Friday, 14 September 2018

A Herbal Glossary of Terms

Written by Debs Cook
For a beginner on the journey to seek herbal knowledge, picking up a book on the subject of herbal medicine or browsing websites with herbal information can sometimes be rather confusing if they don’t know their Abortifacient from their Vulnerary. Often in these mediums herbs have their ‘Medicinal Properties’ listed using their medicinal term in information and recipe notes, and if the reader is not familiar with all these formal and scientific terms it can be rather confusing.

Our guide briefly explains over 100 terms, giving their technical name in laymen’s terms and offers a few examples of herbs that contain the property described, to help you better understand what is meant when an herbs herbal property is given. It should be noted that a single herb can have more than one property for example Peppermint (Mentha piperata) has antibacterial, carminative, cholagogue and stomachic properties amongst others. This is where studying herbal medicine reaps its rewards the more you study, the more you understand each herb and what it can be used for.

N.B. This guide is purely for educational purposes and should not be used to self-treat or be used in place of consulting your GP or a qualified herbalist.

Herb Examples
The word abortifacient is a Latin word which means ‘to cause a miscarriage’ and describes and herb or a substance that induces an abortion.
Blue Cohosh, Pennyroyal, Rue.
Adaptogen herbs help to support the adrenal glands, and the endocrine system.
Astragalus, Siberian Ginseng, Golden Seal.
An adjuvant herb helps to modify and aid the action of another medicinal agent.
Astragalus, Panax Ginseng,  Plantain Seed.
An alterative herb can help to alter the body’s state of health to be normal.
Burdock Root, Red Clover,  Sarsaparilla.
An analeptic herb that can stimulate and restore the central nervous system to health.
Camphor, Shepherd’s Purse,  Yerba Mate.
An analgesic herb helps to relieve pain, acting on the nervous system.
Angelica, Cramp Bark, White Willow.
An anaphrodisiac works in the opposite way to an aphrodisiac herb, reducing the desire and decreasing libido.
Hops, Liquorice, Marjoram.
An anaesthetic herb gives a loss of sensation or consciousness due to the suppression of nerve function.
Clove, Spilanthes (aka Toothache Plant), Valerian.
An anodyne herb helps to reduce or relieve mild pain.
Clove, Da Zao (Chinese Date), Opium Poppy.
An anthelmintic herb helps to destroy and expel parasitic worms from the body.
Butternut Bark, Tansy, Wormwood.
An antianemic herb helps to prevent or curing anaemia.
Bergamot, Dong Quai (Chinese Angelica), Shu Di Huang (Rehmannia Root).
An antibacterial herb helps to destroy or stop the growth of bacteria
Bayberry, Oregon Grape Root, Tea Tree.
An anti-bilious herb helps the body to remove access bile from the digestive system, easing stress to the stomach.
Bayberry, Dandelion, Vervain.
An anti-catarrhal herb helps reduces inflamed mucous membranes and remove excess phlegm.
[Also referred to as a decongestant.]
Hyssop, Sage,  Yarrow.
An antidepressant herb helps to prevent or alleviate mental depression.
Goat Weed, St John’s Wort, Valerian.
An anti-diabetic herb helps to prevent or relieve diabetes mellitus.
Artichoke, Bilberry, Chicory.
An ant-diarrheic herb helps to prevent or treat diarrhoea.
Blackberry, Dead Nettle, Tormentil Root.
An antiemetic herb helps to prevent or alleviate vomiting.
Fennel, Lemon Balm, Spearmint.
An antifungal herb helps to destroy or inhibit the growth of fungus.
Burdock Root, Calendula (Marigold), Neem.
An anti-haemorrhagic herb helps to control haemorrhaging, which in effect stops a wound from bleeding.
Agrimony, Self-Heal, Witch Hazel.
An anti-inflammatory herb helps to control inflammation caused by an injury or infection.
Arnica, Chamomile, Yarrow
An antilithic herb helps to prevent the formation of stones or gravel in the urinary system.
Buchu Bark, Corn Silk, Stone Root.
An antimalarial herb helps to prevent or relieve malaria.
Cinnamon, Eucalyptus, Quassia. 
An antimicrobial herb helps to destroy microbes that cause disease.
Barberry, Clove,  Garlic.
An antioxidant herb helps to remove potentially damaging agents which cause oxidation in the body.
Bilberry, Green Tea, Turmeric.
An antiperiodic herb helps to prevent the regular recurrence of the symptoms of a disease, for example malaria.
Barberry, Boneset, Vervain.
An antipruritic herb helps to prevent or relieve itching.
Chickweed, Oats, Peppermint.
An antipyretic herb helps to prevent or reduce fever.
Boneset, Feverfew, Meadowsweet.
An ant-rheumatic herb helps to ease the pain of rheumatism, inflammation of joints and muscles.
Chamomile, Prickly Ash Bark, Yarrow
An antiscorbutic herb helps to cure or prevent scurvy.
Barberry, Shepherd’s Purse,  Watercress.
