Glossary of Herb Terms
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If you're confused about the various terminologies used in Herbal medicine such as what is an adaptogen, what is a carminative herb, or what does an antispasmodic herb do to the body, then, this list of terms will help you understand the terminology used in herbalism.
Abortifacient: Induces the premature abortion of the fetus. Example: pennyroyal, aloe, sandalwood.
Adaptogens: Herbs that help us adapt to stress by supporting the adrenal glands, the endocrine system, and the whole person. Examples are ginseng root, nettle leaf, sarsaparilla, licorice root, and ashwagandha.
Alterative: These herbs alter or change a long-standing condition by aiding the elimination of metabolic toxins. Gradually facilitates a beneficial change in the body. Also known as "blood cleansers" in the past, these herbs improve lymphatic circulation, boost immunity, and help clear chronic conditions of the skin. These herbs also heal sores, boils, tumors, cancers; reduces fevers; detoxifies the liver, kills parasites and worms; helps in the treatment of infectious, contagious diseases and epidemics, flu, acne herpes, and venereal disease. Examples are: ginseng, aloe, sandalwood, red clover, burdock, bayberry, black pepper, cinnamon, myrrh, and safflower.
Amoebicidal: For amoebic dysentery.
Analgesic or anodynes: These herbs reduce or eliminate pain (e.g., digestive, circulatory, respiratory, nervous system, nerve, muscle, tooth pain, nervous digestion, headaches). Some herbs are strong pain relievers, often working best against pains of specific causes. Examples: Camphor, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, echinacea, lavender flower, feverfew herb, cabbage leaves, wintergreen leaf , passionflower herb and flower.
Anaphrodisiac: Herbs that decrease or allay sexual feelings or desires.
Anesthetics: For surgical anesthesia. Examples are: ashok, calamus, gudmar, and jatamanshi.
Anthelmintic: Herbs that destroys and dispels worms, parasites, fungus, yeast See also: vermicide, vermifuge. Examples are: Pau d'arco, goldenseal, wormseed, wormwood, ajwan, cayenne, peppers, and pumpkin seeds.
Anodyne: Herbs that relieve pain and reduces the sensitivity of the nerves. (See analgesic) Examples: Ashok, barberry, cedar, and ginger.
Antacid: Neutralizes the acid produced by the stomach. Helps the stomach lining recuperate to accommodate the healthy gastric acid needed for good digestion. Examples are: marshmallow root and leaf, meadowsweet herb, hops flower, and sweet flag.
Anthelmintic: An agent that destroys and expels worms from the intestines. Same as vermifuge.
Antibilious: Herb that combats nausea, abdominal discomfort, headache, constipation, and gas that is caused by an excessive secretion of bile. (These symptoms are called biliousness.)
Antibiotic: Inhibits the growth of germs, bacteria, and harmful microbes. Examples: Turmeric and echinacea.
Antidiabetic: Controls blood sugar in diabetics. Examples of herbs: Amalaki, blackberry, fenugreek, gudmar, senna, and shilajit.
Antidiarrhea: An alterative. Examples are: Blackberry, comfrey, gentian, red raspberry, and yellow dock, black pepper, and ginger.
Antiemetic: Prevents or alleviates nausea and vomiting. Examples are: Cloves, coriander, ginger, and raspberry.
Antiepileptic: Herb that combats the convulsions or seizures of epilepsy.
Antilithic: Aids in preventing the formation of stones in the kidneys and bladder.
Antiperiodic: Prevents the periodic recurrence of attacks of a disease; as in malaria. Examples: Barberry, chirayata, guduchi, kutaj, and vacha.
Antiphlogistic: Herb that counteracts inflammation.
Antipyretic: Reduces fever by reducing production of heat at its centers; destroying fever toxins; sweating to increase the loss of heat; drawing out the heat (e.g., cold baths). Same as febrifuge or refrigerant. Examples: Amalaki, black pepper, brihati, nirgundi, safflower, sandalwood.
Antirheumatic: Herb that relieves or cures rheumatism.
Antiscorbutic: Effective in the prevention or treatment of scurvy.
Antiseptic: Prevents decay or putrefaction. A substance that inhibits the growth and development of microorganisms without necessarily destroying them. Also see bitter. Examples are: Aloe, Chitrak, gokshura, gudmar, sandalwood, and turmeric.
Antispasmodic: Relieves or prevents involuntary muscle spasm or cramps (also see nervines) by strengthening nerves and the nervous system. Examples: Camomile, ashwagandha, basil, calamus, guggul, licorice, myrrh, sage, gotu kola, jatamanshi, peppermint, sandalwood, and spearmint.
Antisyphilitic: Herbs that improve or cure syphilis. Also called antiluetic. Examples: Black pepper, cedar, guduchi, guggul.
Antitussive: Prevents or improves a cough.
