Juniper berry – Juniperi pseudo-fructus (Juniperus communis L.)

Latin name of the genus: Juniperi pseudo-fructus
Latin name of herbal substance: Juniperus communis l.
Botanical name of plant:
English common name of herbal substance: Juniper berry

Latin name of the genus: Juniperi pseudo-fructus
Botanical name of plant: Juniperus communis L.
English common name of herbal substance: Juniper berry

Juniperi-pseudo-fructus - Juniper berry at

1. Introduction

1.1. Description of the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s) or combinations thereof

Herbal substance(s)

The herbal substance is mentioned in the DAB 10, ÖAB 90, Ph. Fr. X, Ph. Helv. VII, British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983 and the European Pharmacopoeia 6.0. It is described as ‘dried ripe cone berry of Juniperus communis L.’. The plant part is described as Juniperi pseudo-fructus. The English name is Common Juniper. Juniper belongs to the family of the Cupressaceae and the class of the Gymnosperma (Ph. Eur. 2008).

The plant has its origin in Northern Europe and mountain areas. The herbal substance is imported among others from Italy, from the countries on the Adriatic coast and from Albania. Leaves are needles occurring with three on the branches. The berry-like fruits are open on the apex with a triradiate mark and depression which indicate the sutures of the three scales. They are violet to black- brown, often bluish pruinose and up to 10 mm in diameter. There are usually three, very hard, oblong, triangular seeds (Bruneton, 1999; Wichtl, 1994).

There are 4 subspecies of Juniperus communis occurring in Europe: ssp. alpine (NEILR.) CELAK; ssp. communis; ssp. hemisphaerica (J. et C. PRESL), ssp. nana (Willd.) Syme (Hänsel et al. 1993). Adulteration is occasionally observed with fruits of other Juniperus species. Fruits from Juniperus oxycedrus L. (cade- or prickly-jumper) are brown-red and larger than genuine juniper berries. Juniperus sabina L. (savine) has almost black fruits with a diameter of only 5-8 mm (Wichtl, 2002).

Other species of Juniper mentioned in literature are Juniperus oxycedrus, Juniperus phoenicea and Juniperus virginiana. Their oils are used only as fragrance ingredients in cosmetics (Anonymous, 2001).

Composition of the cone berries has been described by Hänsel et al. (1993), Schilcher & Heil (1994), Bruneton (1999), Barnes et al. (2007), Duke (1988), in the ESCOP monograph (ESCOP, 2003), Martin et al. (2006) The cone berries contain between 0.5 and 3.42 % of essential oil. The content of essential oil may vary depending on the origin of the herbal substance (Banthorpe et al. 1973).

The ESCOP monograph refers to cone berries from Greek plant material as containing high levels of essential oil. The cone berries may not contain less than 10 ml/kg of essential oil. The amount of essential oil can be up to 3%. The essential oil of Juniper cone berries contains about 105 constituents (ESCOP, 2003).

The following constituents were identified in Juniperi pseudo-fructus:

Monoterpenes (about 58% of the essential oil); the essential oil contains mainly α-pinene (20%), limonene (8.7%), myrcene (8.5%) and β-pinene, myrcene, sabinene, 1,4-cineol,

camphene, ³-carene, terpinen-4-ol, terpinolene, 4-terpineol, β-elemene-7-ol

Sesquiterpenes: -cadinene, α-cadinene, β-cadinene

Diterpenic acids: isocommunic acid; labdane diterpenes

C12 terpenoid: geijerone

Tannins: proanthocyanidines (condensed), gallocatechin and epigallocatechin

Flavonoids: amentoflavone, quercitin, isoquercitrin, apigenin and various glucosides

Invert sugar (30%); glucose + fructose (about 30%) and pectin

Organic acids: malic acid, ascorbic acid, glucuronic acid

Lignan: desoxypodophyllotoxin



Juniper in: an amorphous substance isolated from decoctions (most probably a complex of sugars and tannins)

There is no consensus about the possible role of sugars, salts and saponins in the cone berries. The content of the cone berries varies with the origin and the ripening.

Herbal preparation(s) See above.