An antiseptic herb helps to prevent infection by cleaning wounds and also inhibiting the growth of microorganisms in the body.
[Also referred to as a Germicide.]
Barberry, Calendula (Marigold), Echinacea.
An antispasmodic herb helps to calm the nervous and controls muscular spasms or convulsions in the body. [Also referred to as a Bronchospasmolytic.]
Cramp Bark, Pasque Flower, Skullcap.
An antitussive herb helps to control and alleviate a cough.
Hyssop, Peppermint, White Horehound.
An antiviral herb helps to inhibit the growth of viruses.
Garlic, Lemon Balm, Quassia.
Aperient herbs have very mild laxative properties which help ease minor cases of constipation.
Barberry, Flax Seed, Senna.
An aperitive herb helps to stimulate the appetite.
Cleavers (Clivers), Dandelion, Winter Savory.
An aphrodisiac herb helps to increase sexual arousal.
Ashwaganda, Damiana, Muira Pauma.
Aromatic herbs have strong and pleasant odours that help to stimulate the digestive system. 
Caraway, Fennel, Peppermint.
An astringent herb helps to shrink tissue by triggering the binding of proteins.
Bayberry, Meadowsweet, Oak Bark.
Bitter herbs help to stimulate the digestive system through a reflex via the taste buds.
Burdock, Dandelion, Milk Thistle.
Cardiotonic herbs affect the heart in varying ways depending on the specific herb, they can increases strength and tone of the heart amongst other actions.
[Also referred to as a Cardiac Tonic.]
Astragalus, Hawthorn, Motherwort.
A carminative herb is rich in volatile oils which help to stimulate the digestive system and relax the stomach.
Aniseed, Dill, Peppermint.
Cathartic herbs have strong laxative properties that help produce bowel movements in severe cases of constipation.
Burdock Root, Rhubarb Root,  Senna Pods.
Cholagogue herbs stimulate the release and secretion of bile from the gall bladder.
[Also referred to as a Choleretic.]
Dandelion, Milk Thistle, Vervain.
Counterirritant herbs contain substances that cause one kind or irritation to relieve other kinds or irritation by producing an inflammatory response in  an adjacent area
Cayenne Pepper, Horseradish, Nettle
Demulcent herbs help to sooth irritated tissue and inflammation; they have a soothing action, especially on the mucous membranes.
Flax Seed, Marshmallow, Slippery Elm
Deobstruent herbs help to remove obstructions and blockages in the ducts of the body such as the bile duct thus helping to regulate the passage of fluids such as bile.
Butcher’s Broom, Dandelion, Golden Seal.
A depurative herb helps to removes toxins, waste products and impurities from the body, they also cleanse the blood.
Ashwaganda, Pau d’Arco, Valerian.
Diaphoretic herbs help the skin to eliminate toxins and aid perspiration.
[Also referred to as Sudorific]
Boneset, Ginger, Yarrow.
Digestive herbs help to stimulate the digestion system aiding it to breakdown and absorb nutrients from food ingested.
Basil, Chamomile, Lemon Verbena.
Diuretic herbs help to increase the flow of elimination of urine from the body.
Boldo Leaf, Buchu Bark, Parsley Piert.
Emetic herbs help to induce vomiting and are often used when poisoning is suspected.
Boneset, Cascara Sagrada, Wild Yam.
Emmenagogue herbs help to normalise the flow of menstruation and to stimulate the menses.
Black Cohosh, Chaste Tree,  Motherwort.
Emollient herbs are used to soften and sooth the skin, externally they act in the way that demulcents act internally.
Chickweed, Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm.
Estrogenic herbs help to increase the production of oestrogen in the body.
Black Cohosh, Ginkgo, Red Clover.
Euphoriant herbs create a sense of euphoria; the effect is temporary and often addictive.
Damiana, Nutmeg, Opium Poppy.
Expectorant herbs help to remove excess amounts of mucous from the respiratory system.
[Also referred to as Anticatarrhal.]
Elecampane, Liquorice Root, Thyme.
An herb with febrifuge properties helps to reduce and relieve a fever.
[Also referred to as Antipyretic.]
Feverfew, Hyssop, Vervain.
Galactagogue herbs help to promote the flow of milk and increase the activity in the mammary ducts.
[Also referred to as a Galactogenic.]
Fennel, Fenugreek,  Milk Thistle.
Hemagogue herbs help to increase the flow of blood.
[Also referred to as an Emmenagogue.]
Angelica, Black Cohosh, Pennyroyal.
Hemostatic herbs help to control the flow of blood or to stop bleeding.
Bistort Root, Cranesbill Root, Yarrow.
Hepatic herbs help to tone and strengthen the liver and aid the flow of bile.
Barberry, Dandelion, Wild Yam.
Hypnotic herbs have a sedative and calming effect on the central nervous system and also help to induce sleep.
Chamomile, Hops, Passionflower.
Hypotensive herbs affect the heart in varying ways depending on the specific herb; they can help to increase blood pressure amongst other actions.
