Chinese juniper

Last Updated: November 17, 2022

Juniperus chinensis is a plant with folklore but no proven medical uses; is an effective insect repellant. It may have protective effects against colon cancer, and the lone rat study assessing glucose tolerance noted fairly remarkable anti-diabetic effects.


Chinese juniper is most often used for

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Sources and Composition



Juniperus Chinensis (of the Cupressaceae family) is a Korean folk remedy sometimes referred to as byakushin and general East Asian tonic that moonlights as a house plant, and has a folklore history for anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, abortifacient, anti-platelet, vasorelaxing, and anti-viral activities.[1][2][3][4] It does not appear to have a history of medicinal usage beyond these folklore uses, although the abortifacient properties (induce abortion) of the Juniperus genera has been noted.[5]

It also appears to be used as an insecticide and insect repellant via the aromatic components.[6][7]

Some folklore history that is seemingly unremarkable; potential use as an abortifacient (not necessarily a good thing) and as an insect repellant against mosquitoes



It contains various compounds such as:

  • Widdrol, with 15.88g being extracted from 10kg in this study (0.001%; may not be reflective of total content)[1]
  • (4-hydroxy-2-isopropylphenyl)ethanoic acid[8]
  • The lignans Epi-calocedrin[8] and other lignans such as hibalactone, isohibalactone, and 7-oxohinokinin[9]
  • The bioflavanoids "Hinikoflavone" and Kayaflavone,[10] the former possible being a type of Hinokiflavone.[11] Other flavanoids are Quercetin, naringenin, taxifolin, aromadendrin and isoquercitrin[12]
  • 2-arylpropane-1,3-diol[9]
  • Totarol and totalorone, as well as the diterpenes 1,3-dioxototarol, isototarolenone, and 1-oxo-3β-hydroxytotarol[13] as well as other diterpenoids[14]
  • (+)-1-hydroxy-1,3,5-bisabolatrien-10-one[15]
  • The courmarin Umbelliferone[9]
  • Podophyllotoxin at 0.00009% dry weight[16][17]
  • Yatein at 0.0008% dry weight[17]
  • Beta-sitosterol[18]
  • Essential Oils Sabenine (19.8%), Limonene (14.2%), bornyl acetate (17.5%), and elemol (18.6%) comprising most of the weight; with 29 other oils totalling the final 30%[19]

Widdrol appears to be the major component in Juniperus Chinensis that is seen as unique to this plant, although some other compounds (such as the flavanoids) appear to also be relatively unique



Interactions with Fat Metabolism



A water extract of Juniperus Chinensis was given at 1% of the diet to normal rats fed a high-fat diet for 79 days noted that Juniperus was able to attenuate the rate of weight gain to 85.9% of high fat control, but failed to match the normal chow diet (leanest of all three groups); no changes in food intake were reported.[20] The Juniperus group appears to have higher levels of active AMPK than the high fat control, but not to the level of lean control.

May have weak anti-obese effects, but nothing remarkable


Interactions with Glucose Metabolism



A study in alloxan-induced diabetic rats (model of type I diabetes), the berries of Juniper were crushed and extracted with either water or ethanol.[21] Acutely, 50-150mg/kg of the ethanolic extract orally significantly reduced blood glucose from 479-491mg/dL to 72-110mg/dL with no apparent dose-dependence; these acute serum glucose levels were lower than non-diabetic control (118mg/dL).[21] These potent acute effects seem to be concentrated in the ethanolic extract, and significantly outperformed Glibenclamide over 9 hours (Glibenclamide reducing glucose to 64% of baseline levels and the ethanolic extract reducing them to 40% at 9 hours) with increasing efficacy up until that time point.[21] A limitation of this study is using Glibenclamide in an alloxan-diabetic model (as Glibenclamide reduces glucose by stimulating beta-cells of the pancreas) so the degree of potency may appear more than it actually is.[21]

