Description: Natural Order, Coniferae. In the family with the pines, but more closely allied to the sub-order of cypress, Genus JUNIPERUS: Evergreens, comprising species of every size, from large trees to small and creeping plants. Flowers dioecious, very rarely monoecious, in very small lateral catkins; sterile aments sub-terminal or axillary, anther cells on the under side of the shield-like scales, from three to six in number, opening lengthwise; fertile aments axillary, ovoid, bracteate at base, of three to six fleshy and coalescent scales, each one to three ovuled. Fruit a sort of drupe or berry, with scaly bracts underneath, with one to three hard-shelled seeds, of a strongly resinous odor. Leaves scale-like or awl-shaped, very persistent. J.COMMUNIS: Leaves in whorls of three, spreading in the adult plants, jointed at the base, linear or awl-shaped, glaucous-white on the upper surface, bright green on the under surface, prickly pointed, about an inch long. Branches rigid, with numerous branchlets. Fruit small, round, dark purple, covered with a handsome light bloom which gives the globular berry a bluish appearance, as large as a pea. May.
This species of juniper is indigenous, common through Pennsylvania and northward, much cultivated among the ornamental evergreens. Its usual height is from eight to twelve feet, and spreading; but by under-trimming it is trained to a tree of from twenty to twenty-five feet high. Preferring dry hill-sides. The leaves and berries both have a terebinthinate smell and taste, which arise from a volatile oil they contain. This oil is usually of a faint greenish-yellow tint, warming taste, and a pleasant terebinthinate odor. Nearly all that comes to market is obtained from the leaves. The berries are added to Holland gin during distillation, and give to that liquor its peculiar smell and diuretic action.
Properties and Uses: Juniper berries are a mild stimulant and relaxant, chiefly influencing the kidneys and bladder. They are a pleasant and somewhat prompt diuretic, not usable in acute inflammation of any portion of the renal apparatus, but answering an excellent purpose in all renal congestions, aching through the back and loins, catarrh of the bladder, etc. They seem best suited to cases of retained uric acid, with amber-colored wine. (§192.) They exert a moderate influence on the uterus, and some upon the nervous peripheries at large; hence are sometimes useful in sudden suppressions of the menses from exposure, and in the peculiar and half-hysterical forms of nervousness arising under such circumstances. They may be crushed with sugar, and given in doses of half a drachm to a drachm three or four times a day. A better method of using them is to crush an ounce of the berries, and macerate them in a pint of warm water for an hour in a covered vessel; of which two fluid ounces may be taken every two or three hours. In this form they are very effective, and are often added to more relaxing and slower diuretics, as queen-of-meadow, scoparium, etc., in the treatment of dropsies.
The oil is a stimulant with relaxant properties, acting as a diuretic, carminative and emmenagogue, and used in much the same maladies as the berries. It is more stimulating than the berries, and is fitted for atonic conditions of the kidneys and uterus; but should not be employed in inflamed or even sensitive conditions. It is usually added to compounds, in the form of an essence; but may be mixed with sugar, and given in doses of from two to five drops every four hours, in obstruction of the kidneys and atonic forms of dropsy.
The oil has lately come into much repute, in Europe, as a local application in eczema, herpes, lichen, porrigo, and similar cutaneous maladies; and there seems to be good reason to believe that it is of much service. It is sometimes applied in the form of a weak alcoholic solution, but oftener in ointment. A recent favorite method of application is by adding the oil to some mild soap, (as a soap formed on glycerin,) in company with tar water, and using this in washing. Probably a better way would be to combine the oil with glycerin, and use this several times a washing the parts well with suds of castile soap before each application.
Pharmaceutical Preparations: Fluid Extract. A good preparation is made from the berries by the use of eighty percent alcohol, after the manner of other fluid extracts. Dose, thirty drops to half a fluid drachm, or more. A compound containing the berries is given under horseradish.
Under the head of Compound Spirit of Juniper, ten drops each oils of caraway and fennel are made into an essence with a drachm of juniper oil.
The Physiomedical Dispensatory, 1869, was written by William Cook, M.D.
It was scanned by Paul Bergner at http://medherb.com