Juniper berries are the flesh-covered, dried, ripe cones of the juniper tree. They are used as a spice, sometimes as a substitute for pepper. Juniper berries are a primary ingredient in making gin, dating back to the Middle Ages when the berries were believed to ward off evil spirits. Native Americans used them both as a food and a medicine. The volatile oils in the berries have antibacterial properties. Medicinally, juniper berries are said to help digestion while clearing the urinary tract. The berries have been used for urinary tract infections and even certain STD’s. They are believed to rid various organs, including the kidneys, gall bladder and pancreas of toxic waste. Due to their diuretic properties, juniper berries have been used for those suffering from congestive heart failure. Juniper berries also reportedly help prevent the crystallization of uric acid, making it an herbal remedy for gout. Many people find that they reduce flatulence. It has also been used historically as a menstrual stimulant. Some evidence also shows that juniper may have anti-inflammatory properties, and they have been used as a treatment for arthritis as well.
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