Prickly juniper oil properties

Prickly juniper characteristics

Common English name: Prickly Juniper, Prickly Cedar, Sharp Cedar, Cade Juniper, Spanish Cedar, Cade.

Common name in other languages:

General aspect of prickly juniper

General aspect of prickly juniper (Juniperus oxycedrus)

– Dutch: Stekelige jeneverbes

– German: Wacholder

– Castilian: Sabina de miera, cada, enebro de miera, azotacristos.

– Catalan: Càdec

– French: Genévrier cade

– Portuguese: Cedro-de-espanha, cade, oxicedro, zimbro-bravo

– Italian: Ginepro rosso

Scientific name: Juniperus oxycedrus L. The name of the species oxycedrus is formed by the words oxy= pointed + Kedros = cedar.

It refers to the leaves that are similar to those of cedar and are very sharp.

The generic name “Juniperus” (= rough) comes from Celtic and is due to the harsh taste of the fruit.

Varieties of prickly juniper

The main varieties of this species are:

  • J. oxycedrus subsp. transtagana (it grows in the southwest coast of Portugal and is characterized by its shorter leaves and very smooth cones
  • Juniperus deltoides R.P. Adams ( it grows in Israel, central Italy and eastern Iran. Its leaves are between 10 and 20 mm and the cones, wider at the base, show the raised edges of the scales)
  • J. oxycedrus bar. badia H.Gay (it grows in northern Algeria, Spain and Portugal)

Family: Cupressaceae

Habitat: Where to find prickly juniper?

It grows in Mediterranean areas, from sea level to 1000 meters high, mainly in pine , holms-oaks forests, on calcareous soils. In many places, it can be found along with common juniper (Juniperus communis) or savin juniper (Juniperus sabina)

In most cases it does not reach the size of a tree but it is just bush a little more than a few meters. It commonly l¡ves in poor, dry soils where other trees found it very difficult to adapt. (In the photo on the right you can see the arid landscape where it grows)

– Active principles: Pinene, Terpineol, junene, cadinene, juniperin, tannins and resin

– Active parts: Mainly the essential oil found in the galbuli and young shoots. The leaves and wood.

Characteristics of prickly juniper

Dioecious tree up to 10 m in height. Short stems, erect, grayish brown bark.

Needle-like leaves, sharp, gathered in whorls of three. Much like the common juniper from whom primarily differentiates because of the leaves drawing.

In this case the leaves show below two white bands whereas juniper leaves only show one.

Fruits in galbuli, red or reddish brown when ripe, which occurs in the second year after flowering, something that takes place in spring.

Properties of prickly juniper


Photo detail of prickly juniper galbulus and leaves. Note the double white stripe that defines the lower leaf surface and differentiates it from junipers that only have a band.

Traditional uses of juniper

Traditionally, we can find written references of this plant in Laguna writings, when he says that, according to Dioscorides, the plant is useful to clarify the view, because ” it removes the scars and the white clouds that obscure the eyes”

Later, he attributes many properties, including the treatment of ear infections and tinnitus or ringing ears : “infused with vinegar, it kills the worms that breed in the ears and resolves sounds and whistles that they feel instilled them with a decoction of hyssop. ”

Followed by other properties: “Caught in the tooth breaks and removes the pain together… If you smear it with it before the act, makes it to breed unfit…. With his ointment the lice and nits die suddenly… ”

  • Folk remedy: Medicinally its fruits and its wood have been used to eliminate liquid retention, to increase sweat and to favor the menstruation (emmenagogue)

Externally, the essential oil is used to cure skin diseases, to combat warts, lice, scabies and to calm the rheumatism attacks, by means of the external topical application of this product.

    • Juniper tar or cade oil is obtained as a result of pyrogenization of the wood. Pyrogenization is a form of slow combustion.
    • Pharmaceutical Products: In pharmacy, its essential oil is used to develop drugs for urinary tract infections, gallstones or kidney stones and for the treatment of rheumatism or gout.
    • Wood: Its wood, like the rest of juniper trees, is highly resistant to putrefaction and very hard. It has a bright red color and it is very aromatic. This wood has been highly valued for making furniture and other items of joinery and carpentry.
    • Gardening: In gardening, like the rest of junipers it is used as frostresistant tree for the rigors of an extreme weather, both cold and warm. This ability to survive in extreme conditions makes it ideal for the following purposes:
      • Hedges
      • Windscreen
      • Coastal dunes
      • Rocks
      • Garden Trees
      • Reforestation

Toxicity of prickly juniper

Due to its toxicity, the internal use of this plant is not recommended. Its capacity to irritate the renal parenchyma has been proven, and therefore it is not recommended in cases of diseases of the intestines and kidneys (nephritis, renal insufficiency, prostatitis, etc.).

This plant contains principles that may be responsible for the development of cancerous tumors.

Its essential oil is highly toxic when ingested in higher doses than allowed. Strong irritant to the intestines and kidneys. Excessive ingestion may result in the occurrence of diarrhea, stomach ache or kidney problems, blood or albumin in the urine (hematuria and albuminuria), hypertension and increased heart rate. This oil is considered to have narcotic properties.

In external use, essential oil should be diluted so as not to cause irritation or blisters. Even diluted, it can cause adverse reactions (dermatitis, nasal congestion, vesicles, etc.) in sensitive or allergic people. In this case, treatment should be stopped.

Due to its high toxicity, it is better to use creams, shampoos or other preparations available in pharmacies and natural stores and follow the instructions of patient’s information leaflet.

Contraindications of prickly juniper

Pregnant or lactating women should NOT take preparations of prickly juniper. In case of pregnancy, it can produce abortions by exciting uterine contractions.

– Preparations of prickly juniper are NOT suitable for young children.

Treatments of juniper should not continue for long to prevent damage by toxins accumulation. Treatments over 4 weeks should be monitored by a doctor.

punto rojoMore information on juniper oil or cade oil.

This article was endorsed by Vicente Martínez Centelles - Founder of the web and director. Teacher of natural sciences, expert in plants, natural remedies and botanical photography.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

12 May, 2021

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