Juniper is a coniferous plant belonging to the genus Juniperus of the cypress (Cupressaceae) plant family. From the taxonomic point of view, there are around 50 to 67 different species of juniper that are extensively spread all over the northern hemisphere - right from Arctic, southward to tropical Africa in the Old World, and to the Central American mountainous regions. The juniper plants may differ in their shape and size growing anything between 20 m to 40 m in height. The shrubs are columnar or low spreading with elongated sprawling branches. The seeds of junipers may be monoecious (having both sexes) or diocious (having separate sexes).
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The feminine seed cones of juniper are very typical having fleshy, fruit-like combining scales that blend together to form a structure like berries, often 4 mm to 27 mm length having one to twelve wingless seed with hard shells. In some species the berries have a reddish-brown or orange hue, but majority of them have a blue color. The seeds are usually aromatic and may be used in culinary as a spice. The time taken by the juniper seeds to mature differs among the different species - usually ranging from six months to 18 months following pollination. On the other hand, the male seed cones are akin to those of other Cupressaceae, having anything between six to 20 scales. Majority of these cones shed their pollen during the early part of spring, while some species pollinate during autumn.
Juniper essential oil is extracted from the berries of this evergreen shrub that is indigenous to almost all of the Northern Hemisphere. Apart from the berries and the oil, even the needles of the juniper shrub have long been used as traditional herbal remedies for several ailments and conditions. They are especially effective in treating infections of the urinary tract, including problems like cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder) and urethritis (inflammation of the urethra). In addition, juniper essential oil is also helpful in alleviating respiratory problems like coughs and bronchitis. Many herbalists also recommend juniper essential oil for people suffering from infections of the gastrointestinal system. Currently, juniper is included in the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia for treatment of cystitis and alleviating pains caused by rheumatism.
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The essential oil distilled from the juniper berries is a transparent liquid having a fresh, woodsy-balsamic and somewhat sweet fragrance. This oil has an intense, naturally grown, forest-like aroma and it combines well with several other natural oils. Use of juniper essential oil is believed to induce emotions regarding love, good health and harmony. Many people usually prefer using this natural oil in diffusers of humidifiers with a view to fill the atmosphere with its pleasant scent. Usually, juniper essential oil is extracted from the berries of the shrub. However, some people also extract juniper oil from the shrub's twigs and needles and when it is done, the oil that is yielded does not have an aroma that is as helpful in uplifting spirits as that which is distilled from the berries. Also, the oil extracted from the needles and twigs of juniper shrubs does not even have any therapeutic property.
In fact, juniper essential oil is a necessity for maintaining one's health in general and, hence, every household ought to have a bottle of this oil on their medicine shelf. This natural oil is said to possess astringent, antiseptic, cleansing, diuretic, detoxifying, parasiticidal, anti-spasmodic as well as anti-rheumatic properties. Juniper essential oil often forms an important ingredient is several skin care products. Owing to its antiseptic properties, juniper oil has been traditionally used for ages to clean as well as disinfect wounds and the skin in general. When you add the essential oil extracted from the berries of the juniper shrubs to cleaning water, it sanitizes the home and leaves it sparkling clean with a woodsy aroma.
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Juniper shrubs are considered to be plants that provide protection and have been used since time immemorial as a protector of an individual's body and spirits. There was a time when people in Britain hung the twigs of juniper shrubs on the main entrance to their house with a view to ward off witches on the eve of May. In addition, the wood of juniper shrubs was often burned to drive out demons. The woodsy fragrance of juniper essential oil combines excellently with other natural oils. It has been established that the essential oil distilled from juniper berries has the aptitude to clear tension and mental fatigue. At the same time, its application helps to increase emotional reserves. This natural oil is an effective diuretic and is useful in cleansing the body of wastes and toxic substances by promoting the frequency as well as the quantity of urination. It also facilitates people to recuperate fast from any ailment. In addition, juniper essential oil possesses sedative properties and, hence, when it is used in limited or minor dosages, it helps to induce sound sleep. However, when the dosage of the oil is increased, it also reverses its actions. Using this essential oil in high doses makes it work as a stimulant.
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It is believed that juniper essential oil facilitates alleviating cellulitis (inflammation of cellular tissues). Juniper works by detoxifying the body and helping it to get rid of all wastes and toxic substances that may have accumulated owing to one's present-day way of living or lifestyle. This essential oil also aids in opening up as well as cleansing the skin pores, which, in turn, aids the skin to function more effectively in getting rid of toxic substances through sweating or perspiration.
Before ending the discussion, it may be mentioned once again that pure juniper essential oil distilled from the berries of the shrub possesses the aptitude to uplift an individual's spiritual wakefulness as well as enhance his/ her physical well-being. Summing up, this oil also functions as a common detoxifying agent and a cleanser by eliminating wastes as well as toxins accumulated in the body through augmented urination and perspiration. All these put together make juniper essential oil an effective remedy for skin conditions. This natural oil is really helpful for all types of skin as it helps to open up and cleanse the pores on the skin, making it healthy and youthful.
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The essential oil extracted from the berries of the evergreen juniper shrubs possesses several therapeutic properties, but it is essential to use this natural oil with great caution. Pregnant women should never use this oil during the initial two trimesters since it has the potential to stimulate the uterine muscles. In addition, juniper essential oil also should not be used by people enduring kidney problems because this oil may invigorate the kidneys. People who are sensitive may experience mild irritation following the use of this natural oil. Like using any other essential oil, one should be extremely cautious while using juniper essential oil and also consult a competent medical professional who is familiar with the use of essential oils.