Wild Plant Medicine: Common Juniper

Earlier this fall, I gathered a small jar of Common Juniper (Juniperus communis) berries (technically berry-like seed cones). I set them aside for a couple weeks to dry out, and then yesterday I put them back into a jar and covered them with vodka.  The alcohol will draw out various medicinal properties from the berries, as well as act as a preservative.  In about a month, I'll strain out the berries, reserving the alcohol extract, or tincture, for various medicinal purposes.  According to Arthur Haines, extracts of this plant can be used to effectively treat staph infection.

Photo of Common Juniper berries

While gathering the berries, I learned just how sharp the needles on this shrub are. My hands got poked repeatedly, and eventually I learned to handle the branches with more care.

Photo of Common Juniper needles
Sharp needles are green on top and flashy white-striped on the bottom

Look for Common Junipers growing in open areas as spreading shrubs. Where I live, they are often found growing under powerline rights-of-way (though I tend not to gather too much food or medicine from those highly charged, and potentially chemically treated areas). In southern New England, the related Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana) -- a small to medium-sized tree -- is often more common, but as one heads north, Common Juniper increases in abundance.

Leave a Comment