Combinations of herbal substance(s) and/or herbal preparation(s) including a description of vitamin(s) and/or mineral(s) as ingredients of traditional combination herbal medicinal products assessed, where applicable.

Not applicable.


Information about products on the market in the Member States

Regulatory status overview

MA: Marketing Authorisation TRAD: Traditional Use Registration

Other TRAD: Other national Traditional systems of registration Other: If known, it should be specified or otherwise add ’Not Known’

This regulatory overview is not legally binding and does not necessarily reflect the legal status of the products in the MSs concerned.

1.3. Search and assessment methodology

2. Historical data on medicinal use

2.1. Information on period of medicinal use in the Community

Historically, the cone berries were used in a diuretic wine recommended by Cato the Ancient in his book ‘De re rustica’. Leclerc (1966) mentions also case studies in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis with a preparation of 8 g essential oil mixed with 4 g diethylether, to be taken in a dose of 10 drops a day. The famous Oil of Haarlem or ‘Haarlemmer olie’ contains Juniper pseudo-fructus extracts.

Cone berries were traditionally used for dyspepsia (tincture and fluid extract), acute and chronic cystitis, arteriosclerosis, gout and inflammations. Furthermore, menstruation pain and bleeding, irritative cough, flu related bronchitis and diabetes are mentioned. Topical use is related to muscle pain and acute arthritic conditions (Hänsel et al. 1993; Barnes et al. 2007).

Babulka (2000) describes the use of medicinal herbs in Hungary. Juniperus communis is reported to be used for gastro-intestinal complaints, against rheumatic conditions and urinary tract diseases. It is considered as one of the 50 plant species with a long-standing tradition (at least 100 years).

Schulz (1929 cited by Schilcher & Heil, 1994) mentions the successful use of Juniper berry juice for treatment of nephritic hydrops. Whereas Klare (1927 cited by Schilcher & Heil, 1994) reports its use in case of paediatric tuberculosis. The first reports about the diuretic action in humans date from more than one century ago (Raphael, 1894 and Breitenstein, 1902, both cited by Schilcher & Heil, 1994). Most probably Raphael used 300 mg essential oil, two times daily during several months. Raphael considered the essential oil as a whole and not just one group of compounds, more particularly terpenes.

The German Commission E considered Juniper only for ‘Dyspeptische Beschwerden’ or dyspepsia as a general complaint (Commission E, 1984).

In France, Juniperi pseudo-fructus can only claim the following traditional therapeutic indications:

(1) appetite stimulant; (2) renal evacuation of water; (3) diuretic adjuvant in case of minor urinary complications (Bruneton, 1999). In France, a toxicological dossier must be prepared for tinctures or extracts with an alcohol strength above 30% (V/V). No toxicological data have to be explicited for tinctures and extracts with an alcohol strength of 30% or lower (De Smet et al. 1993).

According to the ESCOP monograph, Juniper has a widely documented use as a remedy to enhance the renal elimination of water and for dyspeptic complaints. For these indications, the monograph refers to handbooks and not to original research (ESCOP, 2003).

Besides for its diuretic action, sometimes Juniper is also used as a urinary antiseptic, an indication which is disputed. The activity should be mainly limited to water diuresis, mainly due to an irritative action of terpinen-4-ol on the kidney tissue. More particularly, hyperaemia of the glomeruli should stimulate the activity of the secretory epithelium (Wichtl, 1994; Barnes et al. 2007).

The cone berries are widely used as a flavouring component in spirits (e.g. gin, genever). They play a traditional culinary role as an ingredient of ‘choucroute’ (France). Juniper is listed by the Council of Europe as a natural source of food flavouring (fruit N2). Category N2 indicates that the cone berries can be added to foodstuffs in small quantities, with a possible limitation of an active principle (as yet unspecified) in the final product (Barnes et al. 2007).

The highest average maximum use level reported for the oils is 0.006% in alcoholic beverages and 0.01% for the extract of pseudo-fructus in alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages (Duke, 1988).

