Monday, November 26, 2018

Alternative Medicine: Juniper, Part 2

Last week in Alternative Medicine we covered the harvesting and medicinal uses of juniper berries.  But the great thing about juniper is that we don't have to wait for fall to use it medicinally; the needles can be gathered and turned into medicine at any time of the year!

Medicinal uses of the juniper needles:  Juniper is or has reportedly been used in the treatment of urinary tract infection, urethritis, cystitis, acne, arthritis, rheumatism, toothache, swollen gums, heartburn, bloating, loss of appetite, gastrointestinal infections, intestinal worms, sores, wounds, measles, smallpox, snake bites, insect bites, dog bites, Staphylococcus aureus, and scurvy. The needles may be of use in potentiating the efficacy of erythromycin and ampicillin.

As previously noted, unfortunately, all that is sometimes recorded is that an herb was used, without detailing how much was used, how it was prepared, or how often it was used.  While just using any herb that "someone said" was used to treat xyz disease is irresponsible at best when competent, licensed medical care is available, if there is no one else to help and all conventional supplies are exhausted, I guess if I'm throwing anything I can get my hands on at tuberculosis or tetanus, I'd rather try what Native Americans reportedly used to treat it than just trying to guess on my own.  Accordingly, juniper something has also been used in the treatment of  depression, fatigue, high blood sugars, insomnia, tuberculosis, herpes simplex 1 and 2, kidney infections, kidney stones, bladder stones, enlarged prostate, gout, eczema, dandruff, psoriasis, vitiligo, athlete's foot, warts, tetanus, diarrhea, nausea, hemorrhage, high blood pressure, and Aspergillus niger.

Tincture dosage: 5-20 drops, up to 3x daily, for a maximum of four to six weeks.  Begin with a lower dosage and increase, if needed.  Tinctures take several weeks to make, so having them on hand before an infection occurs is best.

Making the juniper needle tincture:  1:5, 75% alcohol (that's one ounce of juniper needles to five ounces of 150-proof alcohol).  Store the tincture in the dark and give it a good shake once each day.  After five days, blend the tincture in a blender and then put it back in the jar and store it in the dark for four weeks.  For the last step, strain the tincture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove the herb and pour it into a clean bottle or jar.  Store in a cool, dark location.

Infusion:  Pour 2 cups of boiling water over 1-3 teaspoonfuls of crushed needles and steep for 10-15 minutes.  Take one cup in the morning and one in the evening for lower urinary tract infections and digestive problems.  Limit consumption to two weeks unless directed otherwise by a medical professional. If treating for scurvy, use new growth (lighter green) needles for their higher vitamin C content. 

Decoction:  Add one ounce of needles to one quart of boiling water.  Boil for 30 minutes, remove from heat, and let steep 12-24 hours.  It has historically been used as an antiseptic wash for sores, wounds, measles, smallpox, snake bites, insect bites, dog bites. A decoction is also used as a poultice on rheumatic or arthritic joints.  Furthermore, a decoction of the needles was historically used to sterilize brewing equipment, cooking utensils, surgical instruments (yeah, that could be helpful), hands, and counters.  It would seem silly to put this in buckets when I've got hundreds of trees here, but it is definitely one to keep in the memory banks for future reference.

Steam:  Boil four ounces of needles in one gallon of water; inhale the steam as it boils.  Use for upper respiratory infections. 

Poultice:  A poultice of the leaves is applied to the jaw for alleviating toothaches and sore or swollen gums. 

Medicinal uses of the juniper twigs:

Decoction:  Prepare as for the needle decoction above, using one ounce of twigs instead.  Use primarily for treating stomach aches and kidney complaints. 

Poultice:  Mash twigs and make a poultice to dress burns and swollen skin tissue. 

Smoke:  Smoke from burning twigs was inhaled by Native Americans in treating headaches and colds.  Juniper branches were used in sweat baths for alleviating rheumatism. 

Medicinal uses of the seeds:

The seeds were eaten to treat headaches.

Other uses of juniper:

Air purifier:  Simmer berries and water in an open pot.

Disinfectant:  Add juniper berries to dishwater or other cleaning solutions as a disinfectant.  Yes, it sounds a little far-fetched.  Read on.

Alternative to chlorhexidine:  Chlorhexidine is an oral rinse used in periodontal treatment; however, extended use can have negative side effects.  Juniper essential oil diluted in water had no negative effects.  (https://www.researchgate.netpublication277252482_Essential_Oil_from_Berries_of_



Wax:  Simmer fruit, skim off wax, use to make candles.

Slow match:  Crushed bark is twisted into a rope, tied with yucca, and coiled.  The free end was lit and kept smoldering by blowing on it infrequently.  In this way, fire could be carried for several hours.

Roofs:  The bark is used to thatch roofs.

Bedbugs:  Boughs were used to deter bedbugs.

Contraindications:  Juniper is a common allergen for hay fever.  It also affects blood glucose levels in diabetics.  Avoid juniper during pregnancy and while nursing.  

Cautions:  Large doses of juniper, like six cups of strong tea in a day, may cause vomiting, diarrhea, and increased urine flow.  Use juniper only for a month or so; then abstain for a week or more before using the herb again.

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