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Juniper Berry

Juniper Berry

Dear Friends,

Different species of juniper abound in the USA. Juniperus virginina/Virginia cedarwood, Juniperus occidentalis/Western juniper and Juniperus ashei/Texas Cedarwood yield essential oils which are still produced in substantial quantities. But there are other species of juniper that exist here and the plant has held a revered place in the lives of the Native American people since times beyond memory. The tree and shrub had a special place in the lives of the people.. You can read more about the sacred value of this plant on these sites:
http://molbio.nmsu.edu:81/medplant/juniper1.html http://www.kstrom.net/isk/food/juniptri.html

Study and heart felt appreciation of sacred traditions of ancient cultures fills the heart with a unique type of understanding and appreciation of plants and their wonderous gifts. No doubt we are all influenced a great deal by the specific environments and times in which we live but the sublime message of plants is such that the heart can resonate with people and places they have never seen allowing a more universal awareness to penetrate ones being. Another member of the Juniperus genus is Juniperus communis. It is the most widely distributed tree in the world and so one can say from an aromatic standpoint it has almost universal appeal to those who love and cherish the fragrance of the heartwood, needles and berries. This article is focused on the oils produced from its berries with special reference to the Europeran and Himalayan oils.

Thy swelling mountains, brown with solemn shade
Of various trees, that wave their giant arms
O'er the rough sons of freedom; lofty pines,
And hardy fir, and ilex ever green,
And spreading chesnut, with each humbler plant,
And shrub of fragrant leaf, that clothes their sides
With living verdure; whence the clustering bee
Extracts her golden dews: the shining box,
And sweet-leaved myrtle, aromatic thyme,
The prickly juniper, and the green leaf
Which feeds the spinning worm; while glowing bright
Beneath the various foliage, wildly spreads
The arbutus, and rears his scarlet fruit
Luxuriant, mantling o'er the craggy steeps;
And thy own native laurel crowns the scene.
Barbauld, Mrs. (Anna Letitia), 1743-1825: CORSICA. [from The Works (1825)]

Legends and Lore
Juniper Juniperus spp. According to legend, the Juniper tree was used, when in the Flight from Egypt, the infant Jesus was saved from King Herod. It has been associated with being able to ward off illness, negative forces and evil. Juniper was burned in ancient Sumeria and Babylonia as sacrifice to the gods. It was sacred to Inanna and to her later counterpart Ishtar. In Europe, Juniper branches were smouldered and carried around fields to protectlivestock. A goblin of the Jupiter tree, called ~Frau Wachholder~ was invoked to make thieves return the goods they had stolen. This female demon could be approached if the person had lost something belonging to them. In Wales, it is believed that cutting down a Juniper tree will result in the woodcutter's death the following year. Juniper was widely used by different Native American groups. In the language of flowers Juniper symbolizes Perfect loveliness;Succour; Protection.

Juniper in Folklore (Information is provided for cultural interest, not as a recommendation for treatment of disease)

F Marian McNeill(7) records that in the Scottish Highlands on New Year¹s morning, juniper was burned in both house and byre to purify buildings and inhabitants. This is echoed by the tradition in some parts of Cornwall and Brittany of using juniper wood in the Beltane fires, between which cattle and other livestock were driven as a means of purification. Frazer(8) reports that throughout Central Europe there was a custom of burning juniper berries in the house in the three days leading up to Beltane so as to fumigate the house and welcome summer, while it has also been reported that in Aberdeenshire in NE Scotland and in what is now Czechoslovakia juniper berries were used to fumigate stables to expel demons and other unwanted guests. There was also a folk medicine custom in some parts of the South West of England of burning the wood and needles close to a sick person. This practice is closely allied to the above New Year customs and presumably recognises that the vapourised oil released into the air had some beneficial purifying effect to dispel infection. Like many plants, there was a definite ritual which had to be followed when pulling or collecting juniper so that the power and essence of the plant was not lost. In the case of juniper, it had to be pulled up by the roots, the branches made into four bundles and held between the five fingers while intoning the appropriate incantation. Unfortunately the version which has been passed down to us has been heavily Christianised(7):
"I will pull the bounteous yew,
Through the five bent ribs of Christ,
In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost
Against drowning, danger and confusion."