In Belgium only Juniperus sabina L. cannot be used in food or food supplements. The cone berries of

Juniperus communis L., Juniperus procera Hochst. and Juniperus virginiana L. are allowed as notified ingredients of food supplements. Also the use of Juniperus oxycedrus L. is allowed (Anonymous, 1997).

Assessor’s comments

Preparations made of Juniperi pseudo-fructus mentioned in this assessment report can be considered as traditional herbal medicinal products as direct and indirect evidence exist that the sources date back for at least 30 years of medicinal use.

The most frequently cited traditional use of Juniperi pseudo-fructus concerns the renal elimination of water and dyspepsia. Apart from these indications some other uses are mentioned. They are related to infections (acute and chronic cystitis), arteriosclerosis, inflammatory conditions (muscles, joints, gout) and pain (menstruations). Also irritative cough, flu related bronchitis and diabetes are mentioned, these last indications mostly claimed for mixtures to be inhaled.

There is a lot of discussion about the safe use of Juniperi pseudo-fructus as a diuretic. Some sources refer to terpenes in the essential oil fraction as being the active substances. Their action should be based on hyperaemia of the glomeruli which is considered as an irritative action. Experimental pharmacological and toxicological data will be important in a constructive therapeutic approach.

2.2. Information on traditional/current indications and specified substances/preparations

Use of herbal preparations

*Decoctions and infusions are traditionally used (Hänsel et al. 1993)

*Liquid extract with 25% ethanol (DER 1:1 W/V) (Hänsel et al. 1993; Barnes et al. 2007)

*Tincture with 45% ethanol (DER 1:5 W/V) (ESCOP, 2003; Barnes et al. 2007)

*Soft extract with water (DER 1.7-1.8:1 W/V) (since 1976 on the German market).

Although decoctions as well as infusions are traditionally used, most standard sources with information for therapeutic practice prefer infusions. All secondary sources referring to the liquid extract and the tincture cite the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (1983) as a source. Most probably the preparations are used already more than 30 years in Europe. The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1996 contains a shortened version of Juniper berry and contains information taken from the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1971. As the 1996 edition is a shortened version, no details are given about preparations. In this edition, the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia 1983 is mentioned as the second consolidated edition comprising parts 1 (1976), 2 (1979) and 3 (1981). As a consequence, the information in the 1983 edition is from a date former than 1983.

2.3. Specified strength/posology/route of administration/duration of use for relevant preparations and indications

Route of administration

All preparations are used orally.


The dried herbal substance is used in a dose of 2 g with a maximum dose equivalent to 10 g per day. According to some authors, this posology corresponds with respectively 20 and 100 mg essential oil (Hänsel et al. 1993; Barnes et al. 2007; Ph. Eur. 2008).

In some traditions (Sebastian Kneipp) it is recommended to start on day 1 with 5 cone berries , increasing the number every day by 1 cone berry (well chewed) up to 15 cone berries, then decrease the number (1 per day less) to 5 cone berries. So the duration of the therapy is 21 days, the maximum daily dose 15 cone berries. In case of therapeutic result the duration should be limited to 3 weeks. It is not recommended to continue the treatment for more than 2 weeks if the symptoms persist (Anonymous, 2009).

Preparation of infusion (the concentration may vary according to the method of preparation):

2 to 3 g with 150 ml hot water, infusion time 10 minutes: to be drunk 3 to 4 times a day (Hänsel et al. 1993; ESCOP, 2003).

1:20 (W/V) with boiling water: 100 ml 3 times daily (Barnes et al. 2007).

The latter is more concentrated and most sources limit the single dose equivalent to 2 g. Therefore an amount of 2 g 2 to 3 times a day is preferred as recommended dose.

Powder: 2 to 8 g per day (Delfosse, 1998). It is not clear whether the use of powdered pseudo-fructus can be considered as tradition. Therefore the powdered form has not been taken to the monograph.

Tincture (1:5 W/V in 45% ethanol): 1-2 ml, 3 times daily (ESCOP, 2003; Barnes et al. 2007). As mentioned earlier there is indirect evidence for more than 30 years of medicinal use of the tincture. This preparation is taken to the monograph.

