Herb: One-Seed Juniper

Latin name: Juniperus monosperma

Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Medicinal use of One-Seed Juniper:

One-seed juniper was commonly employed medicinally by a number of native North American Indian tribes, who used it to treat a variety of complaints. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. The leaves are febrifuge, laxative and pectoral. An infusion is used in the treatment of stomach complaints, constipation, coughs and colds. An infusion was also used by pregnant women prior to childbirth in order to relax the muscles. A poultice of the heated twigs can be bound over a bruise or sprain in order to reduce the swelling. An infusion of the staminate cones has been used as a stomach tonic and in the treatment of dysentery. The chewed bark has been applied externally to help heal spider bites. It is also highly prized as a dressing on burns. The fruits are strongly diuretic. A gum from the plant has been used as a temporary filling in a decayed tooth.

Description of the plant:


18 m
(59 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Dry rocky or sandy soils, 1000 - 2300 metres.

Edible parts of One-Seed Juniper:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Soft, juicy and pulpy, but with a thin flesh. It can be dried and ground into a powder and then be baked, or can be used as a seasoning in stews etc. The fruits were only used when other foods were in short supply. The cones are about 5 - 8mm in diameter and ripen in their first year. Inner bark - raw or cooked. It was chewed in times of food shortage for the little nourishment it supplied. The gum is chewed as a delicacy. No further details are given.

Other uses of the herb:

Thin strips of the fibrous bark are used for making sleeping mats etc. It has also been used as a lining in shoes to absorb moisture and to keep the feet warmer. When rubbed fine, the bark can be used to make children's clothing. The bark is employed as a tinder and is also made into a slow match or can be shredded, bound into bundles and used as a torch to give light in the house. The crushed bark was twisted into a rope, tied at intervals with yucca (Yucca species), and wrapped into a coil. The free end was set on fire and kept smouldering by blowing on it at intervals. Fire could be carried in this fashion for several hours. The dried seeds have been used as beads or as the "rattle" in rattles. A green dye is obtained from the bark and berries. A yellow dye is obtained from the whole plant. Ashes from the whole plant have been used as a mordant to fix the colour of dyes. Wood - moderately hard, somewhat heavy, slightly fragrant. When seasoned properly it is very durable and is used mainly for fencing and fuel. As a fuel it burns steadily and evenly.

Propagation of One-Seed Juniper:

The seed requires a period of cold stratification. The seed has a hard seedcoat and can be very slow to germinate, requiring a cold period followed by a warm period and then another cold spell, each of 2 - 3 months duration. Soaking the seed for 3 - 6 seconds in boiling water may speed up the germination process. The seed is best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame. Some might germinate in the following spring, though most will take another year. Another possibility is to harvest the seed "green" (when the embryo has fully formed but before the seedcoat has hardened). The seedlings can be potted up into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Grow on in pots until large enough, then plant out in early summer. When stored dry, the seed can remain viable for several years. Cuttings of mature wood, 5 - 10cm with a heel, September/October in a cold frame. Plant out in the following autumn. Layering in September/October. Takes 12 months.

Cultivation of the herb:

Dry rocky or sandy soils, 1000 - 2300 metres.

Known hazards of Juniperus monosperma:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.