Folk tradition records a divinatory significance to the appearance of juniper in dreams, for: "it is unlucky to dream of the tree itself, especially if the person is sick; but to dream of gathering the berries, if it be in winter, denotes prosperity. To dream of the actualberries signifies that the dreamer will shortly arrive at great honours and become an important person. To the married it foretellsthe birth of a male child."(9) The largest body of folklore concerning juniper comes from Iceland where it was traditionally believed that juniper and rowan could not grow together because each creates so much heat that one or other of the trees would be burn up. For the same reason it was considered not a good idea to bring sprigs of both woods into the house together unless you particularly wanted your house to burn down. Another Icelandic belief has it that if you are building a boat, you must either use both juniper and rowan wood or use neither of them in the boat, otherwise it will sink. In Wales it was said that anyone who cut down a juniper tree would be dead within a year, while in Newfoundland it was believed that wolves and bears are repelled by juniper wood and for this reason people who kept stock would ensure that juniper wood was used in building enclosures or stockades in whichlivestock would be kept. Also in Newfoundland it is believed that you will always find water under a juniper tree, though this seems to contradict the natural history of juniper which, as mentioned above, generally growsbest on limestone or chalk soils which are usually well-drained.

Description- Simple
but complete Leaf: Persistent, linear-lanceolate (sword-like), about 1/3 to 1/2 inch long, and ternate (arranged in whorls of 3); white stomatal bloom above and green below; sessile (no petiole). Flower: Mostly dioecious, rarely monoecious; male cones small, yellow and solitary; female cones small, round and solitary. Fruit: Cones are small (about 1/4 inch diameter) and round with smooth, leathery scales; green when young and bluish-black when mature, but always covered with white bloom. Require 3 growing seasons to mature. Twig: Slender, smooth, and often shiny;
triangular between the nodes.
Bark: Mature bark is thin (less than 1/4 inch thick), shreddy, and red- to gray-brown. Form: Most commonly grow as prostrate, mat-forming shrubs, but sometimes as upright shrubs or small trees. http://www.cnr.vt.edu/dendro/dendrology/syllabus/Jcommunis.htm

Juniperus communis L. is a coniferous evergreen shrub or a small columnar tree, multistemmed, decumbent or rarely upright. The crown is generally depressed. It grows very slowly. The morphological characteristics including growth form differ somewhat according to variety. Adventitious root development can occur when branches come in contact with the ground become buried. Juniper has a thin, brown, fibrous bark which exfoliates in thin strips. The branches are spreading or ascending; branchlets are erect. Twigs are yellowish or green when young, turn brown and harden with age. The leaves are simple, stiff and arranged in whorls of three with pungent odour. They are green but sometimes appearing silver when glaucous, spreading; abaxial glands are very elongate. The adaxial surface has a glaucous stomatal band. The apex is acute to obtuse, mucronate. Young leaves tend to be more needlelike whereas mature leaves are scalelike. The fruits are berrylike seed cones. They have straight peduncles and are of globose to ovoid shape, 6-13 mm, red at first, ripening to a glaucous bluish black, resinous to obscurely woody. Male stroboli are sessile or stalked, and female strobili are made up of green, ovate or acuminate scales. Juniper berries take two or three years to ripen, so that blue and green berries occur on the same plant. Each cone has 2-3 seeds of 4-5 mm. The seeds require a period of coldstratification. 2n=22. Individuals can live for more than 170 years.

