A “Berry” By Any Other Name Would Not Smell As Sweet
Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) is classified in the ancient Cupressaceae family, which includes Cypress trees and the great Sequoia Redwoods. Although appreciated for its wood and leaves, Juniper’s sweet smelling and bitter “berries” are what many of us desire from this ancestral being. Common Juniper is believed to be the most widespread of all conifers in the world; found throughout the northern hemisphere from the Arctic south to approximately 30N latitude in both eastern and western hemispheres. Their essential oil rich cones (i.e., “berries”) are appealing to many birds who are the primary seed dispersing agents aiding Juniper in its prolific distribution. I’m often amazed by the amount berries that may adorn a single female tree! Such proliferations make sense given how Juniper’s germination rates are “low and long”.
Form Follows Function
Juniper abhors the shade and does best away from other plants, which is telling of their “pioneering” preferences. Pioneers such as Juniper and other members of the Cypress family are often the first trees to inhabit exposed land. Juniper’s form depends on its habitat. Although it often grows as a low spreading shrub in harsher, exposed climates it more commonly grows as a tree-like shrub or tall tree upwards of 25 feet. Take a look at Juniper and note its short, prickly-dense-stiff needles. Survival techniques such as these fortify Juniper against the extreme situations it may encounter such as exposed sites in general, scorching sun, harsh winds, desiccation and more. Such survival strategies enable some of these beings to live past 170 years of age.
A Flavorful Cleanser and Purifier
Historically, Juniper’s berry is the predominant and legal (!) flavoring for gin. The whole plant was used for purifying, fumigating and protecting people and places by myriad cultures across the northern hemisphere. A traditional use of Juniper berry was for treating conditions of the bladder or kidneys (e.g., diuretic) and supposedly why Juniper was added to alcohol, namely gin. Dioscorides wrote of Juniper’s utility for a “gaseousness and griping stomach,” a diuretic, and those with “congested or blocked wombs.” John Gerard described similar uses of the plant as well as using the smoke of leaves and wood to drive away “serpents, plague and corruption in the air.”
Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper berry essential oil is distilled from the slightly dried yet unfermented “berry-like”, female seed cones of Juniperus communis. It is commonly grown and distilled in the Balkans (e.g., Bosnia), France and Italy among several other countries for its berries to be used for medicine, flavoring and fragrance. The “berries” are green when young and mature to a gorgeous purple-black color with a waxy-blue coating in approximately 18 months. The coating is a wild yeast that may be used as a starter for sourdough bread and kickstarts fermentation.
Impressions & Personality of Juniper Berry Essential Oil
Juniper is a weathered, solitary soul; a giver of protection and knowledge who is neither boastful nor vain. The plant (including cones) was used though time and around many parts of the Northern Hemisphere to fortify the soul and purify physical space, the mind and body.
Juniper berry’s effect on the body is one of stimulation and elimination. An immediate “quickening” is sparked in the body upon encountering its volatile molecules. Its effects are first concentrated then dispersive through elimination channels. The cheeks (digestion) and lower abdomen are stimulated in tandem: molecules stimulate the lower abdomen (e.g., bladder, uterus) within the first 30 seconds of an olfactory experience. Interestingly, there is little noticeable immediate activity occurring in the body between the jaw and the depth of the lower abdomen. Juniper’s stimulating spark firstly pushes inward and downward yet the mind is simultaneously cleared & stilled. Breathing is enhanced and after a few minutes the molecules are always almost too drying on the mouth. Remember: Juniper moves water. (Juniper’s clarifying energy is partially due to its affinity for stimulating fluid downward and out.)
Juniper goes as deeply into the soul as it does the physical body. Your dan t’ian. Juniper berry essential oil’s actions on the body clarify the mind so we may engage with the world through receptively observational objectivity and impartial judgement. Like the berry’s waxy and tough exterior, it does not allow ideas and actions to be absorbed like a limpid sponge. We glean ability to actively listen and exercise impartial discernment without unnecessary urgency when wearing Juniper’s mantle. This is part of its benevolent wisdom.
Juniperus communis essential oil greets you with fresh, airy and warmly drying notes. Piney aromas first dominate supported by a slightly bitter yet floral subtilty which softens accompanying terpenic-gasoline notes. A further layer of green-floral-citrus resin and sappy wood is revealed as the pine settles. Bright pinecone and sappy-green are unveiled as the middle dries down. Its warm deep tenderness is heartbreaking as the dry down sinks in. A seductive, soft, woody and sweet soul is left bare after top notes dissipate. The lasting impression is rich, balsamic, sweet and warm. You are left floating on a carpet of sumptuously deep cedar and whispers of floral-fruity-jam.
The oil communicates the maturity of its distilled berries, primordial lineage and protective, clearing nature through its aromatic molecules. Juniper has gentle masculine energy, a kind that allows you to strip away unneeded baggage to be yourself. The essence gently carries you inward, to yourself and the protective space it provides. It is here you may safely release blockages and find the patience & strength to be yourself.
Considerations Around Juniper Berry Essential Oil
• Adulteration may be a problem: adulterated or rectified oils come across as aggressive whereas the genuine oil is gentle with many subtle aromatic notes.
• Essential oil obtained from fresh, slightly dried and unfermented berries is sweet, fresh, vibrant and deeply rich. Whereas berry oil including needles & twigs is sharper and more terpenic, reminiscent of gasoline often “flat” and lacks aromatic complexity.
