How To Use Juniper Berries In Cooking And More

Juniper trees and shrubs are absolutely filled with berries in all stages of ripening.
Juniper trees and shrubs are absolutely filled with berries in all stages of ripening. | Source

About Juniper Berries


Until recently, this author had not really stopped to consider the many uses for juniper berries. Considering that I live in Central Oregon, where juniper berries are everywhere--from low scrub brush varieties to huge, towering antique-looking trees covered with berries--it all of a sudden seemed prudent that I would investigate the possibilities.

As it turns out there are all kinds of things juniper berries are good for. Originally a plant species found in Europe, it has now become indigenous to North America and can be found just about anywhere.

Scrub juniper is the most common variety though the juniper trees (up to 20 feet in height) are prevalent in many locales as well--such as here in Central Oregon. Juniper is virtually everywhere and is the most common allergen here for both people and pets.

Robins in flocks numbering in the hundreds can be seen here in winter foraging for the berries. Fields are covered with them as they fly from bush to bush, tree to tree gobbling up the bounty.

Just this morning, I observed a herd of deer eating the berries that are just beginning to ripen on juniper trees in the area. Birds, squirrels and deer love the berries and here in Central Oregon, they have more than enough to keep them supplied.

But is the juniper berry really a berry? Actually it isn't! The juniper "berry" is really part of a cone that develops on the plants--a cone because junipers are actually part of the pine family. This explains why the juniper berry gives a flavor reminiscent of rosemary and has a rather pine-like taste mixed with to some, a citrus-laden flavor.

The berries pack a huge amount of flavor so it's advised to always use less rather than more if using as a spice or in cooking.

What Juniper Berries are Good For


Juniper berries have been used for centuries as a natural remedy for many things. Today, it's used in many herbal preparations or as a stand-alone treatment in various forms such as dried, as a tea, mixed with other herbs, or made into juniper oil.

Some common uses and healing properties of the juniper berry:

  • Used to treat bronchitis--inhaled to clear lung infection
  • Made into a cleansing tea used twice per day
  • It has been found to make excellent poultices for wounds and promotes healing
  • Juniper berries increase urine production and is used to treat urinary infections
  • Anti-inflammatory properties make it a prescribed treatment for arthritis
  • The berries are said to fight off or eliminate herpes virus flares
  • Used as a treatment long ago for syphilis and gonorrhea
  • Said to decrease upset stomach and heartburn
  • The juniper berry lessons bloating and increases appetite
  • Juniper berries are most famous for their use in gin
  • Can be used as a spice--a little goes a very long way
  • Great adjunct to meat dishes such as beef, pork or wild game such as venison
  • Scandinavians, Northern Italians and Germans use juniper berries in many dishes
  • Juniper berries add delicious flavor to vegetable dishes and things like sauerkraut
  • Used to make soaps and skin oils
  • Said to be beneficial in treating skin conditions such as acne and psoriasis
  • Used in fragrances and sachets for its clean, pine-like scent


Towering juniper trees hold lush berries but the scrub short junipers are just as prolific.
Towering juniper trees hold lush berries but the scrub short junipers are just as prolific. | Source

Juniper Berry Warnings


As in most things in life, too much of a good thing can turn out to be a bad thing. Juniper berries are no exception.

There are certain conditions that would be contraindicated to use the berries with as an herbal supplement--including juniper oils. This is because they have an interaction with certain medications or conditions.

Warnings about when not to use juniper berries:

  • If pregnant, nursing or trying to get pregnant--the juniper berry acts to stimulate menstruation and can result in premature delivery or spontaneous abortion
  • Diabetics are advised not to use juniper berry products because they can decrease blood sugar to dangerously low levels quickly
  • High blood pressure sufferers should beware of juniper berries because they can cause wide fluctuations in blood pressure
  • Anyone who appears to suffer allergy symptoms when around juniper should not ingest the berries or oils
  • Chronic kidney disease patients should have a care using juniper berries as they work directly on the kidney and urinary system causing increased filtration
  • People taking lithium are warned to use caution in using juniper berries as there can be an interaction between the berry and this drug
  • Likewise people on diuretics are said to have a care taking juniper berries because it can lead to over-diuresis which can be a serious health risk (both are water pills)
  • It is recommended never to use juniper berries for more than 4 weeks as a supplement. Then stop and come back to using it at another time. It is mainly used as an anti-inflammatory measure
  • If you are contemplating surgery, it is recommended to stop any use of juniper berries at least 2 weeks before the procedure

