“J” is for Juniper Berry!

“J” is for Juniper Berry! - Magalies Citrus - A-Z FRUIT CELEBRATION

“J” is for Juniper Berry!

by Dr Marli Botha

A juniper berry is the female seed cone produced by the various species of junipers, and therefore not a true berry. The cones from a handful of species, especially Juniperus communis, are used as a spice, particularly in European cuisine, and also give gin its distinctive flavour

The Juniper Berry can be used in the following interesting ways:

  • Juniper berries are used in northern European and particularly Scandinavian cuisine to “impart a sharp, clear flavor” to meat dishes, especially wild birds (including thrush, blackbird, and woodcock) and game meats (including boar and venison). They also season pork, cabbage, and sauerkraut dishes. Traditional recipes for chou croute garnie, an Alsatian dish of sauerkraut and meats, universally include juniper berries. Besides Norwegian and Swedish dishes, juniper berries are also sometimes used in German, Austrian, Czech, Polish and Hungarian cuisine, often with roasts (such as German sauerbraten). Northern Italian cuisine, especially that of the South Tyrol, also incorporates juniper berries.
  • A German study published in the international peer-reviewed journal “Natural Products Communications” in 2010 analysed the chemical composition of several essential oils, including oil from juniper berries. Juniper oil inhibited bacteria’s activity, showcasing its potential as an effective antibacterial tool. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16375831.
  • Because of its diuretic action and antimicrobial actions, juniper may prevent urinary tract infections by helping to flush out toxins and bacteria in the urinary system. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12672151.
  • The diuretic action of juniper has been attributed to terpinen-4-ol A – the 10% aqueous infusion of juniper exerted significant diuretic activity, suggesting that the diuretic effect is partly due to the essential oil and partly to hydrophilic constituents (Stanic, G, Samarzija, I, and Blazevic, N. Time-dependent diuretic response with juniper berry preparations. Phytother Res 1998;12:494-497)
  • The University of Michigan states one of the main benefits of bitter herbs is their ability to improve digestion. When you eat them, bitters cause saliva, digestive enzymes and stomach acid secretions to increase. This increase in the body fluids needed for digestion helps in the breakdown of food and, thus, improves digestion (Mascolo N and et al. Biological screening of Italian medicinal plants for anti-inflammatory activity. Phytother Res 1987;1:28-31).
  • Interestingly enough, the ancient Greeks recorded using juniper berries as a medicine long before mentioning their use of the berry in food. They also used the berries in many of their Olympic events because they believed that they helped increase physical stamina in athletes.
  • The essential oil present in this herb is quite stimulating to the kidney nephrons. Some texts warn that juniper oil may be a kidney irritant at higher doses. http://nonamenutrition.com/ns/DisplayMonograph.asp?StoreID=EXMVRHM35QFW8N06361K08Q58P2679H3&DocID=bottomline-juniper.
  • While generally recognized as safe, juniper berries may have various side effects that have not been tested extensively in clinical trials. Doses of more than a few berries or regular consumption may cause serious kidney damage. Nonetheless, people with serious kidney disease probably shouldn’t take juniper. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid use, mainly due to an increased risk of miscarriage, even in small doses. Caution is also advised in diabetics, as it might lower blood sugar, and in persons with bleeding disorders or after surgery. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-724-juniper.aspx?activeingredientid=724&activeingredientname=juniper

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