Only one study with seemingly remarkable effects with the ethanolic extract of Juniper fruits, which really needs to be replicated; way too preliminary to make any conclusions


Interactions with Cancer Metabolism



Widdrol appears to exert cytotoxic and anti-proliferative effects on colonic adenocarcinoma HT29 cells in a dose-dependent manner, associated with an increase in caspase activity (indicative of apoptosis via mitochondrial damage).[1] Apoptosis induced by Widdrol appears to occur at the G1 phase of the cell cycle (increasing the cell population in G1 from 38.6% to 53.3% at 113uM after 30 minutes; decreasing a bit then elevating to 79.9% at 24 hours),[1][22] and may be secondary to a rapid and quick activation of p21 via phosphorylation.[22][23] Secondary to activation of p21, Cdk2 and cyclin E are both downregulated.[23]

A significant downregulation of Mini-Chromosome Maintenance (MCM) proteins was observed in cells that accumulated at G1,[22][23] MCM proteins protect the genome from damage[24] and tend to be overexpressed in cancer cells,[25] so their suppression by Widdrol may preserve pro-apoptotic damages to the genome of cancer cells. A subsequent study noted that the MCM protein MCM4 specifically was downregulated to 40% of control.[23]

Widdrol appears to activate p21 and reduce MCM proteins, which may make the genome vulnerable to oxidative damage

Widdrol, at 216uM concentration, is able to directly induce DNA strand breaks in vitro in colon cancer HT29 cells while its effects in normal mouse fibroblast cells (SC-1) that concentrations of Widdrol up to 562uM were not significantly cytotoxic; suggesting selective cytotoxicity in tumor cells and no alteration of MCM proteins was noted.[23]

Appears to directly damage DNA in cancer cells, with the same concentration not apparently damaging healthy cells

4.^San Feliciano A, Gordaliza M, Miguel del Corral JM, Castro MA, García-Grávalos MD, Ruiz-Lázaro PAntineoplastic and antiviral activities of some cyclolignansPlanta Med.(1993 Jun)
5.^Agrawal OP, Bharadwaj S, Mathur RAntifertility effects of fruits of Juniperus communisPlanta Med.(1980)
7.^Carroll JF, Tabanca N, Kramer M, Elejalde NM, Wedge DE, Bernier UR, Coy M, Becnel JJ, Demirci B, Başer KH, Zhang J, Zhang SEssential oils of Cupressus funebris, Juniperus communis, and J. chinensis (Cupressaceae) as repellents against ticks (Acari: Ixodidae) and mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae) and as toxicants against mosquitoesJ Vector Ecol.(2011 Dec)
8.^Chang CI, Chen CR, Chen WC, Kuo CL, Kuo YHA new phenolic and a new lignan from the roots of Juniperus chinensisNat Prod Commun.(2010 Jan)
12.^Lim JP, Song YC, Kim JW, Ku CH, Eun JS, Leem KH, Kim DKFree radical scavengers from the heartwood of Juniperus chinensisArch Pharm Res.(2002 Aug)
16.^Ali AM, Mackeen MM, Intan-Safinar I, Hamid M, Lajis NH, el-Sharkawy SH, Murakoshi MAntitumour-promoting and antitumour activities of the crude extract from the leaves of Juniperus chinensisJ Ethnopharmacol.(1996 Sep)
18.^Chang CI, Chen WC, Shao YY, Yeh GR, Yang NS, Chiang W, Kuo YHA new labdane-type diterpene from the bark of Juniperus chinensis LinnNat Prod Res.(2008)
22.^Kwon HJ, Hong YK, Park C, Choi YH, Yun HJ, Lee EW, Kim BWWiddrol induces cell cycle arrest, associated with MCM down-regulation, in human colon adenocarcinoma cellsCancer Lett.(2010 Apr 1)
25.^Forsburg SLEukaryotic MCM proteins: beyond replication initiationMicrobiol Mol Biol Rev.(2004 Mar)