Prep School Daily: Herbal Medicine – Juniper

Jennifer at Prep School Daily writes some nice, informative posts on a variety of preparedness-related topics. Here are a couple on using Juniper as medicine.

Herbal Medicine: Juniper Part I

Herbal Medicine: Juniper Part II

Juniper is another phenomenal antibiotic, and it is so easy to locate. Especially here at my house on Juniper Ridge (really, that’s what it says on the local topographical map), where we have hundreds of juniper trees.  It grows everywhere between the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada Mountains, so I tend to think it just grows everywhere.  But it’s also a really common landscaping shrub.  So if you don’t actually have trees near you, maybe you can find some of the low-growing varieties in a shopping center parking lot or on school grounds.    There are something like 50 or 60 or 70 species of juniper; all can be used medicinally.  The juniper berry of some varieties is quite similar in size and color to a blueberry, but most are smaller than a blueberry and much duskier in appearance, at least until they are washed and dried.

Bulk Juniper Berries, Whole | Buy Juniper Berry | Spice Jungle
My juniper berries look like this, not the big pretty ones you see pictured everywhere else online.

But don’t get too excited about eating these berries.  Sure, you can eat them.  They just aren’t all that sweet or juicy or filling, any of those things that we really like about blueberries and blackberries and strawberries.  The juniper berry isn’t actually a berry.  It’s a seed cone.  A baby tree.  And that’s exactly what the green, unripe berries taste like.  The old, dried berries taste like dead trees.  The bluish/purplish ones, the ones you want for medicine and eating (if you really want to eat them) have the tiniest amount of flesh on them that if you think really hard about while chewing on might just have a hint of fruitiness about them.

However, juniper berries do have their own grand purposes in life.  Some would say their greatest use is as gin, and indeed juniper berries were historically used to sanitize medical equipment (more on that in another post).  Juniper is employed in so many ways and for so many conditions that we’ll need a few posts to cover them all.

Junipers of the western United States were widely used by Native Americans in treating many medical conditions, especially those related to the urinary tract, digestive tract, and skin.

Time to harvest:  Berries–in the fall, after the first frost and the berries have turned blue/purple, and before they start to shrivel.  Berries develop on the tree for two to three years; green berries should not be used…