superb botanical drawing
another great botanical drawing

Products & uses

Juniper is used for flavouring food (sauerkraut, stuffings, vegetable pates etc.) and beverages (tea, gin). The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. The wood is fine grained, durable, and reddish with white sapwood but currently it has no commercial value. It could be used for different purposes: fuel (especially for pellet-stoves), firewood, fenceposts, cement and particle boards, wall board, cordwood housing, parquet, paper, chemical derivatives, activated carbon and small wood items. Juniper wood has an outstanding ability of resisting decay and insects even when exposed to the soil. This resinous wood yields much more tar than drier ones. Therefore, juniper wood should make an excellent wood preservative. There are different problems concerning the use of juniper wood: The trees often develop an irregular and unsymmetrical growth making the production of some products more difficult. Another problem is the thick and cracked bark which contains dust and sand and even forms enclosures within the solid wood. A possible solution should be to first chip the complete wood right after the harvesting and then remove the bark chips from the mixture. Juniper is highly valued as an ornamental shrub. It provides good ground cover even on stony orsandy sites. In rehabilitation of disturbed sites, common juniper has low value for short-term projects but moderate to high value for long-term projects (Dittberner & Olson 1983). Juniperus communis L. may be also used as insect repellent and in cosmetic industry.


Food Uses
Juniper is an important spice in many European cuisines, especially in Alpine regions, where juniper grows abundantly. It is the only example of a spice in the botanic group of the coniferae, and also one of the few examples of spices from cold climatic regions, though the best quality stems from Southern European countries. Juniper is much used in the traditional cuisine of Central Europe, e.g. for the Southern German speciality Sauerkraut. For its preparation, fresh cabbage is preserved by lactic fermentation and seasoned with juniper, caraway and maybe a few bay leaves. The taste then develops during aging in large wooden barrels. Sauerkraut can either be eaten raw (as a kind of salad), or be cooked or fried (often together with small cubes of ham) to be served as a side dish; there are also dumplings stuffed with it. Juniper's main application is, however, meat; it is felt indispensable for venison and combines well with black pepper, marjoram and laurel berries. Juniper berries, rightly called cones, should be crushed immediately before use. Although harmless to healthy people, their use is discouraged for people with kidney weakness and pregnant women.

Collection of the Berries-
Juniper berries are collected in a simple way. Harvesters carefully beat the branches of the bush with sticks, until the ripe(two year old) berries drop into baskets or unto sheets placed beneath the bush. Green(one year old) berries remain on the branches and may be collected the following year. In the late afternoon the harvested material is transported to the nearest village where the berries are sifted, winnowed, and spread out in a thin layer on floors for drying in the sun or under a shed. Care must be taken to prevent fermentation, which easily takes place if the fresh berries are kept in sacks. Any berries damaged by fermentation are sold at a discount, because they possess inferior flavor and poor appearance.
Ernest Guenther, Volume 6 Essential Oils

Distillation of Essential Oil-
The essential oil of juniper berries now being offered on the market originates in either of the following ways:

