...is NOT, in fact, a berry, but a round-shaped fleshy cone, which takes 2-3 years to ripen into the beautiful blue/black colour it is known for. Like many essential oil-bearing plants, Juniper is another one that, for centuries, has been used for protection, both of a physical as well as esoteric nature. Although juniper berry branches don't give off a lot of smoke when burned, what smoke there is is strongly aromatic, fresh and detoxifying, and this was used to ward off the plague, to purify the air in homes and churches, and wherever there was sickness. The branches were scattered on the floor to fragrance rooms and to dispel bad air and the disease it brought. Native American tribes hung Juniper branch sprigs in their teepees, and branches were burned to protect their homes from storms. Juniper sprigs were carried by hunters as an amulet against bears and bad luck. Juniper is even the clan symbol of the Hopi and Apache tribes.
In more esoteric matters, in medieval times as well as in Native American tribes, it was also used as protection against evil spirits and witches - one can only imagine if it was combined with Angelica root - witches would be soundly put out of business!
Culpeper confirms these age-old medicinal uses for juniper when he says "this admirable solar shrub is scarce to be paralleled for its virtues. The berries are hot in the third degree, and dry but in the first, being a most admirable counter-poison, and a great resister of the pestilence, as any growing".
We can see this 'solar' connection in the actions of Juniper berry essential oil - it is warming and drying, making it useful for any conditions of cold and damp. Holmes states that these actions are particularly indicated for the 'gastrointestinal, urinary and neuromuscular systems' such as indigestion, flatulence and bloating, cystitis, and painful muscular conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis. Perhaps its most well-known use is as a diuretic, and this may be because, according to Holmes (2016), it is one of the few effective essential oils with this action. It is useful in cases of fluid retention and cellulite - again, conditions of cold and damp that can benefit from Juniper berry essential oil. Culpeper asserts that Juniper is 'excellently good in all sorts of agues' - where its warming and drying action resolves illness, as well as supporting convalescence. Juniper is also good for skin conditions such as weeping eczema and acne, where there is a build up of toxins in the body. Holmes says this effect is the result of making 'over-acid interstitial fluid more alkaline' - here we see how the drying, detoxifying actions of Juniper berry works to bring our bodies into balance.
The scent of juniper is sharp, fresh and stimulating. In this way it is also useful for mental conditions, such as lethargy, confusion and lack of clarity, mental 'fog', low willpower and lack of confidence. Its scent instantly refreshes and enlivens, and brings balance and stability to the mind and spirit.
As well as being the main ingredient in gin (the berries, not the essential oil!), whose name is even derived from juniper, in my opinion Juniper is also a very nice word to say :)
Battaglia, S. The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy, 3rd Ed, Vol. 1, 2018. Black Pepper Creative Pty Ltd.
Culpeper, N. Culpeper's Complete Herbal. 2019. Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.
Holmes, P. Aromatica, Volume 1. (2016) Singing Dragon.