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Juniper (Juniperus communis)

Juniperus communis
Synonyms / Common Names / Related Terms
Cade oil, cedar, cedarwood, cedron, common juniper berry, Cupressaceae (family), empyreumatic oil, enebro, Geniévre, ginepro, juniper bark, juniper berry, juniper bush, juniper oil, juniper tar, juniper wood, Juniperi fructus, Juniperus californica, Juniperus communis, Juniperus deppeana, Juniperus mexicana, Juniperus occidentalis, Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus phoenicea, Juniperus scopulorum, Juniperus therifera, Juniperus virginiana, pencil cedar, Pinaceae, red cedar, Sabina, wacholderbeeren, zimbro.

Mechanism of Action


  • Constituents: Monoterpenes (which make up most of the essential oil) - alpha- and beta-pinene, sabinene, limonene, terpinen-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, borneol, geraniol5, myrcene, camphene2, camphor, alpha-eudesmol1 and many others.
  • Sesquiterpenes - beta-caryophyllene, delta-cadinene, farnesol, gamma-elemente, gamma-muurolene, humulene2, pregeijerene6 and many others.
  • Diterpenes - sugiol, xanthoperol, 4-epi-abietic acid, 4-epi-dehydroabietic acid, 4-epi-palustric acid, 4-epi-abietinal, 4-epi-abietinol7, isopimaric acid, isocommunic acid, (-)ent-trans communic acid, sandracopimaric acid8 and many others.
  • Neolignan glycosides - junipercomnoside A and B, icariside E4, and others9.
  • Lignans - podophyllotoxin is present and is toxic to the nerves, gut and liver.10
  • Tannins - gallocatechins.
  • Flavonoids - isocutellarein, hypolaetin, kaempferol 3-O-alpha-rhamnopyranoside, quercitin, nicotiflorin, naringenin 7-O-beta-glucopyranoside and others.9
  • Resin (fruit 80,000-100,000ppm); pentosan (fruit 60,000ppm); tannin (fruit 50,000ppm); essential oil (fruit 34,200ppm); cedrene (leaf 12,000-36,000ppm); alpha-pinene (fruit 9,200ppm); pectin (fruit 7,000ppm); sabinene (fruit 2,700ppm); P-hydroxybenzoic acid (plant 2,500ppm); cedrol (leaf 450-2,100ppm); myrcene (fruit 1,800ppm); terpinen-4-ol (fruit 1,050ppm); limonene (fruit 910ppm); beta-phellandrene (fruit 660ppm); alpha-terpinene (fruit 640ppm); gamma-terpinene (fruit 600ppm); beta-pinene (fruit 580ppm).
  • Alpha-eudesmol inhibits calcium channels and appears to be neuroprotective in a stroke model.11
  • Antifungal compounds are found in juniper such as oidiolactone C.12
  • Isocrupressic acid in Juniperus communis has been identified as an active abortifacient compound.4
  • Alpha- and beta-cedrene from Juniperus occidentalis have antimicrobial activity.13 15,16-epoxy-12-hydroxy-8(17),13(16),14-labdatrien-19-oic acid14
  • Anti-inflammatory effects: A dry 80%-ethanolic extract of juniper, administered orally at 100mg/kg, reduced carrageenan-induced rat paw edema by 60% (p<0.001) compared to 45% for indometacin at 5mg/kg (p<0.01).15
  • Diuretic effects: The diuretic action of juniper has been attributed to terpinen-4-ol.16 A 10% aqueous infusion of juniper or a 0.1% aqueous solution of juniper oil (with 0.2% of Tween 20 solubilizer) or a 0.01% aqueous solution of terpinen-4-ol were orally administered to groups of rats at 5mL/100g body weight; control groups were given water or water and 0.2% Tween orally and reference groups were given antidiuretic hormone (ADH; vasopressin) intraperitoneally at 0.004, 0.04 or 0.4 IU/100g. Compared to water, the 10% aqueous infusion of juniper and the 0.1% aqueous solution of juniper oil (in which the ratio of pinene fraction to terpinen-4-ol was 5:1) caused reductions of only 6% in diuresis over a 24-hour period, equivalent to the effect of 0.004 IU/100g of ADH, while the 0.01% solution of terpinen-4-ol caused a reduction of 30% in diuresis (p<0.01), equivalent to 0.4 IU/100g intraperitoneal of ADH. However, after continued daily administration at the same daily dose level, the two juniper preparations and terpinen-4-ol stimulated diuresis on days two and three, although only the 10% aqueous infusion of juniper exerted significant diuretic activity (+ 43% on day two; +44% on day three; p<0.05), suggesting that the diuretic effect is partly due to the essential oil and partly to hydrophilic constituents.17
  • After oral administration to rats of lyophilized aqueous extract of juniper at 1000mg/kg body weight, no increase in urine volume or excretion of Na+, K+ or Cl- ions could be demonstrated over a six-hour period compared to the effect of the same volume of water.18
  • Hypoglycemic effects: An orally administered decoction of juniper showed significant hypoglycemic activity in normal rats after single doses equivalent to 250-500mg juniper/kg and in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats after 24-day treatment with doses equivalent to 125mg juniper/kg. The effects were attributed to an increase in peripheral absorption of glucose, independent of plasma insulin levels.3
  • Other: Intravenous administration of a lyophilized aqueous extract of juniper (25mg/kg body weight) to normotensive rats produced an initial transient rise in arterial pressure followed by a reduction of 27%. A dose of 1.2g/kg of the same extract produced an analgesic response of 178% as measured by thermal stimuli in mice.18