Tinctura Juniperi (Codex Français): 5 to 15 g to be enhanced and tapered progressively (Van Hellemont, 1985). Data about the duration of use are missing. Also the original source is not specified. This preparation is not included into the monograph.

Liquid extract (1:1 W/V in 25% ethanol): 2-4 ml 3 times daily (Barnes et al. 2007). As mentioned earlier, there is indirect evidence for more than 30 years of medicinal use of the liquid extract. This preparation is taken to the monograph.

Duration of use

As the duration of use for self medication is concerned, Juniper preparations should not be used for more than 2 weeks if the symptoms persist or worsen. Traditional use of the pseudo-fructus can be extended to 3 weeks if the symptoms alleviate (cf. Kneipp). For longer duration of use, medical advice should be sought.

Assessor’s comments

According to several sources infusions may contain a maximal dose of 10 g cone berries per day. This dose is subject to some considerations.

As several authors mention the same dose, they may have copied each other.

The approximate weight of 100 cone berries is 16 g (Schilcher & Heil, 1994). A dose of 10 g would correspond to approximately 60 cone berries. This amount seems quite high.

The content of essential oil in cone berries may vary from 0.5 to 3.42%. When the content of essential oil is high, a daily dose of 10 g corresponds to about 342 mg of essential oil, whereas a maximal daily dose of 100 mg is recommended according to several sources.

It can be hypothesised that, when making an infusion, the volatile components of Juniper pseudo- fructus will not be extracted at 100%.

Taking the cone berries as such, a maximum dose of 15 cone berries per day is recommended. By this way of administration, the cone berries are not taken with water.

As a result of these considerations, for use as an infusion, a maximal dose of 2 g taken 3 times daily can be considered as a safe margin as, even with a 100% extraction in case of a high content on essential oil, the amount will be lower than 100 mg per day.

3. Non-Clinical Data

3.1. Overview of available pharmacological data regarding the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s) and relevant constituents thereof

Diuretic activity

Although this assessment report is focused on Juniperi pseudo-fructus studies with essential oil are also included. In several studies, extracts as well as the essential oil were included in the same experimental setting. As a consequence, it is difficult to separate them.

Hypoglaycemic activity

Other activities

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i.v. = intravenous

MCF-7/AZ = mammal carcinoma cell line

MIC = minimal inhibitory concentration (= no growth)

p.o. = per oral

vs = versus

Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacology

The earliest experimental evidence for a diuretic activity goes back more than 70 years. Rats were mostly used as subjects. The p.o. way of administration corresponds to traditional use in humans. The extracts are mostly prepared from whole cone berries, but also the essential oil and terpinen-4-ol are

used. The diuretic activity cannot be characterized as only aquaretic, i.e. increasing the volume of water excreted by the kidneys, as several authors found also an increased excretion of an organic component (mainly chloride). In one study, the whole extract of the cone berries seemed to be more potent as compared to the essential oil, but in this study the rats were pretreated with antidiuretic hormone. It should be mentioned that the diuretic activity is not always consistent and obtained with relatively high doses if converted to human conditions (when recalculating the number of berries to be taken, this leads to more than 100 berries/day). There are no systematic investigations reported about the possible beneficial consequences of the diuretic activity. Only one study with total extract intravenously administered to anesthetised normotensive rats mentioned a lowering effect on blood pressure without any link to increased diuresis.

In contrast with the traditionally claimed indication, there is no experimental evidence for use in dyspeptic complaints.

Juniper pseudo-fructus preparations had a hypoglycaemic activity in streptozotocin pretreated mice and rats. It should be taken into account that streptozotocin quickly leads to high glucose levels and that the results cannot be extrapolated to human diabetic conditions.

Other activities include an anti-inflammatory (in vivo and in vitro) effect, antimicrobial activity towards some viruses (HSV-1), bacteria (E. coli and S. aureus) and Candida albicans. The antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity may underpin the traditional claim of urinary infections (see comment on the high concentrations). Most of the experiments were carried out with the essential oil or its components. However, extrapolation of in vitro results to in vivo conditions remains difficult, due to the sometimes high concentrations of oil used and the direct contact with micro-organisms which may result in cytotoxic rather than antimicrobial effects.