The juniper berry is actually not a berry but instead a female cone that develops on the plant.
The juniper berry is actually not a berry but instead a female cone that develops on the plant. | Source

How to Dry Juniper Berries

Equipment

  • Baking sheet
  • Paper towels or bath towel
  • Juniper berries

Technique

  1. Spread berries on paper towels or bath towel and dust removing twigs, leaves, bugs, etc.
  2. Sort through and remove any green berries that are not ripe. A ripe juniper berry is blue.
  3. Place on cookie sheet and dry at room temperature for 3 or 4 weeks. (Put on top of a cupboard so out of reach of pets and children)
  4. Discard any brown berries or berries that have bug holes.
  5. Use in recipes calling for dried juniper berries.

This author would venture to say that they can also be dried in a food dehydrator. Perform the same pre-drying steps and post-drying steps to remove any berries that are brown or have bug holes.

Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.

Cooking with Juniper Berries


For the cook, you can find recipes for all kinds of great stuff using juniper berries fresh or dried.

Again, remember that a little goes a long way in terms of juniper berry flavor.

This salmon recipe sounds absolutely fantastic and is on my list to make soon.

Recipe for Salmon Baked with Juniper Berries

More by this Author


Comments 28 comments

akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

I think Griffin would eat anything--his latest thing is eating paper so we have to lock up everything we might want to actually read later on! I swear something must be lacking in his diet with his food fetishes. The vet says no--he's just a glutton...still a work in progress~

Gabby would probably not worry too much about getting "at" the food though she's a hoover as well--but she's the Omega most definitely--Denaya has issues over food since she was abused and almost died from starvation. We don't tempt fate--we feed all ours separately just in case~


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Man, I thought there were a lot of demands on my time... You've obviously figured out how to do without sleep. Wish you'd share the secret.

Bird suet? I guess every group of dogs has at least one glutton. Pixie's ours. She tries to eat faster than the others so they won't get any, then invariably chokes herself and starts coughing. Tootsie's so laid back, we have to protect her food or she won't get any.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Yes--going on 4 years plus my on-line teaching gig for medical transcription--and the photography biz and my own (what remains of it) transcription service. I work for Nuance as a QC medical records editor--long days and lots of reports flying by my eyes as speech recognition isn't quite what people thought it would be~~ Hard to train robots...and yes maybe Griff is a Dyson...I caught him before our walk this morning digging into the closet ready to eat the bird suet! Good grief the dog has no qualms about eating anything! He is SO on my list!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Wow- you work for Nuance? How cool is that!! Griffin sounds too efficient to be a Hoover. Maybe he's modeled after the Dyson...


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Ha ha--it's working so far and I do have all 10 fingers~ I switch off hands just in case...and coincidentally, I know where I can get a free copy--the day--I work for Nuance who makes Dragon. I'm sure they'd give me a "reasonable" discount--ha ha~ I'll keep y'all posted--another hub in the making if it works. So far it's NOT curbing his enthusiasm for gobbling up food like a HOOVER!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Hand feeding Griffin? Better dust off your copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking...


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Ha ha Crewman--you've figured my little guy out! He is an extremely intelligent dog--though food is his downfall. I've had to go backwards with him and am now trying a new technique--maybe another hub another day--hand feeding him and trying the "push" technique. I still have 10 fingers though if I go AWOL on writing again, we might guess what happened. If only the guy could work a computer or type!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

I must have missed that hub (You DO write faster than I can keep up with...)

