What to Know About Juniper Berries

Medically Reviewed by Poonam Sachdev on August 09, 2023
3 min read

Juniper berries are a common ingredient in foods and some drinks. The berries come from the juniper tree. They can be used whole or ground as a cooking ingredient. Also, juniper oil is distilled from the leaves and wood of the tree. It’s an ingredient in cosmetics. Juniper is used in supplements, too.

They’re not actual berries. They’re a type of cone similar to a pinecone, but spongy and round. Their spherical shape and purplish color make them look more like berries, though. They’re edible and are popular in cooking and for distilling alcohol.

Like a lot of plants, juniper has been used for health purposes for a long time. People have used it as an anti-inflammatory and a diuretic. You can brew it as tea. You can take the powdered berries in capsules. You can buy juniper oil, as well. This oil comes from the wood of the trees, not the berries. 

Not for illnesses. Despite the use of juniper as a traditional remedy, it can’t replace medications for treating illnesses. In fact, juniper could make some health conditions worse.

Talk to your doctor before you try any new supplement, including juniper. They’ll let you know if it could affect any health conditions you have or any medicines you take.

Urinary tract problems. Juniper might make you pee more. This can be helpful for someone having a urinary tract infection. Peeing can help clean bacteria out of your system. But juniper is not an antibiotic that can kill bacteria. Speak to your doctor if you think you have a UTI. They can recommend the right medicine for you. 

Indigestion. Juniper spurs your digestive system so that it works more quickly. This can be helpful if you’re prone to mild stomach upset or heartburn. It can also help if you have low stomach acidity which slows your digestion down. Your doctor can let you know if juniper supplements might be helpful for you.

Inflammation. Studies in animals show that juniper has some anti-inflammatory effects. There haven’t been studies on people, though. 

Antimicrobial effects. Using juniper oil to clean surfaces has some benefits. It can get rid of some types of bacteria. But it can also cause skin irritation. Never use it to clean wounds. 

‌In animal studies, researchers have found that taking juniper for too long or taking high doses has consequences. It can irritate your digestive system or your kidneys. Some researchers warn against taking juniper supplements if you have diabetes. It might make your symptoms worse. 

Pregnancy. In animal studies, juniper made it harder for rodents to become pregnant. If you’re pregnant or you want to have a baby, talk to your doctor before taking any supplements including juniper.

We need more research on juniper as a health supplement. But it has other uses.

Gin is flavored with juniper. Some chefs like to use juniper to season meats. It can take the edge off gamey meats like venison, for example. It’s also an ingredient in preserved foods like pickles or cured meats.

Juniper oil has a spicy aroma that can be added as a fragrance in cosmetics or soaps. And the wood of juniper trees is used for cedar closets, as well as regular cabinetry.