[Also referred to as a Cardiac Tonic.]
Astragalus, Panax Ginseng, Hawthorn.
Hypoglycaemic herbs help to lower the level of glucose in the blood and regulate blood sugar.
Burdock Root, Cinnamon, Goats Rue.
Immune Enhancer
Immune enhancing herbs help to enhance the function of the immune system and are used when the immune system is underactive.
Astragalus, Echinacea, Wild Indigo.
Immune suppressing herbs reduce the function of the immune system and are used when the immune system is overactive.
Cascara Sagrada, Indian Sarsaparilla, Long Pepper.
Irritant herbs cause stimulation and irritation.
Black Pepper, Cayenne Pepper, Mustard Seed.
Lactifuge herbs inhibit the production or secretion of breast milk.
Black Walnut, Peppermint,  Sage
Laxative herbs help to produce bowel movements for cases of constipation.
Dandelion Root, Flax Seed, Rhubarb Root.
Lithotriptic herbs help to dissolves stones in the urinary tract.
Boldo Leaf, Butcher’s Broom,  Oregon Grape.
Mucilaginous herbs contain mucilage and help to lubricate tissue, soothing inflammation and ease dryness.
Psyllium Seed, Slippery Elm,  Violet Leaf.
Narcotic herbs work in a similar way to analgesic herbs to help reduce pain. In high doses they also induce drowsiness.
Devil’s Claw Root, Dong Quai (Chinese Angelica), Opium Poppy.
Nauseant herbs have the ability to induce vomiting.
Boneset, Broom & Calamus Root.
Nervine herbs help to strengthen, stimulate and calm the nervous system.
Passionflower, Skullcap, St John’s Wort.
Nutritive herbs help to restore vitality and increase help and improve the function of the body.
Astragalus, Marshmallow Root, Slippery Elm.
Pectoral herbs help to strengthen and heal the respiratory system.
Coltsfoot, Lungwort, White Horehound.
Progesterogenic herbs help with the production of progesterone in the body and to boost its effects.
Chaste Tree (Agnus castus), Sarsaparilla, Wild Yam
Purgative herbs help to produce bowel movements for cases of severe constipation.
Buckthorn Bark, Cascara Sagrada,  Rhubarb Root.
Refrigerant herbs have a cooling effect when applied externally; they can soothe irritation and bring down internal and external body heat.
Chickweed, Sorrel, Spearmint.
Restorative herbs help to alter the body’s state of health to be back to normal function.
Cleavers (Clivers), Nettle, Yellow Dock Root.
Resolvent herbs help reduce inflammation or swelling.
Lungwort, St John’s Wort, White Dead Nettle.
Rubefacient herbs help to increase the circulation to the skin by dilating the skin's capillaries; the action reddens the skin, dilates the vessels, and increases blood supply locally.
Cayenne Pepper, Ginger, Rosemary.
Sialagogue herbs help to stimulate the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands.
Bayberry, Centaury, Gentian Root.
Sedative herbs have a soothing and tranquilising effect on the body.
Hops, Passionflower, Valerian
Soporific herbs have a calming effect on the nervous system and are used to help induce sleep.
Chamomile, Lemon Balm Skullcap.
Stimulant herbs help to quicken and enliven the physiological functions of the body.
Cinnamon, Ginger, Panax Ginseng.
Stomachic is another term for carminative, these herbs are rich in volatile oils which help to stimulate the digestive system and relax the stomach.
Caraway, Chamomile, Peppermint
Sudorific herbs help the skin to eliminate toxins and aid perspiration.
[Also referred to as Diaphoretic.]
Bayberry, Catnip, Prickly Ash Bark.
Styptic herbs help to shrink tissue by triggering the binding of proteins. They are usually high in tannin content which helps to reduce haemorrhage, Secretions and discharges.
Bilberry, Golden Rod, Oak Bark.
Toenifuge herbs help to expel tape worms.
Garlic, Mulberry Leaf, Pomegranate Bark.
Tonic herbs help to strengthen and revitalise specific organs, they can also work on the whole body and help to increase strength and tone.
Gentian Root, Panax Ginseng, Raspberry Leaf.
Vasodilator herbs help to constrict or narrow blood vessels.
Garlic, Hawthorn, Thyme.
Vermifuge is another term for an anthelmintic herb, these herbs help to destroy and expel parasitic worms from the intestine.
Black Walnut, Rue, Wormwood.
Vulnerary herbs help the body heal wounds ad cuts, they are usually applied externally.
Arnica, Calendula (Marigold), Thyme.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to source the most up to date and accurate information, we cannot guarantee that remedies in our articles are effective, when in doubt, consult your GP or a qualified Medicinal Herbalist. Remember also that herbal remedies can be dangerous under certain circumstances therefore you should always seek medical advice before self-treating with a homemade remedy, especially if you are pregnant, breast feeding or suffer from any known illness which could be adversely affected by self-treatment.