Juniper berry essential oil is distilled from the berry-like, female seed cones of Juniperus communis. It is commonly grown and distilled in the Balkans, France, and Italy. The “berries” are green when young and take two to three years to ripen to purple-black with a waxy-blue coating. This coating is actually wild yeast that may be used as a starter for sourdough bread.
Juniper is classified under the ancient Cupressaceae family, which includes the great sequoia redwood and cypress trees. This rugged conifer is 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. These essential oil rich cones are appealing to many birds who are the primary seed dispersing agents aiding juniper in its prolific distribution. Its form depends on its habitat: a low spreading shrub in harsher, exposed climates, more commonly as a tree-like shrub or less so as a tall tree upwards of 25 feet. Juniper abhors the shade and does best away from other plants.
Historically, the berry is the predominant flavoring for gin. The whole plant was used for purifying, fumigating and protecting. A traditional use of juniper medicine was to treat conditions of the bladder or kidneys (e.g., diuretic) and supposedly why juniper was added to alcohol (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 is a weathered, solitary soul; a giver of protection and knowledge who is neither boastful nor vain. The plant (including cones) was used through time and around many parts of the Northern Hemisphere to fortify the soul and purify physical space, the mind, and body.
Juniper essential oil is a warming stimulant, “mover of fluids”, and has an affinity for the following systems:
|Musculoskeletal & Circulatory||Aches and pains, tension, nerve pain, varicose veins, stimulating|
|Integumentary||Astringent, acne, oily skin, sluggish skin, infections, inflammation|
|Immune||Antiseptic, antiviral, purifying|
|Respiratory||Decongesting (moist mucus)|
|Nervous||Energizing, cleansing, fortifying, protective, spiritual purification|
|Urinary tract*||*Diuretic and urinary tract antiseptic; caution this is mainly with internal use and should only be used with proper instruction.|
Chemistry Highlights: Juniper berry essential oil is rich in monoterpenes (α-pinene and myrcene) supported by sequiterpenes.
Is Juniper Berry Essential Oil Safe?
Yes, although keep the following in-mind:
- Rich in monoterpenes, it is prone to oxidation which may lead to skin sensitization. Store monoterpene-rich oils in a cool place; keep air/head-space to a minimum and use within 1-2 years.
- Adulteration may be a problem: adulterated oils come across as aggressive whereas the genuine oil is gentle.
- *Those with kidney issues should avoid the oil, especially if considering an internal protocol. Prudent external and olfactory use is generally considered safe.
Blending with Juniper Essential Oil
Juniperus communis may first come across a bit sharp, pungent and zesty; qualities that linger and never leave. As the initial terpenic qualities step aside a subtle, seductive presence emerges and mellows: a mysterious, woody, soft and sweet soul. Quietly follow this solitary, ephemeral stranger to receive its full message: the oil communicates the maturity of its distilled berries, primordial lineage and protective, clearing nature.
The essence gently lures you inward, to yourself and the supportive space it provides. It is here you may safely release blockages and be yourself in the landscape of your life.
Juniper berry essential oil blends well with: The Rutaceae family (Citrus x paradise, Citrus limon), Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens), Cedarwood (Cedrus atlantica), Eucalyptus (E. globulus or E. radiata), Black Pepper (Piper nigrum) and many friends from the Lamiaceae family (e.g., Spanish Sage (Salvia lavandulifolia), Rosemary verbenone (Rosmarinus officinalis ct. verbenone)).
Creating Wellness Products with Juniper Berry
“Body odor” is the result of bacteria breaking down protein from your apocrine sweat glands into certain acids. It is not *necessarily* a result of sweat; our bodies are supposed to sweat. It’s a natural process and one of the ways we actually detox. Our beloved armpits have many lymph nodes and hair follicles. Massaging essential oils into this part of the body delivers the oils deep into the tissues and helps move lymph along its way.
This deodorant is intended to help with pH balance, tighten tissues/pores (astringent), and provide an anti-microbial environment. I chose to not use baking soda as it is irritating to some. I have used this simple mixture, with much satisfaction, wearing winter layers AND through a hot yoga class.
