The juniper berries are obtained from the plant scientifically known as Juniperus communis. It is an evergreen shrub that grows in many parts of the world, especially in North America, Europe and Asia.
This plant produces seed cones that are known as juniper berries. Although the color of the berries varies depending on the variety, the vast majority have an intense blue color. As for the flavor, they have an acidic pine flavor and are usually used, in small quantities, to extol dishes such as spice or flavoring agent.
Although juniper berries have almost always been used for culinary purposes, the latest research also gives it properties, and current trials suggest various health benefits.
In this article we are going to analyze 5 potential benefits of juniper berries for our body.
Benefits of juniper berries
1. High nutrient content and potent plant compounds
There is not much information regarding the nutritional composition of juniper berries, although it does have enough concentration in vitamins and biologically active plant compounds.
As with other berries, they have a high concentration in vitamin C, since a serving of 28 grams provides 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).
This vitamin is essential to ensure immune system, produce collagen and ensure the functionality of blood vessels. It is also a great antioxidant source, reducing damage caused by free radicals.
Read more: nutritional benefits of acerola.
Black-in-law berries also contain many plant compounds related to antioxidants, such as flavonoids, volatile oils and coumarins, which are chemical compounds with various protective effects.
The volatile oils present in juniper berries contain substances called monoterpenes, including limonene, camphor and beta-pinene.
The consumption of these monoterpenes has been linked to anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant and antibacterial activity. [Pharmacological properties of monoterpenes]
In addition, the coumarins and the flavonoids they also provide a wide variety of health benefits. In fact, a diet rich in these foods helps protect us against chronic diseases, including cardiac and neurodegenerative diseases.
2. Antibacterial and antifungal activity
Test-tube and animal studies conclude that the intake of juniper berries offers antibacterial (bacteria) and antifungal (fungal) activity. Such effects are attributed to the presence of biologically active compounds such as sabinene, limonene, myrcene and alpha-pinene.
In several clinical studies, juniper essential oil demonstrated antibacterial and antifungal effects against 16 species of bacteria, yeasts, fungi and dermatophytes. The species that offered the best results with the treatment of juniper berries was in species such as the genus Candida, causing fungal infections in the mouth and vaginal
The extract of the berries also has antibacterial effects against bacteria such as Campylobacter jejuni , which causes habitual poisoning in food, as well as Staphylococcus aureus, another bacterium that causes skin infections and airway problems.
Finally, it is necessary to study whether the positive effects obtained in a specimen can be interpolated in humans with the same success rate.
3. Source of antioxidants with anti-inflammatory activity
Foods with antioxidants are essential to ensure a healthy life, as they are able to reduce oxidative damage at the cellular level that cause other processed foods and with the presence of free radicals.
Juniper berries contain essential oils and flavonoids that have antioxidant activity can reduce inflammatory processes.
A scientific study detected more than 70 compounds in juniper berries, among the most important some such as the following:
The study found that extracts from juniper berries limited cell damage by increasing the activity of the enzymes catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase.
The main role of these enzymes is protect cells from free radical damage. In turn, these compounds greatly reduced inflammation in human skin cells, an effect the researchers attributed to the oil’s high presence of monoterpenes.
Juniper berries are also rich in flavonoids, rutin, luteolin and apigenin, which according to different studies conducted on animals and humans, have been shown to be antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents. [Antidegenerative effect of different compounds]
4. Heart Health Benefit
Juniper berries improve cardiovascular health by increasing levels of HDL cholesterol, known as good cholesterol. In turn, it also manages to reduce high levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol.
A study in rats with diabetes showed that treatment with juniper berry extract lowered total cholesterol levels by 57% and triglyceride levels by 37%, compared to a control group. [Hypoglycemic Effects of Chinese Juniper]
More applications and evaluation of responses in humans are still needed to confirm that those obtained in rats can be matched in humans.
5. May have anti-diabetic properties
Juniper berries were used as a resource in traditional medicine to treat diabetes. Modern studies confirm these anti-diabetic properties.
A study conducted in rats with diabetes determined that supplementation with juniper berry extract significantly reduced the concentration of sugar in the blood and increased the level of HDL cholesterol.
Similarly, another study on the diabetes effects of juniper berries found that it significantly reduced blood sugar levels, as well as cholesterol and triglyceride levels in diabetic rats.
Medical opinion believes that the positive effects against diabetes are due to the high presence of antioxidants. However, while these findings portend good future results, more research is needed for their application in humans.
Common uses of juniper berries
Juniper berries are usually used only in small quantities, either to flavor some dishes or as a spice. Its taste is quite astringent. For example, juniper berries are used to increase the flavor of marinades and in beverages such as gin.
They are usually marketed dry, either whole or pulverized, although they can also be purchased fresh in specialized stores.
Something to keep in mind is that they exist various types of junipers, and not all of them can be eaten. Juniper essential oil is also used in aromatherapy and is said to be soothing. Keep in mind that essential oils should not be ingested.
In addition, juniper berry tea can be purchased in infusion bags, from crushed berries.
Dosage and precautions
Juniper berry supplements and extracts can be purchased in various specialty stores and herbalists.
You should be careful that most of the advantages discussed and the scientific assumptions have been tested in the laboratory and animals, but not in humans. Therefore, there is a complete ignorance of the ideal dose of juniper.
Most juniper berry supplement labels recommend taking from 1 to 6 grams per day in total, spaced in different doses.
These supplements are not appropriate for children and should be avoided in pregnant women, as juniper berries are considered uterine stimulants and can cause miscarriages with high concentrations.
Juniper berry-based supplements may also have interaction with some medicines diuretics.
In any case, always talk to your medical specialist before introducing a new supplement into the diet.