Juniper is a plant that gives many beneficial properties: from antioxidant and anti-inflammatory to antimicrobial activity. Beware of use in case of pregnancy or kidney disease.
Juniper (Juniperus communis) is an evergreen plant of the Cupressaceae family with a fairly thin stem that can reach several meters in height. Its bark is gray with reddish notes and the green leaves are needle-like.
In spring, juniper plants produce small yellow or green flowers, but this plant is best known for its berries, which are frequently used in the kitchen as seasonings.
The juniper fruits are dark blue and can be harvested in the autumn season; berries are usually used fresh or dried. The juniper plant has been known since ancient times for its beneficial properties by many different populations, including the Indian one.
Juniper: calories and nutritional properties
Juniper berries are usually sold dried and used to flavor our recipes: a small amount of this ingredient is therefore sufficient. This premise is necessary in order not to scare us in front of the caloric impact of this food. In fact, 100 g of dried juniper berries contain almost 400 kcal, but we will not need in the kitchen to consume quantities greater than 5 g.
These fruits also contain a good amount of complex carbohydrates (37.5 g per 100 g of product), of which they are 1/5 in simple sugars. The amount of protein is also consistent: just under 20 g!
The table below shows the nutritional values of dried juniper berries, however data on the content of vitamins or mineral salts are not available in the literature. Conversely, numerous studies in the literature have analyzed the phytochemicals present in juniper, underlining the presence of numerous flavonoids (including quercetin), volatile oil, juniper and coumarins. Many of these substances underlie the benefits of juniper, as we will see in the next paragraph.
Nutritional values per 100g of juniper:
- Calories: 385 kcal
- Proteins: 19.8 g
- Lipids: 14.6 g
- Carbohydrates: 37.3 g
- Of which sugars: 7.5 g
- Fiber: 12.7 g
The benefits of juniper for health
As we have anticipated, the properties of juniper have been known for a very long time and the plant has been used since ancient times for healing purposes. In particular, we will report in this paragraph the benefits of juniper and its extracts reported in the scientific literature.
✓ Benefits for the liver
First of all, juniper has a protective activity against the liver: in fact, in studies on mice, it has been seen that in the case of liver damage, the use of juniper extract has improved the blood values of transaminases and bilirubin.
✓ Positive effects on cholesterol
Consumption of juniper also has positive effects on the cardiovascular system. In particular, a beneficial activity has been seen on blood cholesterol levels, in particular on the levels of LDL cholesterol (the cholesterol defined as “bad”), which juniper contriobuscia to lower.
✓ Antioxidant property
Juniper is also known for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties: these activities have been studied both in in vitro studies and in in vivo studies demonstrating the ability of juniper oil to increase the activity of antioxidant enzymes, thus resulting in an ally in countering the excessive formation of free radicals.
✓ Cancer prevention
The substances present in juniper, such as bioactive deoxypodophyllotoxin lignan, also give it anticancer properties. In vivo, this compound has shown cytotoxic activity against tumor cells belonging to different lines (human glioblastoma, gastric carcinoma, ovarian cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer).
✓ Antibacterial property
Juniper also has antibacterial and antimicrobial properties and the methanolic extract of juniper has been shown to be more effective on some pathogenic bacteria than that of some standard antibiotics. In this regard, the essential oil of juniper and its composition has been studied in depth, finding the main components that give this oil its antimicrobial action.
✓ Neuroprotective effect
Finally, a last beneficial property of juniper is the neuroprotective one: this property has been studied in rats with Parkinson’s. Animals given the juniper showed less muscle stiffness and better movement, as well as better biochemical parameters.
How to use juniper in the kitchen: practical tips and combinations
Juniper berries have a strong flavor and for this reason it is always recommended to combine them with equally strong flavors. The most widely used and well-known combination is with game or roasted red meat: for these preparations you can use both whole and chopped berries using a mortar.
Another very popular combination is that with Trentino speck and sauerkraut. In addition, juniper berries are well suited to seasoning legumes or mixed cereal salads. Finally, we advise you to experiment with adding a few juniper berries to the meat or vegetable broth that you will prepare shortly.
Juniper in herbal medicine: what it is for and how to use it
In herbal medicine, juniper is widely used in different forms: it is in fact possible to find both the essential oil of juniper, the leaves or berries for the preparation of infusions, the mother tincture and the bud extract.
Juniper herbal tea is prepared by infusing 1 tablespoon of berries (if desired you can also use the leaves) for at least 5 minutes in boiling water and can be used in case of digestive disorders as it stimulates the production of gastric juices and in case of abdominal bloating. In addition, the juniper infusion is useful for relieving sore throats, coughs and clearing the airways. In the latter case it can also be associated with mint or eucalyptus leaves.
The bud extract and mother tincture are used in drops for their hepatoprotective and diuretic properties. The beneficial effect that these products have on the kidney allows them to be used even in the case of cellulite.
Finally, the essential oil can be used both for internal use and for external use. As for internal use, we suggest you always rely on an experienced professional in order to avoid unpleasant side effects. Externally it can be used both through oil diffusers for the environment and for cutaneous use diluted in almond oil (or other carrier oil). It has excellent benefits in case of urinary tract infection and on the skin it helps stimulate lymphatic circulation.
Contraindications of juniper
First of all, as always, we recommend avoiding the consumption of juniper to anyone who has an allergy to it or in the presence of adverse reactions. In addition to this we would like to point out other contraindications of juniper: it is not recommended for pregnant women (we are talking above all about herbal derivatives) as it could increase the contractility of the uterus muscles and promote spontaneous abortions. It is also good to be careful in case you suffer from kidney problems such as chronic kidney failure as juniper could worsen the disease.