Juniper includes a series of both shrubby and herbaceous perennial plants, very common in mountain areas and in the Mediterranean area. The botanical name of these plants is Juniperus and they belong to the Cupressaceae family. There are many varieties of juniper, each with specific morphological characteristics and equally specific uses. The best known is the common juniper, whose full botanical name is Juniperus communis L. This variety looks like a small shrub between one or ten meters, with average heights of about two meters. The leaves are very narrow and needle-shaped in green color, the flowers, both male and female, are yellow. Juniper fruits are berries that turn from green to dark purple when fully ripe. Juniper berries are also called "galbuli". Other varieties of juniper is Juniper sabina, botanical name Juniperus sabina L, commonly known as Sabina, it is a less tall bush than the common juniper, but with the same botanical characteristics. Compared to the common juniper, however, it has the characteristic of being poisonous and for this reason it is cultivated only for ornamental purposes. Same uses also for the juniper native to Japan and Korea, Juniperus rigida and for the smooth and red juniper varieties. To produce wood, Juniperus virginiana is used, known as the Virginia Cedar, because it is native to America. The ornamental species are also used to consolidate sandy soils and to favor reforestation. The common juniper it is also known for the aromatic essence contained in the berries, used both in cooking and in herbal medicine. This plant blooms in March, requires temperate climates and sunny or partial shade exposures. The juniper soil should be watered only in case of drought and fertilized every two years. The berries are harvested in autumn and dried in the shade.
The berries of the common juniper, the size of a pea, have a strongly sour taste and contain an essential oil on which the typical scent of the plant depends. It is the juniper produced from juniper camphor. Other active ingredients are resins, sugar, calcium and potassium acetate. The essential oil of the berries is extracted by distillation and has antiseptic and bactericidal properties. It is, in fact, used for diseases of the respiratory tract because gineprine acts as a sedative for coughs and bronchitis and for diseases of the urinary tract, such as cystitis. The active ingredients of juniper are also useful in cases of rheumatism, gout and kidney stones, as they facilitate the elimination of uric acid, promoting detoxification of the body and the elimination of toxic or waste substances. Extracts of common juniper they are also beneficial for stomach weakness, digestive difficulties, lack of appetite, irregular menstruation and colic. They also have significant diuretic effects. Juniper extracts also have healing and soothing properties.
The common juniper is used both in cooking and in herbal medicine. Its aromatic essences are widely used to flavor roast meats or other dishes, but also to prepare liqueurs such as gin. While in herbal medicine, the berries are taken either fresh or in the form of an infusion and decoction. The infusion is prepared by adding 15 grams of berries to boiling water: the recommended dose is 3.5 cups a day to obtain diuretic effects. The decoction, on the other hand, facilitates digestion, but since it can damage the kidneys it is recommended to take it under strict medical supervision. Added to the bathtub it has a refreshing and invigorating effect. Fresh berries are used to stimulate appetite, for stomach problems, for digestion, for bad breath and canker sores. The dose is 5 berries per day. There is also the dosage for a weekly therapy in which an extra berry is added the next day up to 15 berries. To eliminate subcutaneous liquids, juniper wine or vinous tincture is also used, which is obtained by macerating 60 grams of crushed berries for six days in a liter of dry white wine. The recommended dose is 10 grams twice a day. In the case of gout, rheumatism, stones, colic, fresh berries are used, pounded and cooked in water. Then they are squeezed into a bag to collect the juice which is cooked in a jar until it becomes like honey. The recommended dose is one teaspoon, morning and evening. There is also juniper syrup, to be taken in the case of arthritis: the recommended dose is two to five tablespoons a day. With fresh crushed berries you can also make external compresses to soothe wounds, ulcers and eczema. An ointment can also be extracted to treat scabies. Burnt juniper is also used as an air freshener.
Juniper: Cost of products
A one-liter bottle of juniper-based liqueur, or gin, costs around 10 euros. Juniper essential oil has a fairly high cost, a 10 ml pack also costs 12 euros. Juniper-based products to be used for external applications such as refreshing and invigorating cost around 27 euros.