1. Relieve oxidative stress and help prevent disease
One major benefit of juniper berries is the
antioxidants they contain. Antioxidants help your body to prevent and fight disease because they relieve oxidative stress caused by too many free radicals in your system.
Juniper berries contain polyphenolic compounds known as bioflavonoids , or flavonoids. ( 6 ) These compounds are what give fruits and vegetables (and a few other foods) their antioxidant loads. In particular, juniper berries have 87 distinct antioxidant compounds, according to one chemical assessment. ( 7) These compounds seem to occur more often in ripe berries than in unripe varieties. ( 8 )
Perhaps most significantly, the activity of three extremely important antioxidants in the body is encouraged by juniper berries: superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase and glutathione peroxidase. ( 9 )
Issues with SOD are linked to ALS, Down syndrome, cancers and lung issues. Catalase and SOD both protect against damage from peroxide within the body, while glutathione peroxidase does the same and is associated with helping to prevent and treat cancer and heart disease. ( 10 )
2. Natural antiseptic
The antibacterial and antifungal qualities of juniper berries have stood the test of time — which is one reason that juniper berry essential oil is often suggested as a natural household cleaning agent. These berries have compelling effects on many strains of bacteria and fungi. In fact, at least one study suggested they could be part of treatment for skin and respiratory infections. ( 11, 12 )
Juniper berry essential oil powerfully destroys candida fungus, which causes an infection responsible for a huge laundry list of side effects. ( 13 )
This essential oil has also been found to eliminate bacteria and reduce inflammation in the mouth as efficiently as chlorhexidine , a common dental drug, but without toxic side effects. ( 14 )
Some evidence suggests that juniper berry essential oil can also potentially kill bacteria that are resistant to common antibiotics. ( 15 )
An extract of Juniperus drupacea berries from Turkey showed significant antibacterial activity in lab tests against various cells, including the Gram-positive bacteria, Staphylococcus aureus . ( 16 ) Staph infections cause skin infections and issues like boils, and they can sometimes lead to serious complications such as pneumonia, cellulitis or bone infection.
Research has shown that another possible use of juniper berries could be as an antioxidant in foods and beverages. In addition, an ethanol extract of these berries has shown significant antibacterial impact against Aspergillus niger , a black mold commonly found on spoiled food. ( 17 )
3. Improves skin conditions
A simple Google search reveals that one of the most common uses for juniper berries, specifically in essential oil form, is to treat skin issues like rash or
eczema . The antioxidants they contain are probably one major reason this can be effective.
In an examination of how animal wounds healed when treated with juniper berry essential oil, researchers discovered that two cultivars of juniper berries “displayed remarkable wound healing and anti-inflammatory activities.” ( 18 ) This suggests the ancient use of juniper berries as a skin healer has its roots in scientific fact.
From a lab study in South Korea, it also seems possible that juniper berry extract might be able to help treat skin pigmentation disorders like vitiligo . ( 19 )
The essential oil of juniper berries has also been used for some time to reduce the appearance of cellulite , a harmless cosmetic issue involving fatty deposits that are often found on the thighs, hips and buttocks. ( 20 )
4. Help improve digestion
Juniper berries have long been considered a digestive aid in folk medicine, but few studies have examined these effects at length. However, one study involving milk cows found that feeding the subjects juniper berry essential oil did result in improved digestive behavior. ( 21 )
Because they function as diuretics, juniper berries can help relieve bloating in some cases.
5. Aids restful sleep
Many natural health practitioners recommend juniper berry essential oil as a relaxant and believe it has a positive impact on brain chemistry, encouraging rest.
A study from Mie University Graduate School of Medicine in Japan investigated the effects of a therapeutic fragrance, including juniper berry essential oil as well as sandalwood, rose and orris, on
insomniacs currently taking medication for the disorder.
Twenty-six of the 29 participants were able to decrease their medication and achieve restful sleep after diffusing the fragrance during the night, and 12 people discontinued their medication entirely by the end of the study. ( 22 )
6. Useful against certain cancers
Many herbs and foods that have significant antioxidant activity are studied for their potential impact on diseases like cancer. So far, no human or animal trials have looked at juniper berry’s anticancer potential.
However, in a lab setting, juniper berry essential oil or extract has been found to cause apoptosis (cell death) in a drug-resistant strain of leukemia, HepG2 (liver cancer) cells and p53 (neuroblastoma) cells. ( 23 ,
7. Good for the heart
Probably also due in part to its antioxidant qualities, juniper berries can help to improve heart function. For example, juniper berry essential oil has been found to reduce high blood pressure in animal studies, related to the antioxidants it contains. ( 25 ) A similar study stated juniper berry’s function as a natural diuretic (in its original or essential oil form) also contributes to its blood pressure-lowering activity. ( 26 )
One study in rats found that juniper berry extracts might be useful in lowering high triglycerides . ( 27 )
Juniper berries also function as an “anticholinesterase agent.” ( 28 ) This is important for heart function because anticholinesterase agents (natural or pharmaceutical) help to build up acetylcholine in the nervous system, which in turn can slow heart action, lower blood pressure, increase blood flow and induce contractions of the heart.
Interestingly, the same agents are also used in some cases to treat digestive obstructions, myasthenia gravis and Alzheimer’s disease . At present, no studies have been done to investigate the interaction of juniper berries with the latter two conditions.
8. Can be included as part of a diabetic diet plan
Like many of the others, studies connecting juniper berries with treatment for diabetes have been limited to lab and animal testing. The initial results, though, seem promising.
An ethanol extract and a tea of juniper berries seem to have the potential to reduce high blood sugar in diabetic rats. ( 29 , 30 )
Juniper berry essential oil also seems to limit the amount of malondialdehyde produced by animal bodies. ( 31 ) Although malondialdehyde’s role in diabetes isn’t understood entirely, its concentration is much higher in people with diabetes (and cancer). ( 32 , 33 )
9. May help treat leishmaniasis
It’s possible that one novel use of juniper berries could be the treatment of the parasite that causes
leishmaniasis , a disease commonly contracted in tropical regions and southern Europe. Lab tests showed very potent results of an extract of juniper berry against the parasite. ( 34 )