What you need to make 1 ounce by volume:
- Measuring cups/cylinders
- 1 ounce lidded jar or squeeze bottle with flip top
- Stirring rod or spoon
|Essential Oils and Carrier/Base Products||Purpose/Intention||Amount|
|Aloe (Aloe barbadensis) jelly||Soothing, penetrating, quick dry-down||22.5 ml|
|Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) hydrosol||Astringent, mild acid for pH balance||7 ml|
|Vitamin E||Antioxidant||0.5 ml|
|Juniper (Juniperus communis) essential oil||Astringent, detoxifying, antiseptic||12 drops|
|Bitter Orange Petitgrain (Citrus aurantium var amara) essential oil||Antibacterial, deodorant||5 drops|
|Geranium (Pelargonium graveolens) essential oil||Antimicrobial, astringent, deodorant||2 drops|
|Cistus (Cistus ladaniferus) essential oil||Antimicrobial, astringent||1 drop|
How to make:
Measure out the essential oils into your container, cap the container and shake to incorporate the oils. Let the oils sit for a few hours for the aromas to merge if you have time. Measure out the aloe jelly, hydrosol and vitamin E, add them to the container, cap and shake vigorously to incorporate. Label appropriately.
How to use:
Apply a very small amount to each under-arm as needed. Take time to rub the mixture into the under-arm and think about how you are stimulating your lymph! Store capped. Re-apply as desired.
Click here for another deodorant idea.
Honey-Oat Detox & Cellulite Scrub
Try out this simple scrub to revive dull skin and move sluggishness in the lymph and fascia (cellulite). These base ingredients are readily available, waiting for you to combine them into a soothing, detoxing, and lymph moving experience.
What you need to create approximately 8 oz.:
- Non-reactive mixing bowls (e.g., glass, ceramic, stainless steel)
- Non-reactive spoon or a whisk (e.g., stainless steel, wooden)
- Measuring cups & spoons
- 8 oz. container with lid
|Essential Oils and Carrier/Base Products||Purpose/Intention||Amount|
|Juniper (Juniperus communis) essential oil||Astringent, detoxifier, stimulating||10 drops|
|Cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) essential oil||Astringent, detoxifier, nervous system restorative||10 drops|
|Mandarin (Citrus reticulata) essential oil||Detoxifier||15 drops|
|Carrot seed (Daucus carota) essential oil||Detoxing, cell regenerative||5 drops|
|Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) ct verbenone essential oil||Cell regenerative, stimulating||5 drops|
|Honey||Humectant, antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory||2 tbsp|
|Fixed oil of your choice (e.g., coconut, sunflower, olive)||Emollient||2 tbsp|
|Sugar (preferably organic)||Exfoliate, slightly acidic to support acid mantle, may act as preservative||½ cup|
|Ground oatmeal (Note: either grind up your own using a food mill/processor or purchase oat flower or colloidal oatmeal)||Soften skin, mild exfoliate, anti-inflammatory||1/3 cup|
How to make:
Measure out the wet ingredients into the bowl and stir/whisk well to fully combine the two (consider using a mixer with a whisk attachment). Add the essential oils into the wet ingredients and mix well to incorporate. 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Cooking with Juniper Berries!!
Cooking with the actual aromatic plants is a beautiful way to get to know the plant, support your health and add variety to your cooking.
Juniper berry pairs nicely with bay, black pepper, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme and others herbs you probably cook with. I often use it in soup stocks with, or in lieu of, bay laurel. Crush them before using for a more intense flavor, or use whole for a subtler experience. You cannot go wrong by adding juniper to a stock or soup base: use 2-4 crushed berries for every 8 cups of water. Adjust the amount used once you are used to cooking with juniper.
Note: if you choose to wild harvest juniper berry, do your research to ensure you are picking EDIBLE juniper, as some varieties are poisonous.
Be with the plants in their many forms, take their messages and let them guide you. Happy blending and creating!
Written by: Amy Anthony
(Aromatic Studies Instructor)
Amy Anthony B.A, is a certified Aromatherapist with a private practice in Manhattan, NY. Her focus is on customized aromatherapy and education: she consults with clients and teaches workshops at the NYIOA and around the NY metro area. Amy also enjoys formulating and devising delivery methods that encourage the safe, practical use of aromatherapy—like fizzing bath balls, shower bars and sleep mists.
Amy has been a gardener since the age of 5 and has continually found ways to connect with plants since moving to NYC in 1999. Her knowledge of plants brings a holistic, plant-based approach to her teaching and practice of aromatherapy. Amy is also a certified master composter, has volunteered at Saint George’s Common Table since 2012 and is a trained doula. More can be found about her aromatherapy practice at http://nycaroma.com.