1. The bulk of today's juniper oil is a by-product in the distillation of the avove mentioned alchoholic 'Borovicka' beverages popular in Slaic countries and Steinhager liquores well known in Germany and Austria. These beverages are produced in numerous small and medium sized distilleries, particularly in Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia,Hungary and the Tyrol. For this purpose the berries of Juniperus communis are crushed, immersed in warm water and fermented. After completion of the fermentation proces, the mass is pumpled into a still provided with stirring device and a short
rectification column, and is distilled with constant stirring. The distillate consists of a mixtureof water, alcohol and essential oil. The crude distillated is then rectified until an alcoholic liquor containingfrom 40-50 per cent of alcohol is obtained . Being only slightly soluble in 50 per cent alcohol, most of the essential oil contained in the distillate spearates in the receiver as a distinct layer, and must be removed. Small and medium-sized distilleries sell their juniper oil, obtained as a by-product, to the larger distilleries, which bulk the numerous small lots, and usually submit the bulking to final rectification. This type of oil thus obtained constitutes the large part of commercial juniper oil, particulary that offered on the American market. Depending upon the
quality of the berries, and the method of fermentation and rectification employed, 1000 kilos of juniper berries yeild from 16-18 liters of alcoholic beverage(containing 50 per cent alcohol) and from 5-6 kilos of essential oil. In judging the quality of this oil, it should be kept in mind that during the distillation the essential oil separating in the receive is actually submitted to extraction with aqueous-alcoholic medium containing 40-50 per cent of alcohol. Certain constituents of the oil, and particularly the more easily soluble, oxygentated(and incidentally most valuable) odifereous components
will go into the solution. In fact, the finished alcoholic beverage owes its characteristic flavor to the constitutents which have been extracted from the oil. The essential oil, on the other hand, will be partly deprived of these oxygenated components, and will consist chiefly of terpenes insoluble in 40-50
per cent alcohol.
2. The best quality of juniper berry is obtained by regular distillation of the berries, without any previous alcoholic fermentation. Depending upon the
quality and origin of the berries, the yield in this case ranges from 0.8 to 1.6 per cent. Italian and good Hungarian berries give the best yield, those from
the cold, northern countries the lowest yield. General description of Juniper Berry Oil Juniper Berry Oil(steam distilled from fruits i.e not as by
product of liquor industry)

Physical characteristics:
water-white or very pale yellow mobile oil
Olfactory characteristics:
fresh, yet warm, rich-balsamic, woody-sweet and pine-needle-like odor

Perfumery Uses-Juniper Berry oil is used in perfumry for its fresh-balsamic notes, as a modifier for various pine needle oils(with which it blends very well) with citrus oils in room spray erfumes, in ambres, fougeres, chypres, after-shave fragrances, spice compositions, colognes, etc. Labdanum absolute is a excellent fixative for juniperberry oil. Other fixatives and blenders are mastic, poponax, fir needle absolute, oakmoss products, elemi resinoid, illurin balsam, cypress oil, sage clary, borneol....lanvandin oil, lavandin concrete, lovage oil, benzoin resinoid...etc Steffen Arctander

Specific notes-
Juniper Berry Oil/India and Juniper Berry Oil/Hungary both fit Arctander's description They are both water-white mobile liquids. The fresh, tingly resinous warm topnote of the Hungarian oil seems a bit more pronounced. As the topnote recedes both oils begin to display the incredibly delightful balsamic, precious woods notes intermingled with the green resinous pine needle bouquet. As the Indian oil evolves it presents more of the rich precious woody notes whereas the Hungarian oil displays more of the resinous pinaceous ones. Both are rich and delicious. The topnotes while delightful in their own right are only a prelude to retreat into a sublime olfactory forest retreat. An complex incense of transculture dimensions. Further note- The above two oils are richest in their top and heart notes and do not display any special or pronounced ones in the base notes.
The Juniper Berry CO2 extract/Europe The C02 Select presents a very soft sweet balasamic smooth and round bouquet. Distinctly different in its olfactory profile than the steam distilled oils from India and Hungary. A soft resinous bouquet begins to reveal itself in the heart notes. There is an almost vanilla like nuance pervading both top and middle notes Very refined and subtle throughout

Constituents of Essential Oil
Juniper berries owe their use to an essential oil, content 0.2 to 2% dependent on provenance e.g. Hungarian berries contain 1.2% and German berries only 0.7%. The essential oil is mainly composed of monoterpenes: 80% alpha- and beta-pinene, thujene, sabinene, 5% terpinene-4-ol, alpha-terpineol, borneol and geraniol; sesqiterpenes (alpha- and beta-cadinen, caryophyllene) are found in traces. http://www.naturedirect2u.com/Essential%20oils/juniper.htm

exhaustive list of phytochemicals

Fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment;
I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante's paradise could equal it. One breathes of juniper smoke like the
perfume of sagebrush after rain evokes a magical catalyst, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and
piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.(3)
Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey