Herb: Rocky Mountain Juniper

Latin name: Juniperus scopulorum

Synonyms: Juniperus virginiana scopulorum

Family: Cupressaceae (Cypress Family)

Medicinal use of Rocky Mountain Juniper:

Rocky Mountain juniper was widely employed medicinally by many native North American Indian tribes who used it in particular to treat problems connected with the chest and kidneys. It is little, if at all, used in modern herbalism. A tea made from the terminal shoots has been used in the treatment of VD by some N. American Indian tribes. The treatment has to be taken over a long period of time. The fruits are appetizer, diuretic and stomachic. An infusion has been used in the treatment of stomach, kidney and bladder problems. An infusion of the twigs has been used in the treatment of fevers, pneumonia, coughs and colds. A poultice of the mashed and dampened branches has been applied to skin sores. The leaves are diaphoretic, disinfectant, febrifuge, haemostatic, laxative, sedative and tonic. A decoction has been used in the treatment of internal bleeding, constipation and constant coughing. The leaves have been boiled, then mixed with turpentine and used as an external treatment on rheumatic joints. The leaves have been rubbed into the hair in order to treat dandruff.

Description of the plant:


10 m
(33 feet)

to May

Habitat of the herb:

Scattered singly on dry rocky ridges, foothills and bluffs in montane areas or in dry habitats of the coastal forest region. The best specimens are found on slightly alkaline soils.

Edible parts of Rocky Mountain Juniper:

Fruit - raw or cooked. Sweet and fleshy, but strongly flavoured. Resinous. Often used as a flavouring, imparting a sage-like taste, for which purpose it is usually dried and ground into a powder. The fruit can also be dried and ground into a meal for making mush and cakes.The fruits are about 5 - 8mm in diameter. The roasted fruit is a coffee substitute. A tea is made from the fruits and young shoots.

Other uses of the herb:

A fragrant wax on the fruits can be obtained by boiling the fruit and skimming off the wax as it floats to the surface. It is used to make aromatic candles but is only present in small quantities. The boughs are used as an incense to fumigate houses and to drive off smells. The wood can be burnt or just hung in the room, or it can be boiled up in water and the water used to wash the walls, floor etc. The bark is employed as a tinder and is also made into a slow match. The dried seeds have been used as beads or as the "rattle" in rattles. The fruits and the leaves are used as an insect repellent. A strong infusion of the cones is used to kill ticks. Plants can be grown as a ground cover, the cultivar "Repens" is especially suitable. A fairly wind resistant tree, it can be grown as part of a shelterbelt planting. In N. America it is used to some extent in re-afforestation and shelterbelt plantings on the prairies. Wood - extremely tough, aromatic, close grained, light, fairly strong in endwise compression but moderately weak in bending, hard, durable in the soil. Used for interior finishes, bows, hoops, hafts, wheels etc.

Propagation of Rocky Mountain 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:

Scattered singly on dry rocky ridges, foothills and bluffs in montane areas or in dry habitats of the coastal forest region. The best specimens are found on slightly alkaline soils.

Known hazards of Juniperus scopulorum:

None known

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.