Juniperus communis

Juniperus communis

The common juniper (Juniperus communis L.) is a small tree or evergreen perennial shrub of the Cupressaceae family.

Systematics –
From the systematic point of view it belongs to the Domain Eukaryota, Kingdom Plantae, Subarign Tracheobionta, Superdivisione Spermatophyta, Division Pinophyta, Classe Pinopsida, Order Pinales, Family Cupressaceae and then to the Genus Juniperus and to the Specie J. Communis.

Etymology –
The term Juniperus derives from iúnix, heifer and from pário, giving birth, giving birth: for presumed properties favoring childbirth. The specific epithet obviously refers to common, banal.

Geographic Distribution and Habitat –
The Juniperus communis is widespread from marine regions to mountainous areas, in dry pastures, on moors or scrubland; is a very long-lived species, present in all the temperate regions of the northern hemisphere and resistant to low temperatures, tolerates aridity and strong wind, easily adapts to inhospitable soils being indifferent to the substrate. It can be found from sea level up to 3,500 m s.l.m .. this species together with Juniperus oxycedrus has the ability to form biogroups with various woody and herbaceous species that allow to promote the secondary succession of the territory.

Description –
The Juniperus communis is a conifer in the form of an evergreen shrub or tree with a twisted trunk, 1 to 10 m tall, with linear-needle-like, pungent leaves, gathered in verticils of 3. The plant is dioecious, meaning flowers, unisexual, in two different plants, one with male flowers, yellowish, and one with female flowers, small greenish cones, which produce berries (also called “cuddles”). Because of their appearance, the cones are easily mistaken for berries and therefore commonly called “juniper berries”. They are widely appreciated for their aromatic qualities.

Cultivation –
The common juniper is a shrub grown both for ornamental purposes and for its beneficial and decorative berries. It is a species of easy cultivation, very adaptable to various conditions, and of long duration. For the cultivation technique consult the following sheet.

Uses and Traditions –
The Juniperus communis is in effect an officinal plant. In the fruits there is a high percentage of essential oil, which contains myrcene, sabinene, alpha and beta pinene, 1,4-cineol, 1-terpinen-4-ol, camphene, thujene, thujopsene, limonene, borneol, geraniol and cadinene . Diterpenic acids are also present: communic acid, turulosic acid, isoparial acid, sandaracopimaric acid.
The terpinen-4-ol and other oil diterpenes stimulate the secretory renal epithelium, thus conferring volumetric diuretic properties. They also perform bacteriostatic function in the case of infection of the lower urinary tract, towards staphylococcus aureus, streptococcal pyogenic, Escherichia coli and Salmonella typhi.
Important functions are also performed by Flavonoids, such as: tannins, juniperosides, apigenin, rutin, ipolaetine-7-pentoside, gossipetine-glucopentoside, quercitrin. These have antioxidant, hypoglycemic and eupeptic properties, which justify their popular use in cases of diabetes and intestinal colic. Its external dye is used for neuralgia or rheumatic pain. Further action, in vitro discovery, is that of pinene, which seems to inhibit the synthesis of some inflammatory cytokines at the level of human cartilage cells or chondrocytes. Juniper preparations are not recommended in the case of: inflammation of the upper urinary tract, pregnancy and lactation and severe renal insufficiency.
Also the juniper wood and the whole plant have different uses. The wood, red in color and with a typical resinous smell, is used for carving works and for suffumigi against rheumatic pains. The plant is particularly cultivated as an ornamental plant in parks and gardens. A special use of juniper is to create boundary hedges, because thanks to the pungent leaves, which form a dense intertwining, it is an excellent defensive barrier. The idiomatic expression “to hunt in a juniper” seems to derive from this characteristic.

Preparation Mode –
The juniper berries or galbuli are widely used both in the kitchen and in the liqueur. In the kitchen they are an essential aroma for game and, often, for various roasts. Distillates are the ingredients that characterize gin; they also produce aromatic wines and liqueurs and a juniper brandy, leaving a handful of pampering infusions (about 50 g per liter) into the grappa.

Guido Bissanti

Sources
– Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
– Treben M., 2000. Health from the Pharmacy of the Lord, Advice and experience with medicinal herbs, Ennsthaler Publisher
– Pignatti S., 1982. Flora of Italy, Edagricole, Bologna.
– Conti F., Abbate G., Alessandrini A., Blasi C. (edited by), 2005. An annotated checklist of the Italian vascular flora, Palombi Editore.

Warning: Pharmaceutical applications and alimurgical uses are indicated for informational purposes only and do not in any way represent a medical prescription; there is therefore no liability for their use for curative, aesthetic or food purposes.

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