yield, on expression, a rich sweet honey-like aromatic juice: if previously powdered so as to thoroughly break the seeds, which is not done without great difficulty, the juice proves tart and bitter. The same differences are observable also in tinctures and infusions made from the dry berries, according as the berry is taken entire or thoroughly bruised. They give out nearly all their virtue both to water and rectified spirit. Distilled with water they yield a yellowish essential oil, very subtile and pungent, in smell greatly resembling the berries, in quantity (if they have been sufficiently bruised) about one ounce from forty: the decoction, inspissated to the consistence of a rob or extract, has a pleasant, balsamic, sweet taste, with a greater or lets degree of bitterishness. A part of the flavour of the berries arises also in distillation with rectified spirit: the inspissated tincture consists of two distinct substances; one oily and sweet; the other tenacious, resinous, and aromatic." [Lewis, Mat. Med. p. 362.]

These berries are chiefly used for their diuretic effects; they are also considered to be stomachic, carminative, and diaphoretic.—Of the efficacy of Juniper berries in many hydropical affections, we have various relations by physicians of great authority, as Du Verney, Hoffman, Boerhaave, and his illustrious commentator, Baron Van Swieten, &c. Authors however seem not to be perfectly agreed which preparation of the Juniper is most efficacious, many prefer the rob or inspissated decoction, but Dr. Cullen observes, [M. M. vol. ii. p. 187.] that this is an inert medicine, alleging that the essential oil must be almost entirely dissipated by the boiling; for to this oil, which is much the same as that of turpentine, only of a more agreeable odour, he thinks all the virtues ascribed to the different parts of Juniper are to be referred. Hoffman, on the contrary, strongly recommends the rob, and declares it to be of great use in debility of the stomach and intestines; and he experienced it to be particularly serviceable to such old people as are subject to these disorders, or labour under a difficulty with regard to the urinary excretion; from hence it appears, that the berries still retain medicinal powers, though deprived of the stimulating effects of the essential oil. [Van Swieten prescribed the following formula: ℞. Rob. Bacc. Junip. ℥ii. dilue in aquae Junip. ℔ii. add. spirit. bacc. Junip. ℥ii. Quandoque spiritus nitri dulcis ℥ss ad sitim sedandam additur. Comment, in Boerh. aph. T. 4. p. 258. Of this mixture one or two ounces were given every three hours.] But as the Juniper is now seldom if ever relied upon for the cure of dropsies, and only called to the aid of more powerful remedies, it is justly observed by a modern author, that "perhaps one of the best forms under which the berries can be used is that of a simple infusion. This either by itself, or with the addition of a little gin, is a very useful drink for hydropic patients." [Duncan New Ed. Dispens. p. 214.] Medical writers have also spoken of the utility of Juniper in nephritic cases, uterine obstructions, scorbutic affections, and some cutaneous diseases, and in the two last mentioned complaints, the wood and tops of the plant are said to have been employed with more advantage than the berries.[Bergius says, "Virtus: ligni & summitat, diuretica, sudorifera, mundificans. Bacca diuretica, nutriens, diaphoretica." M. M. p. 810.]

We are told by Linnaeus, [Flor. Lapp. p. 301. They are likewise known to afford a pleasant wine. See Du Hamel, Arbres, T. i. p. 325.] that the Laplanders drink infusions of the Juniper berries as we do tea and coffee, and that the Swedes prepare a beer from them, in great estimation for its diuretic and antiscorbutic qualities. Our Pharmacopoeias direct the essential oil and a spirituous distillation of the Juniper berries, to be kept in the shops: the former, in doses of two or three drops, is found to be an active and stimulating medicine; the latter contains this oil, and that of some other aromatic seeds united to the spirit, and therefore differs not considerably from the genuine geneva imported from Holland; but there is great reason to believe, that the gin usually sold here is frequently nothing but the common fumentacious spirit, imbued with turpentine, or other materials to give it a flavour.

Medical Botany, 1790-1794, was written by William Woodville, M. D., and illustrated by James Sowerby.