Furthermore antioxidant and antitumoral activity is reported in some experimental in vitro models. Extrapolations of these activities remain speculative.

3.2. Overview of available pharmacokinetic data regarding the herbal substance(s), herbal preparation(s) and relevant constituents thereof

No data were found about absorption, distribution, metabolism, elimination and pharmacokinetic interactions with other medicinal products.

Assessor’s overall conclusions on pharmacokinetics

No data are available. The complex phytochemistry of Juniper cone berries makes it difficult to conceive any representative pharmacokinetic study.

3.3. Overview of available toxicological data regarding the herbal substance(s)/herbal preparation(s) and constituents thereof

Acute toxicity

LD50 of a lyophilized water extract of Juniper pseudo-fructus in male mice: 3000 mg/kg intraperitoneally. Juniper is considered as a mild toxic agent (Hänsel et al. 1993).

Acute toxicity was tested on 10 Wistar rats of a standardised 80% ethanolic extract of Juniper pseudo- fructus (2.5 g/kg) during 7 days. No side effects were reported. All animals survived. A dose of 3 g/kg induced hypothermia and mild diarrhoea in 10-30% of animals (Hänsel et al. 1993).

Other sources mention an oral LD50 of the herbal substance or Juniperi pseudo-fructus: 6.28 g/kg or at least 5 g/kg in rats (De Smet et al. 1993).

Reproductive and developmental toxicology

Doses of 300 and 500 mg (p.o.) of an of Juniperi communis pseudo-fructus extract (extraction solvent 50% ethanol) was administered to 10 Swiss albino female rats from day 1 to 7 of pregnancy. On day 10 the implantation was controlled by laparotomy. In the 300 mg/kg group 5 out of 10 and in the 500 mg/kg 8 out of 10 animals had no implantation. Another series of doses was administered on day

14, 15 and 16, to the rats which showed implantation. On day 18 the rats were again laparotomized in order to control abortifacient activity. The number of embryos developing was lower in the intervention group as compared to the rats receiving vehiculum only: in rats which showed implantation sites (pregnant), no pups could be delivered.

In another experiment, three of the rats without implants on day 10 were allowed to mate with males after 2 months of rest. Although mating was successful, no implantations were reported.

Based on the results of the preceding experiments, the investigations concluded that Juniperi communis pseudo-fructus extract had antifertility and abortifacient effects in rats. This type of experiment cannot be used to evaluate teratogenicity as the study was not adapted for teratogenicity (Agrawal et al. 1980; Hänsel et al. 1993; De Smet et al. 1993; ESCOP, 2003; Barnes et al. 2007).


There are no genotoxicity data available for Juniperus communis or preparations thereof. In the tar of Juniperus oxycedrus (cade oil) benzpyrenes were found in the nanogram/g range, but this does not apply to J. communis.

According to one source, the chemical composition of J. communis oil and J. communis pseudo-fructus extract is considered as similar when genotoxicity is considered (Anonymous, 2001). However, the difference in composition between the oil and water extracts of Juniperi pseudo-fructus must be taken into consideration.

Assessor’s overall conclusions on toxicology

There is no serious concern about possible acute toxicity of the Juniperi pseudo-fructus. No data on carcinogenicity and genotoxicity exist. Incomplete investigations concerning reproductive toxicity point to antifertility and abortifacient effects of the preparation tested. The antifertility testing cannot be used to conclude on teratogenicity because the design of the study is not appropriate.

4. Clinical Data

4.1. Clinical Pharmacology

4.1.1. Overview of pharmacodynamic data regarding the herbal substance(s)/preparation(s) including data on relevant constituents

There are no data available on human pharmacodynamics.

4.1.2. Overview of pharmacokinetic data regarding the herbal substance(s)/preparation(s) including data on relevant constituents

There are no data available on human pharmacokinetics.

4.2. Clinical Efficacy

4.2.1. Dose response studies

Not available.

4.2.2. Clinical studies (case studies and clinical trials)

Not available.

4.2.3. Clinical studies in special populations (e.g. elderly and children)

Not available.