• *SAFETY: Those with kidney issues should avoid the essential oil, especially if considering an internal protocol. Prudent (e.g., SHORT TERM, LOW DILUTION) external and olfactory use is generally considered safe.
Affinities and Usage Applications for Juniper Berry Essential Oil
The overall theme of Juniperus communis berry essential oil has an overall theme of cleansing & moving. On a high level it is a warming stimulant, “mover of fluids” and detoxifier. Immediately moving & simulating, even through olfaction, it moves wet, dankness out of the body via lymph, skin, respiration and urination. Below are note-worthy affinities, though this does not highlight all indications; e.g., it is also excellent for very wet, stuck respiratory conditions, pain management and digestive issues like dyspepsia.
- Nervous system: Energizing, cleansing, fortifying, protective, spiritual & physical purification. It removes wet, dank stagnation in the mind-body-spirit-atmosphere.
- Consider blending with woods (Cedrus deodora or C. atlantica), resins such as Palo Santo and Elemi and citrus such as Combava (Citrus hystrix) peel.
- Detoxing & Lymph: An overall decongesting stimulant. As noted above: “moves dankness out of the body via lymph, skin and urination.” For Immune support it is an overall antiseptic and antiviral.
- Consider blending with any Rosemary verbenone, Carrot seed and any of the citrus fruits, especially Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
- Skin care: Its overall astringent, wound healing, drying and moving qualities are beneficial for conditions such as acne and weeping eczema. These qualities also help with oily skin and excessive sweating.
- Consider blending with: Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens), Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var amara leaf), Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha) and Carrot Seed (Daucus carota).
- Urinary tract: Diuretic and urinary tract antiseptic & stimulant. Stimulation may be felt in the lower abdomen through pure olfaction!
- Note: overall urinary support is mainly through internal use via herbal preparations and should only be used with proper instruction (*See Above Cautions)
- Consider blending with essential oils of Lemon (Citrus limon), Monarda (Monarda fistulosa), Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) and herbal preparations of the aforementioned plants plus Uva-ursi, Dandelion leaf, Marshmallow root and Corn silk.
Aromatherapy in Practice: Juniper Berry
Space Clearing Mist
Harness the power of Junipers detoxifying and clarifying properties into a space clearing mist. This mist goes beyond moods! Use it for cleaning the air and in space clearing ceremonies when moving into a new home, after an argument and on the Spring Equinox. (Other oils to consider are Palo Santo, Combava peel, Cedrus deodora and Melissa or Lemon Verbena depending on your intention.)
- 11 drops Juniper berry (Juniperus communis) essential oil
- 7 drops Elemi (Canarium luzonicum) essential oil
- 2 drops Ravensara (Ravensara aromatica) essential oil
How to make: Click here to read more about Aromatic Spritzers! Combine the oils into a 1 ounce spray bottle (preferably glass). Affix the spray top and gently shake the bottle to combine the oils. Optionally, allow the oils to sit together for 24 hours. Add distilled water to fill the bottle. Apply a label (i.e., name, ingredients, date) and remember to shake before using to disperse the essential oils.
Are you looking for an alternative to the usual stick and baking soda type deodorant? Check out the recipe in this blog post which features Juniper berry essential oil.
Honey-Oat Detox Scrub
Revive dull skin and move sluggishness in the lymph and fascia (cellulite) with this invigorating scrub. These base ingredients are readily available, waiting for you to combine them into a soothing, detoxing and lymph moving experience. (Read more about making your own scrubs!)
What you need to make approximately 8 oz. of Sugar Scrub:
- Mixing bowls
- Spoon or a whisk
- Measuring cups & spoons
- 8 oz. container with lid
- 15 drops Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi) essential oil
- 10 drops Juniper (Juniperus communis) essential oil
- 10 drops Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) essential oil
- 5 drops Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) ct verbenone essential oil
- (Optional) 5 drops Carrot seed (Daucus carota) essential oil
- 2 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp Fixed oil of your choice (e.g., sunflower, olive)
- 1/2 cup Sugar (preferably fine texture & organic)
- 1/3 cup Ground oatmeal
How to make: Measure out the wet ingredients into the bowl and stir/whisk well to fully combine the two. Add the essential oils into the wet ingredients and mix well to incorporate. Finally incorporate the sugar, followed by the ground oatmeal. Mix well to minimize clumping and ensure wet ingredients are absorbed into the dry ingredients. Transfer the mixture to a lidded container. Label appropriately.
How to use: Wet your skin in the shower to ensure it is damp. Shut off the water. Place some of the mixture (start with ~1 tbsp.) in your wet palms and rub them together to “activate” the mixture. Massage the scrub in a circular motion all over thighs & buttocks (for cellulite) and other areas that need stimulating and softening—ensure you vigorously massage each target area for at least 30 seconds. Leave on for 3-5 minutes. Consider spending that time conditioning hair, applying a face masque, even shaving if that’s something you do. Massage the scrub off in circular motions under the shower stream when you’re ready to rinse off.
Notes About Sugar Scrubs:
- Ensure you keep water out of the scrub by limiting contact with your hands and keeping the container’s lid on when not in-use; believe me, mold WILL grow.
- Although the scrub is rather shelf stable, consider making one batch at a time as the product is used in a damp environment, which breeds bacteria & fungi.
- Do not over-exfoliate your body: use 1x/week if you have sensitive skin and up to 3x/week for those with less sensitive skin.
Thank you for spending time with Juniper Berry and me.
McKeon, Colin. Juniperus communis: Revisiting use of common juniper for modern culinary usese & producing drought resistant cultivars for evolving markets.