Genius level dogs. To borrow a quote from an 1800's military officers handbook - "NCO's bear watching, for they are not intelligent, but have a certain low cunning." My guess is Griffin only sees value in applying his intelligence when it's food-related. :^)


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Not sure if you read my hub about stopping counter surfing malamutes...I set booby traps for them with food on the counter. Tie a water bottle with some pennies in it to a piece of bread, treat, etc. and entice them to "come and get it"--Griff hasn't fallen for it ONE time. I can't believe it--it obviously is way beyond his mentality and he knows that there's no string tied to the apple crisp---so he just helped himself to the WHOLE thing last night! My only other method is to sit at the dining room table and watch and HOPE he will be stupid enough to try it--I have another bottle with a couple of pennies in it that I pitch at the cabinet so it will "appear" that it is falling from God punishing him for his bad behavior---hasn't worked yet! Back to the think tank!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Booby trap?


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Whew--had me worried there for a minute--my mom's dog ate chocolate and had a seizure from it we think since it's not recurred.

Yes indeed, a dog the size of Griffin can produce cow pies on a good day--we won't even go there---but the fumes from that little munching episode--priceless! I think our eyes were burned out by morning not to mention we never wanted to think about eating sauerkraut as long as we live~ I'd say it taught him a lesson but oh no---not my little Griffin boy---he'll never learn I'm afraid--although he DOES seem to get the booby trap I keep setting and he will NOT go for that--I can't believe it! I got Gabby in it but not Griffin...guess he's smarter than I give him credit for!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

We don't allow them to eat chocolate because of the danger. When she got hold of Mom's cake and ate the entire piece, I was worried, but she must have a cast-iron stomach or something. She was fine all night long, and this morning woke up bright-eyed, chipper, and ready to rule the world.

Pixie produces toxic gas normally. I think it's a by-product of meanness. I could only imagine the damage when it's from a dog the size of Griffin!


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks, Virginia and I think cedar is definitely part of the family--but do those trees have pinecone berries too? I'm fascinated now that they aren't really berries at all but pinecones--no wonder they have such a fragrance, etc. I'm going to check into more info on dried junipers as I think they'd be a great thing for crafts and such, too~


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Oh dear, CM--you know that chocolate can be poisonous for dogs, right? OMG--That was the only thing that saved Griffin when he ate the 11 sauerkraut and pumpkin muffins last fall--that I decided NOT to put the chocolate in them I was going to! We of course had toxic waste to put up with all night long while he slept beside our bed--it was kind of like a toxic cloud blowing through the atmosphere~


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States

Another very interesting Hub. I grew up in Southern California around lots of Junipers of all types. In Texas, we have what we call Cedar trees but I believe they are in the same family. I had no idea that you could really cook with these or that they had so many uses!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

We've got a similar situation with our little 4 1/2 pound bantamweight. Pixie the chihuahua can scarf down double her body weight in chocolate cake... which she proved tonight during a moment of unguarded opportunity. We don't let them eat chocolate, but she pulled a slick hit and run tonight and almost didn't get caught. Little opportunist.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Me, too on the snakes~ It was powerfully hot though--we kind of bake in this high mountain dessert climate as I'm sure the dogs did--they slept well!!

Ah great visual---Griff with a backpack and grocery list--except in his case, he'd eat the groceries before he brought them back! That is his great weakness so to speak--the glutton of the bunch. We found a bread wrapper on his bed the other day--he apparently doesn't like the plastic but managed to get inside and eat the entire loaf! That's what happens when you have a 95 pound cruiser who can easily find anything left on the counter! I'm not sure why Bob and my son don't seem to get that fine point---if it's not OUT there, he can't EAT it! Oy vey--and I'm not even Jewish~


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Dog backpacks? That's awesome. I can just picture you sending Griffin out with a backpack and a grocery list in his mouth.

Sounds like y'all had a grand day. Glad there were no snakes.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Lela--I was thinking the same thing--the only thing I didn't like about it is that it said that it could lower them EXTREMELY--and same with blood pressure causing wide variations. I don't think I'm going to stuff Bob full of them--just yet~ I have hypertension now as a result of my episode with the blocked renal arteries and am thinking about asking a nutritionist to be on the safe side--as in how much is okay?

Helen--I'm really thinking about that salmon--it looks TOO delish! Thanks so much for stopping by.