4.3. Overall conclusions on clinical pharmacology and efficacy

Not applicable.

5. Clinical Safety/Pharmacovigilance

5.1. Overview of toxicological/safety data from clinical trials in humans

Not applicable.

5.2. Patient exposure

Historically, the cone berries were used in a diuretic wine recommended by Cato the Ancient in his book ‘De re rustica’ (Leclerc, 1966). The use of Juniper cone berries can be considered as a century- long standing practice.

On the other hand, there is a lack of systematically obtained subacute clinical safety and toxicity data for Juniper, creating the need for safety update reporting. Standard references give contradictory information, mostly based upon interpretation by the authors and not on clinical data.

Schilcher & Heil are not convinced of the renal toxicity of Juniperus oil because quite a lot of sources may just have copied the doubtful renal side effects (Schilcher & Heil, 1994; ESCOP, 2003).

Nevertheless, the German Commission E only considered dyspepsia as the only therapeutic indication. The use of essential oil is questioned by some authors (Bruneton, 1999). A quote supported by Duke (1988): “…this drug is no longer recommended for various kidney disorders by the medical profession. Since much safer and more effective diuretic and carminative drugs exist, the use of Juniper in folk medicine should also be abandoned….”. The author does not refer to case studies or causality reporting. Not all German sources limit the use of Juniper. Weiss & Fintelman (1999) consider the cone berries of Juniperus communis as valuable ‘aquaretica’. They include the following conditions for traditional use: unspecific dysuria, sensitive bladder (‘Reizblase’) and prophylaxis of relapsing urolithiasis and urinary infections.

Juniper berry oil was given GRAS (Generally Recognised as Safe) status by the Flavouring Extract Manufacturers Association (FEMA) in 1965 and is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for food use. Juniper berry was included in the Council of Europe list of substances, spices and seasonings deemed admissible for use with a possible limitation of the active principle in the final product (De Smet et al. 1993).

5.3. Adverse events and serious adverse events and deaths

Most handbooks warn for renal damage when Juniperus communis preparations are used for their aquaretic properties. Although the monograph is conceived for the pseudo-fructus, some reporting on the essential oil is included as well. This must allow for comparisons with pseudo-fructus starting from the oil content.

Renal damage has been reported after long-term use (several months). Overdosing with the essential oil leads to renal damage. Cramp-like pain and bleeding of the uterus has been mentioned (Hänsel et al. 1993).

The most detailed study is made by Schilcher & Heil (1994) mentioning that ancient sources do not warn for renal complications in humans. Massive doses that were much higher than the 400-500 mg essential oil Raphael (1894, cited by Schilcher & Heil 1994) and Gmeiner (1904, cited by Schilcher & Heil 1994) tested on themselves. Furthermore, starting from cone berries it will be impossible to reach massive dose equivalents: the weight of 100 cone berries is 16 g. The weight of a daily dose of

15 cone berries is 2500 mg. With a 1% content of essential oil, the oil equivalent will be 25 mg. There have been no adverse events mentioned after the use of broiled cone berries, although it must be specified that this preparation is a residual product of cone berries from which the essential oil has been removed (Schilcher & Heil, 1994).

According to Semon (1844; cited by Schilcher & Heil 1994), Juniperus oil increases the renal circulation and dose-dependent damage can occur (stranguria, dysuria, hematuria and ischuria). The activity of Juniperus oil was formerly compared with terpentine oil. Most probably the findings for terpentine oil were copied to Juniperus oil without factual analysis. Also Potter (1898; cited by Schilcher & Heil, 1994) mentioned Juniperus cone berries in his Materia Medica: “…may set up renal irritation, in large doses producing strangury, priapism, hematuria, suppression of the urine and uremic convulsions…”, a wording taken over by the German literature.

Although the volatile oil is reported to be generally non-sensitising and non-phototoxic, dermal irritation has been recognized with Juniper and positive patch test reactions have been documented. The latter are attributed to the irritant nature of the Juniper pseudo-fructus extract. Burning, erythema, inflammation with blisters and oedema have been reported after external application of the essential oil (Barnes et al. 2007).

