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Medicinal Benefits of Juniper Berries
by Erica Kannall
Eating more juniper berries may help improve digestion and prevent disease.
You probably know the piney flavor of juniper berries from their use in flavoring gin, but you may not know that they have a wide variety of medicinal benefits. To obtain these benefits, it's best to take juniper in tincture form or use it in cooking to flavor meats and sauces. Incorporating it into your diet may reduce your risk of disease and improve your overall health. The University of Michigan does warn against excessive consumption of juniper, as it may cause kidney irritation.
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If heartburn and indigestion are a problem for you, juniper could help ease your discomfort. Juniper is one of a group of herbs referred to as bitters or astringents because of their somewhat bitter flavor. The University of Michigan states one of the main benefits of bitter herbs is their ability to improve digestion. When you eat them, bitters cause saliva, digestive enzymes and stomach acid secretions to increase. This increase in the body fluids needed for digestion helps in the break down of food and, thus, improves digestion.
In addition to improving overall digestion, eating juniper berries may relieve symptoms of bloating and water retention. According to the University of Michigan, juniper is a diuretic, meaning it increases urine output. Diuretics are useful when attempting to combat excess water retention in the body, which is often caused by eating too much sodium or from inflammation and injury. The University notes that because of its diuretic action, juniper may prevent urinary tract infections by helping to flush out toxins and bacteria in the urinary system.
Antimicrobial and Antifungal Properties
According to researchers at Shiraz University of Medical Sciences, juniper berry combats both gram-negative and gram-positive bacteria. Gram-negative bacteria are the cause for E. coli, pneumonia and gonorrhea, while gram-positive bacteria cause Staphylococcus aureus. S. aureus is a common infection that people acquire in hospitals and it is often resistant to antibiotics; you have probably heard it called MRSA. Since pharmaceuticals are often ineffective at treating MRSA, juniper berry could be an effective alternative to help combat infections.
Role as an Antioxidant
According to a study published in the medical journal "Pharmacognosy Research," juniper berries contain high amounts of antioxidants. These compounds help to neutralize free radicals in the body, which eventually lead to the development of diseases like cancer, arthritis and cardiovascular disease. Antioxidants also maintain healthy, youthful skin by fighting wrinkles and lines, aiding in cell regeneration and reducing inflammation.