  1. Adams, R. P. Systematics of Juniperus section Juniperus based on leaf essential oils and random amplified polymorphic DNAs (RAPDs). Biochem Syst Ecol  7-1-2000;28(6):515-528. 10793252
  2. Johnson, W. Final report on the safety assessment of Juniperus communis extract, Juniperus oxycedrus extract, Juniperus oxycedrus tar, Juniperus phoenicia extract, and Juniperus virginiana extract. Int J Tox 2001;20 (sup 2):41-56.
  3. Sanchez, de Medina, Gamez, M. J., Jimenez, I., Jimenez, J., Osuna, J. I., and Zarzuelo, A. Hypoglycemic activity of juniper "berries". Planta Med 1994;60(3):197-200. 8073081
  4. Gardner, D. R., Panter, K. E., James, L. F., and Stegelmeier, B. L. Abortifacient effects of lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) and common juniper (Juniperus communis) on cattle. Vet Hum Toxicol  1998;40(5):260-263. 9778758
  5. Grainger Bisset, N. Max Wichtl herbal drugs and phytopharmaceuticals a handbook for practice on a scientific basis  2000.
  6. Cool, L. G. and Adams, R. P. A pregeijerene isomer from Juniperus erectopatens foliage. Phytochemistry 2003;63(1):105-108. 12657304
  7. Tabacik C and Poisson, C. Diterpenes de Juniperus phoenicea: constituants mineurs. Phytochemistry 1971;10:1639-1645.
  8. Topcu, G., Erenler, R., Cakmak, O., Johansson, C. B., Celik, C., Chai, H. B., and Pezzuto, J. M. Diterpenes from the berries of Juniperus excelsa. Phytochemistry 1999;50(7):1195-1199. 10234860
  9. Nakanishi, T., Iida, N., Inatomi, Y., Murata, H., Inada, A., Murata, J., Lang, F. A., Iinuma, M., and Tanaka, T. Neolignan and flavonoid glycosides in Juniperus communis var. depressa. Phytochemistry 2004;65(2):207-213. 14732280
  10. Leitner, J., Hofbauer, F., and Ackerl, M. [Poisoning with a podophyllin-containing wart-treating tincture]. Dtsch Med Wochenschr  7-12-2002;127(28-29):1516-1520. 12111657
  11. Asakura, K., Matsuo, Y., Oshima, T., Kihara, T., Minagawa, K., Araki, Y., Kagawa, K., Kanemasa, T., and Ninomiya, M. omega-agatoxin IVA-sensitive Ca(2+) channel blocker, alpha-eudesmol, protects against brain injury after focal ischemia in rats. Eur J Pharmacol  4-7-2000;394(1):57-65. 10771035
  12. Barrero, A. F., Arseniyadis, S., Quilez del Moral, J. F., Herrador, M. M., Valdivia, M., and Jimenez, D. First synthesis of the antifungal oidiolactone C from trans-communic acid: cytotoxic and antimicrobial activity in podolactone-related compounds. J Org Chem  4-19-2002;67(8):2501-2508. 11950294
  13. Johnston, W. H., Karchesy, J. J., Constantine, G. H., and Craig, A. M. Antimicrobial activity of some Pacific Northwest woods against anaerobic bacteria and yeast. Phytother Res 2001;15(7):586-588. 11746838
  14. Martin, A. M., Queiroz, E. F., Marston, A., and Hostettmann, K. Labdane diterpenes from Juniperus communis L. berries. Phytochem Anal  2006;17(1):32-35. 16454474
  15. Mascolo N and et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res 1987;1:28-31.
  16. Janku, I., Hava, M., and Motl, O. [Diuretic substance from juniper (Juniperus communis L.)]. Experientia 6-15-1957;13(6):255-256. 13447954
  17. Stanic, G, Samarzija, I, and Blazevic, N. Time-dependent diuretic response in rats treated with juniper berry preparations. Phytother Res 1998;12:494-497.
  18. Lasheras B and et al. Etude pharmacologique preliminaire de Prunus spinosa L. Amelanchier ovalis Medikus, Juniperus communis L. et Urtica dioica L  Plant Med Phytother 1986;20:219-226.

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