Of 26 patients examined for suspect plant dermatitis, 14 showed positive patch test reactions to Juniper pseudo-fructus extract (nature of extract not specified) (Mathias et al. 1979).

Seizures and kidney damage have been reported in individuals who took more than 10 g of Juniper per day or who took high doses of Juniper for longer than 4 weeks. The way and form of administration is however not specified. Also the exact dose (“…more than 10 g…”) is not mentioned. The same source recommends a maximal daily dose of 10 g of dried Juniperi pseudo-fructus. However the source is not scientifically documented, which brings uncertainty about this information ( last visit on 2 July 2 2009). If such reactions occur, they can be caused by contamination of the oil (Schilcher et al. 2007).

Serious adverse events and deaths

None reported.

5.4. Laboratory findings

No data are available.

5.5. Safety in special populations and situations

Safety in special populations and situations

The use of Juniperus communis is contra-indicated in case of inflammation of the kidney, nephritis and pyelitis (Commission E, 1984; De Smet et al. 1993; ESCOP, 2003).

Intrinsic (including elderly and children)/extrinsic factors

No data available. Because of the tighter dose margin, a restriction to adults is recommended.

Drug interactions

There is limited evidence from preclinical studies that Juniper may influence glucose levels in diabetes (ESCOP, 2003; Barnes et al. 2007).

Use in pregnancy and lactation

There are no data available about use during pregnancy and lactation.


In case of prolonged use and overdose, urine will smell of violets. There may be renal irritation and pain in and near the kidney, strong diuresis, albuminuria, haematuria, purplish urine, gastrointestinal upsets, accelerated heartbeat and blood pressure. Rarely symptoms of central stimulation like convulsions occur as well as metrorrhagia and abortion (Wichtl, 1994; Duke, 1988; Barnes et al. 2007).

Drug abuse

No data available.

Withdrawal and rebound

No data available.

Effects on ability to drive or operate machinery or impairment of mental ability

No data available.

5.6. Overall conclusions on clinical safety

With the use of cone berries serious adverse events are improbable as the amount of substance to be ingested before problems occur will be high. Issues of safety monitoring are related to:

the preparation: the concentrating effect on the compounds depends upon the solvents and the way of extraction; as both the cone berries and the essential oil have a possible antioxidant affect, respecting the original composition is recommended

the patients: apart from preclinical data on reproductive toxicology, little is known about possible groups at risk and interactions with other medication

it can be expected that the kidney will be the first target organ

6. Overall conclusions

The traditional use of Juniperus communis pseudo-fructus and preparation thereof should be limited to the stimulation of renal water excretion and to dyspeptic disorders. The former is sustained by tradition and by experimental evidence, the latter only by tradition.

There is a need for systematic pharmacovigilance reporting in order to address the issue of subacute safety when using different preparations of Juniper.

Benefit-risk assessment

Juniper berries as well as the essential oil are described in the European Pharmacopoeia. The macroscopic identification of the berries can be done easily. Adulteration and contamination remain possible: unripe berries should not be used. Essential oil should only be prepared from ripe berries, without any needles or wood from the tree. Contaminated oil can indeed affect the renal function, so quality should be proven. However, reports on cases of overdose or prolonged use are vague and of questionable quality, not meeting the pharmacovigilance criteria. Pharmacokinetics of Juniper components are not known.

As genotoxicity and carcinogenicity are not studied, a list entry in the ‘Community list of herbal substances, preparations and combinations thereof for use in traditional herbal medicinal products’ cannot be established.

The therapeutic indications do not relate to life threatening conditions and they are supported by traditional use evidence. There are more potent conventional medicines with known benefits based on well-established use. Groups at risk can be defined as constitutional: elderly, pregnant and breastfeeding mothers and children. There are no reports on drug interactions, but combining Juniper with diuretic compounds is not recommended. Although there is experimental evidence for a blood glucose lowering effect, there are no reports on clinical consequences of combining Juniperus with blood glucose lowering medicines. There are no clinical trials on Juniper berries and Juniper oil, but European tradition goes back to more than 2000 years for both.


List of references