BJ--no swaying juniper trees on the beaches? Well that is disappointing~ Actually most people here are allergic to junipers which is kind of crazy since they are EVERYWHERE! Fortunately, I'm not~

Om--my son swears by them so gotta find out from the chefs around here if they are edible off the trees--or I have to order the gourmet kind but now I just gotta try~

Crewman--Griffin is the exception to most rules--we swear he is human most of the time. Mals can be kind of wicked if not trained right but thankfully (knocking on my head) ours are very sweet and pretty good about most things. I'm not sure I'd turn them loose with a cat or other small animals though--just not wise in my opinion. They actually did famously today--pulled us up an incredibly steep trail and me in my hiking sandals rather than boots!!! They acted like they knew what they were doing and even patiently waited for us to catch our breath and cough up a lung rather than pulling us down the hill at breakneck speed. No snakes thank goodness--and did get some awesome shots--and a lot of doggie attention. Next step I think is we need to break out the dog backpacks~


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Probably a better plan with the berries.

Is Griffin typical of Malamutes, or is he the exception that disproves the rule? I would have thought they'd be very predatorial dogs regardless of the size. Maybe Griffin just possesses a higher degree of common sense than the average person does.


Om Paramapoonya profile image

Om Paramapoonya 4 years ago

I've never cooked with these berries but I think I've seen them before. Thanks for the cooking tips, Audrey. Also, it was interesting to learn about their health benefits as well as possible negative effects. I'll give you A+++ for this hub!


drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

I've never seen a juniper growing in Florida - I think the humidity would be too much for it. I know it may be poisonous if eaten in quantity but I did not know all those other interesting uses you mentioned. Now I am no longer juniper-knowledge-challenged, thanks to you, Audrey.


Seeker7 profile image

Seeker7 4 years ago from Fife, Scotland

Fabulous hub Audrey! I always thought juniper berries were very pretty but I didn't realise that they could be used for so many different things. I agree with you as well - the salmon recipe with the berries looks delicious, so I'll need to keep this on file to try out as well!

Great hub + voted up + shared!!


Austinstar profile image

Austinstar 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

If juniper berries lower blood sugar, they should be good for diabetics! I'm not suggesting that I eat a bunch of them, but wouldn't a small amount be good for both my diabetes and arthritis? I may have to try just one and see.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Good idea probably on the juniper berry--I decided to ask my son to ask the cooks at the resort where he works...probably a better plan~

And Griffin and the deer--funny dog that one---he is afraid of his own shadow to be honest. Of course right before that, the meter reader was whizzing past on his golf cart like vehicle and Griffin was running in circles around me trying to hide. The fellow asked what kind of dog he was---was he a cross of something---I said yes---malamute and wus~ Poor guy is just a nervous nellie. He just blinked at the deer and made not one move towards them. Now if it had been a CAT or a RABBIT, I might have had a problem on my hands or on the leash. They instinctively react to smaller animals or fat quail...I try to size up the environment as we walk so no surprises. We are going on a hike today with them and I'm hoping and praying for NO SNAKES. Not for me so much but for them---they can dart their heads out and grab things so quick it makes MY head spin---and the last thing I want is a mad dash back to civilization with a rattlesnake bitten dog! I will be listening intently today--that's for sure! Trying to escape the fires and go somewhere where we can take some photos! More to come (I hope) from Fort Rock!


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Griffin didn't display a 'killer' instinct? Every dog I had as a child thought deer were their personal toys... until the deer changed their minds. Some ran, others taught the dogs to bark from a distance.

Toxic? Don't take risks. That's what husbands are for. (I know this to be true, Monique tells me it is.) :^)


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon Author

Thanks, Crewman~ I was going to say that the Indians survived on them quite well but then I worry that people might go out there and start eating them by the ton and poison themselves~ I'm going to try one myself and see if it's "toxic" and then may come back and add a comment~

I just can't get over how many robins we get in the wintertime and how many there are of these things EVERYWHERE here. It was just perfect for me this morning walking the dogs though when I saw about 6 deer scarfing up the lower branch berries~ Griffin was not impressed by the deer and quickly tucked his tail and hid behind me. I guess he was worried they might be high on berries~


Crewman6 profile image

Crewman6 4 years ago

Great hub- I was sure hoping you were going to say they could be eaten in bulk though. Something to lower grocery bills. Outside of that, they sure have a lot of uses!

Great photo just above the 'warning' paragraph. That's a gorgeous tree, and the image is fabulous.

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