In Dutch, juniper is called "geniver," from which came the name "gin." But juniper is not only good for making martinis. Its berries (actually not berries at all, but a portion of the cone) were used by the Zuni Indians to assist in childbirth, by British herbalists to treat congestive heart failure and stimulate menstruation, and by American nineteenth-century herbalists to treat congestive heart failure, gonorrhea, and urinary tract infections.

Contemporary herbalists primarily use juniper as a diuretic ("water pill") component of herbal formulas designed to treat bladder infections. A typical combination might include goldenrod, dandelion, uva ursi, parsley, cleavers, and buchu. The volatile oils of juniper reportedly increase the rate of kidney filtration,1 thereby increasing urine flow and perhaps helping to "wash out" offending bacteria. However, there is no direct scientific evidence that juniper is effective for bladder infections. Only a double-blind placebo-controlled study can prove a treatment effective, and none have been reported with juniper

Recently, gin-soaked raisins have been touted as an arthritistreatment. This is probably just a fad, but some weak evidence suggests that juniper may possess anti-inflammatory properties.2 Also, in test tube studies, certain constituents of juniper have been found to inhibit the herpes virus.3 However, it is a long way from such studies to the conclusion that juniper is helpful for herpes infections.