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Top Juniper Berries Benefits And How To Take Advantage Of Them

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Even if you don’t know it, you’ve likely tasted juniper berries or their essential oil in the past. Ever heard of gin? One of the main ingredients that give gin its distinctive flavor is the humble juniper berry. These ‘berries’ are also popularly used as a spice or seasoning. I’m sure you have tried them in a dish or two at a restaurant.

But they aren’t only great at giving flavor – juniper berries have plenty of benefits for your mind and body, both in their berry and essential oil forms. 

What Are Juniper Berries? Where Do Juniper Berries Come From?

Juniper berries growing.

Juniper berries growing in the wild.

Like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries, juniper berries are not actually berries. They’re seeds, the fruits of female juniper plants. There are many varieties of juniper berries. Take caution if you are doing your own picking, because some are bitter and some are even toxic.

Juniper berries have been around for hundreds of years. These berries can be spotted in ancient tombs from Egypt, including, King Tutankhamen’s tomb. The ancient Greeks and Romans are also said to have enjoyed these berries, either as a way to increase physical stamina, or as a cheaper version of black pepper.

Juniper berries are also one of the main ingredients used in gin for the last few centuries. And unlike other ‘berries’, you don’t generally eat juniper berries as a snack, like you would eat a bowl of raspberries or blueberries. Rather, you can use them as a spice or seasoning.

Health Benefits Of Juniper Berries Explained

One of the first and main benefits you’ll hear about regarding juniper berries is their high level of antioxidants. Antioxidants are super important, because they fight against the free radicals that can cause damage to cells all over the body. Therefore, a diet high in antioxidants is a good idea for everyone.

Their high antioxidant levels are what give juniper berries their cancer-fighting abilities, as well as making them suitable for people diagnosed with heart disease. While they aren’t a cure-all, it’s definitely important for people with life-threatening diseases to be getting as many antioxidants as they can in their diet.

Antioxidants are also important when it comes to fighting off skin conditions like eczema or cellulite, or even simply ageing symptoms like wrinkles and fine lines. If you ever spot juniper berry essential oil as one of the ingredients in your favorite skincare product, you’ll know why it’s there!

Besides their impressive antioxidant levels, juniper berries also seem to have the ability to lower blood sugar levels, which is good news for diabetics. The results are look promising, although more research is definitely needed. Juniper berries also possess antibacterial properties, making them effective against infections and bacteria. It also makes them (or their essential oil) the perfect cleaning agent and disinfectant. 

Juniper berries are great for your gut. They aid your digestive health by increasing the flow of your digestive fluids. This is very useful if you are suffering from gas or cramping. Plus, they are a natural diuretic, which can also help with bloating.

Uses Of Juniper Berries Explained

Man sleeping in bed.

Juniper berries can help with insomnia.

The most common use for juniper berries is as a spice. They add a great unique flavor to meat and poultry, and even to desserts. In addition, they are also diuretics and can detoxify the body.

In their essential oil form, they are used as a natural relaxant, to ease stress and help keep you calm. Because of this, it can also help those suffering from insomnia, as it relaxes the mind, making it easier to fall asleep.

Because of their anti-inflammatory properties, juniper berries can relieve pain, especially when applied to sore joints. They’re the best friend of those suffering from arthritis, rheumatism, or even just regular swelling. If you experience soreness, try applying a mix of the essential oil with a carrier oil a to sore areas. You can also try adding it to a warm bath with Epsom salts and lavender for a relaxing and pain-relieving treatment.

Substitutes For Juniper Berries Breakdown

If a recipe calls for juniper berries but your grocery store is out of them, there’s no need to skip to the next page in the book. There are substitutes that you can use instead in a recipe, and I’ll list some of them below.

1. Gin

Bottle of gin and a glass with an alcoholic drink.

Gin is a great substitute for juniper berries.

You use juniper berries to flavor gin. For this reason, gin makes a great substitute. Use one teaspoon gin per two berries, and the taste should come out the same. It may have an effect on the liquid content of your dish though, so keep that in mind.

2. Rosemary

Oil in small vial with cork next to plants.

Rosemary as a substitute.

Need the juniper berries for a dry rub and can’t or don’t want to use gin? Rosemary makes for an excellent substitute. It pairs well with meat and poultry and has similar pine-like notes. Use a medium sized sprig of rosemary per teaspoon of crushed juniper berries.

3. Caraway Seeds

When you need juniper berries for a fermented dish like sauerkraut, you can substitute that spicy flavor with caraway seeds. They’re great at cutting through strong flavors, and can also be used in alcoholic drinks.

Juniper Berries Essential Oil Explained

Litsea Cubeba Essential Oil For Infections

Juniper berries essential oil.

Here at Maple Holistics, we tend to go a bit essential oil-crazy. And that’s because essential oils have so many uses for your home, body, and physical and mental health. And unsurprisingly, juniper berry essential oil is no exception.

Like lavender, juniper essential oil is known to have a calming and relaxing effect, as I’ve mentioned above. It’s especially helpful in a diffuser in the bedroom, as it relaxes your mind and improves the quality of your sleep. Try using it to help your kids overcome their fear of the dark or relax after a nightmare. Due to its woody scent, juniper essential oil pairs well with other wood oils like cedarwood, cypress, rosewood and fir needle oils. 

Because of its antiseptic properties, juniper essential oil can also be effective at fighting off acne, which is why you might find it in an anti-pimple treatment. It can be used for other skin issues, too, such as eczema or dandruff, due to its antibacterial properties. While you should never apply essential oil on its own, it is safe when mixed with a carrier oil, or added sparingly to your hair or skincare product.

You can also use juniper essential oil to get rid of acid reflex. Simply mix a couple of drops of the oil together with coconut oil, and blend it over your stomach, abdomen and chest. You should notice relief pretty soon!

Interestingly, juniper oil can is also a natural bug repellent. (The last commercial insect repellent I used turned my skin blue, so a natural option certainly sounds tempting!) To keep your home bug-free, you can add the oil to a diffuser to keep the bites away. If you’re going out, you can mix it with a carrier oil and apply it to your skin, or else spray it over your clothes.

Conclusion

These days, it couldn’t be easier to get your hands on some junipers or essential oil. Even if your local health food store doesn’t stock them (which is unlikely), there are many reputable sites that you can purchase from. And I’m sure you can see by now why you should purchase some!

Whether your interest lies in strengthening and cleansing your gut, cleaning out your house, improving your sleep, or even simply adding a healthy and delicious spice to your food, juniper berries have something to offer you. So do yourself a favor and check out the selection in your health store. You’re likely to have a new favorite essential oil pretty soon!