Juniperus phoenicea, the Phoenicean juniper or Arâr, is a juniper found throughout the Mediterranean region, from Morocco and Portugal east to Italy, Turkey and Egypt, south on the mountains of Lebanon, Israel, Jordan, and in western Saudi Arabia near the Red Sea, and also on Madeira and the Canary Islands. It mostly grows at low altitudes close to the coast, but reaches 2,400 metres (7,900 ft) altitude in the south of its range in the Atlas Mountains. It is the vegetable symbol of the island of El Hierro.
Juniperus phoenicea is a large shrub or small tree reaching 5–8 metres (16–26 ft) tall, with a trunk up to 1–2 metres (3 ft 3 in–6 ft 7 in) in diameter and a rounded or irregular crown. The bark, which can be pealed in strips, is dark greyish-brown. The leaves are of two forms, juvenile needle-like leaves 5-14 mm long and 1 mm wide on seedlings, and adult scale-leaves 1–2 mm long on older plants with a green to blue-green color; they are arranged in opposite decussate pairs or whorls of three. It is largely monoecious, but some individual plants are dioecious. The female cones are berry-like, 6–14 mm in diameter, orange-brown, occasionally with a pinkish waxy bloom, and contain 3-8 seeds; they are mature in about 18 months, and are mainly dispersed by birds. The male cones are 2–4 mm long, and shed their pollen in early spring, which is wind-pollinated.
- Juniperus phoenicea var. phoenicea. Throughout the range of the species. Cones globose, about as wide as long. Leaves are small and obtuse. Sheds pollen in the spring.
- Juniperus phoenicea var. turbinata (syn. J. turbinata). Confined to coastal sand dune habitats. Cones oval, narrower than long. Leaves are long and thin. Sheds pollen in the autumn.
This species prefers a hot, arid climate with a lot of light, and grows on rocky or sandy ground. Its preferred soil is calcareous with a pH between 7.7-7.9 (moderately basic), but could also be silicate. Despite having a shallow root system, it can survive with as little as 200mm of rain per year. It can often be found forming scrubs and thickets with other species.  Each generation lasts about 25 years.
Its habitat in coastal areas is most threatened by the presence of humans, both settled and touring. Humans also plant not-naturally-present plants such as pines, black locust, French tamarisk, desert false Indigo, American agave, tree of heaven, and some succulent plants from South Africa. The purpose of this is usually to stabilize the dunes, but these outside plants interfere with the natural vegetation. It is also threatened easily by fires, because it is quite flammable and does not regenerate well. This makes it necessary to plant new organisms after a fire has damaged the others.
The tree's essential oil is especially rich in the tricyclic sesquiterpene thujopsene; the heartwood contains an estimated 2.2% of this hydrocarbon. The biochemist Jarl Runeburg noted in 1960 that "Juniperus phoenicea appears to be the most convenient source of thujopsene so far encountered." These essential oils used to be used in cosmetics, and have been shown to protect the liver as well.
Its wood is often used for small manufactured objects and inlay works. In parts of Africa when the trunk is straight, the wood is used for parts of buildings as well as carpentry. Mainly in Africa, however, it is used for fuel and producing charcoal.
In Egypt around 1500BC was the first recorded use of using the Juniperus phoenicea medicinally, which was to relieve joint and muscle pain. In Algerian folk medicine, the leaves are used in various ways to treat diabetes, diarrhea, rheumatism, and bronco-pulmonary disease. They can also be used as a diuretic. The leaves and berries combined can be used to combat diabetes as well in both Algerian and Moroccan medicine. In Jordanian traditional medicine, bronchitis and arthritis are treated by a steam inhalant of this plant. Additionally, the leaves and berries are used to treat diabetes mellitus, edema, and urinary tract problems. Specifically, extracts from the leaves are also used to treat gout. The leaves and berries are used in Tunisian folk medicine to treat diarrhea, rheumatism, acute gonococcal infection, eczema, dysmenorrhea, and sunstroke. In various medicine traditions, the essential oils are used to aid digestion because they assist the flow of digestive fluids, therefore improving digestion, as well as eliminating gas and stomach cramping.
In descending order of concentration, these essential elements are found in this plant: Ca, K, Fe, Na, Zn, Cr, Co. Likewise, these are the toxic elements: Br, As, Sb. In trace amounts, these other elements are also found in this plant: Ba, Ce, La, Lu, Rb, Sc, Sm, and Yb.
Extracts of the fruit dissolved in different solvents show a significant antioxidant effect. 70% inhibition was demonstrated, which is as strong as some current synthetic antioxidants. Additionally, a solvent composed of 90% acetone, 9.5% water, and 0.5% acetic acid with the fruit extract showed significant antibacterial properties. It has been suggested that these extracts could be used for preservation purposes with food or pharmaceutical products.
An aqueous extract of the berries has shown hepatoprotective effects in rats that were given Carbon tetrachloride (CCl4) to induce liver damage. The presence of the aqueous extract of the Juniperus phoenicea berries prevented significant hepatocyte damage, and even showed signs of assisting the hepatocyte regeneration process. Additionally, it raised the levels of plasma, total protein, and albumin, which also shows hepatoprotective properties. It has also been show to reverse an imbalance of oxidant and pro-oxidant enzymes, which causes the amount of antioxidant enzymes to return to normal levels. The administration of CCl4 damages the structure of hepatic cells, and the aqueous berry extract improves the structure, which further indicates hepatoprotectivity.
Juniperus phoenicea essential oils from the leaves have been shown to inhibit the activity of enzymes related to Type-2 diabetes and obesity, namely α-amylase and pancreatic lipase. This is likely caused by the terpenoids in the essential oil. The essential oils have also been shown to reduce the growth of two fungi, Aspergillus flavus and Fusarium oxysporum. These antimicrobial properties indicate further potential for use by humans in preservatives and combating infectious diseases.
Both berry and leaf oil have shown strong anti-tumor properties. The berry oil works best against brain tumors and lung carcinoma, secondarily against liver carcinoma and breast carcinoma, and finally also against cervix carcinoma. The leaf oil works about as well as the berry oil against brain tumor and cervix carcinoma, and secondarily as well against lung carcinoma, liver tumor, and breast carcinoma.
- The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species, retrieved 11 February 2017
- ambiguous arabic name also given to Tetraclinis articulata
- Ley 7/1991, de 30 de abril, de símbolos de la naturaleza para las Islas Canarias
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Juniperus phoenicea.|
- Conifer Specialist Group (1998). "Juniperus phoenicea". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2006. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 28 July 2006.
- Adams, R. P. Junipers of the World: The genus Juniperus. Victoria: Trafford, 2004. ISBN 1-4120-4250-X
- Gymnosperm Database: Juniperus phoenicea
- Zsolt Debreczy; Istvan Racz (2012). Kathy Musial, ed. Conifers Around the World (1st ed.). DendroPress. p. 1089. ISBN 9632190610.