The outstanding Russian phenologist D. Zuev called this plant the cypress of the north. Indeed, since there are no cypresses in the middle zone of Russia, juniper plays their role. It is usually a slender evergreen bush 2-6 m tall, rarely a tree up to 10 m tall. Sometimes there are slender forms of the plant. It grows, as a rule, in the undergrowth of coniferous, more often pine, and mixed forests. The root system in juniper is branched and branched. Leaves are opposite in pairs, needle-shaped, less often scaly. The plant is dioecious – there are female and male individuals. As in all gymnosperms, juniper fruits are cones, but they look very similar to berries, which is why they are called cone berries, or juniper berries. The fruits ripen in the 2nd-3rd year, and in spring they are green, and by autumn they become dark burgundy or blue-black, with a bluish wax coating. The fruits of the plant are readily eaten by birds and animals, which spread the seeds. In Ukraine, common juniper grows in the Carpathians and Polissia. It is cultivated in gardens and parks, on private plots as an ornamental plant.
Juniper is a “Mephuselah” among conifers, lives up to 500-1000 years. Light-loving, does not tolerate polluted air, at the same time perfectly cleans and neutralizes it, releasing phytoncides (volatile bactericidal substances).
People noticed the medicinal and nutritional properties of the plant a long time ago. Juniper cones, which are harvested in the fall, are used to prepare medicines. Usually, some fabric is spread under the bush and ripe berries are sprinkled on it. They are dried at a temperature not higher than 30 °C. Juniper belongs to the Pharmacopoeia, dried pinecones are sold in pharmacies.
The fruits of the plant contain complex essential oil, organic acids, sugars (up to 40%), vitamin C (up to 250 mg%), tannins, potassium salts.
Juniper fruit preparations increase urination and disinfect the urinary tract, stimulate the secretion of gastric juice and bile, stimulate intestinal peristalsis, and have expectorant properties. Sometimes they are used as an anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. The use of juniper products is especially effective for edema caused by kidney failure and blood circulation disorders, cystitis, urolithiasis and gallstone diseases. Fruit infusions help with diseases of the respiratory organs – laryngitis, tracheitis, bronchitis. A decoction of dried berries is used to treat rheumatism, various arthritis and gout. In these cases, it is usually used in the form of baths. The effect can be enhanced if, after the bath, you also rub the affected areas with alcohol tincture of the fruits. Pine cones are part of many medicinal diuretic teas.
Juniper preparations are contraindicated in acute inflammatory diseases of the kidneys and pregnancy.
It is appropriate to mention the spicy-tasting properties of the fruits of the plant. Game dishes, meat, especially fatty pork and lamb, will become more aromatic if you add a few juniper berries to them during cooking. In some countries, they are put in sauerkraut – the fruits suppress unwanted putrefactive processes and give the finished product a light resinous aroma. The famous gin is obtained by distilling juniper tincture.
In decorative dendrology, juniper is planted to create borders and hedges.
Essential oils of fruits are used in perfumery.
Fruit infusion. 1 tablespoon of dry fruits per 200 ml of boiling water, infuse for 15 minutes, filter. Take 1 tablespoon 3-4 times a day after meals.
Tincture of fruits. The fruits are infused in 70% alcohol in a ratio of 1.5:10. Take 10-15 drops 3 times a day.
Baths with fruit decoction . Boil 100-200 g of dry fruits for 10 minutes, filter and add the broth to the bath. For gout, rheumatism and eczema.