Antivenomous: Acts against poisonous matter from animals.
Antizymotic: Herbs that destroy disease-producing organisms.
Aperient: A mild or gentle laxative. Also called aperitive. Example: Rhubarb.
Aphrodisiac: Restores or increases sexual power and desire. Two types: Tonics: Develop tissue substance. Stimulants: increase the functioning of the reproductive organs. Examples: Angelica, ahwagandha, asparagus, fenugreek, fo-ti, ginseng, gokshura, hibiscus, kapikachu seeds, pippali, rose, saffron, and shatavari. The nutritive tonics such as aghwagandha, bala, fo-ti, ghee, licorice, marshmallow, sesame seeds, and Shatavari increase semen and breast milk.
Appetizer: For stimulating the appetite. Examples: Cardamom, coriander.
Aromatic: Herb with a pleasant, fragrant scent and a pungent taste. Examples: Cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, peppermint, and turmeric.
Astringent: Causes a local contraction of the skin, blood vessels, and other tissues, thereby arresting the discharge of blood, mucus, etc. Usually used locally as a topical application. Examples: Amalaki, arjuna, ashok, cinnamon, jasmine, sandalwood, and yarrow.
Balsam: The resin of a tree that is healing and soothing. For example: myrrh.
Balsamic: A healing or soothing agent.
Bitter: A solution of bitter, often aromatic, plant products used as a mild tonic. These herbs reduce toxins, toxins in blood and weight, destroy infection, high fever, heat, fever in blood, internal fever, heated liver, much thirst, sweating, inflammation, and infection. Examples: aloe, barberry, chirayata, gentian, and golden seal.
Calmative: Herbs that are soothing, sedating-see also nervines.
Cardiac Stimulant: Herbs that promote circulation when there is a weak heart.
Carminative: Herbs that helps to prevent gas from forming in the intestines, and also assists in expelling it. Also increases absorption of nutrients, dispels water, mucus, promotes normal peristalsis; relieves spasms and pain; improves weak digestion from anxiety, nervousness, or depression. Examples: Chamomile, chrysanthemum, coriander, fennel, lime, peppermint, and spearmint, ajwan, basil, calamus, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
Cathartic: Causes evacuation of the bowels. A cathartic may be either mild (laxative) or vigorous (purgative). Examples are: figs, prunes, olive oil (laxatives), senna, castor oil, and aloe vera.
Cephalic: Refers to diseases affecting the head and upper part of the body.
Cholagogue: Herb that stimulates the flow of bile from the liver into the intestines. Examples: Arka, guduchi, licorice, safflower, senna, and sesame.
Condiment: Enhances the flavor of food.
Cordial: A stimulating medicine or drink.
Decongestant: For relieving congestion-see expectorant.
Demulcent: Soothes, protects, and relieves the irritation of inflamed mucous membranes and other surfaces. (i.e., protects stomach and urinary bladder lining). Examples: Barley, licorice; linseed, olive, and almond oils.
Dentifrice: For cleaning teeth and gums.
Deobstruent: Removes obstructions by opening the natural passages or pores of the body.
Depurative: Tends to purify and cleanse the blood.
Detergent: Cleanses boils, ulcers, wounds, etc.
Diaphoretic: Promotes perspiration, especially profuse perspiration. Promotes circulation; dispels fever and chills; eliminates surface toxins; relieves muscle tension, aching joints, and inflammatory skin conditions; relieves diarrhea, dysentery, kidneys, liver, urinary, and gall bladder disorders; dispels stones of kidney and both bladders. Also useful for genitourinary disease (herpes), edema; painful, difficult or burning urination or infections. See sudorific. Examples: basil, ajwan, cardamom, parsley, cinnamon, eucalyptus, ginger, juniper berries, asparagus, barley, burdock, chamomile, chrysanthemum, coriander, dandelion, fennel, marshmallow, spearmint.
Digestives: Assists the stomach and intestines in normal digestion. Examples: Coriander, cumin, rock salt, and turmeric.
Discutient: Herb that dissolves or causes something, such as a tumor, to disappear. Also called discussive.
Disinfectant: Destroys disease germs and noxious properties of fermentation; These herbs destroy pathogenic microbes (that cause communicable diseases). Examples: Apamarga, arka, gudachi, katuka, sandalwood.
Diuretic: Promotes the production and secretion of urine. Examples: Parsley., apamarga, ashwagandha, barberry, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, gotu kola, gokshura, gudachi, licorice, and sandalwood.
Drastic: A violent purgative.
Ecbolic: see abortifacient.
Emetic: Causes vomiting. There are three types of emetics- central, local and general. Central emetics (e.g., chamomile) act through the vomiting center of the brain. Local emetics irritate the nerves of the gastric mucus membrane (e.g., mustard). General emetics act through the blood on the vomiting center . Examples of herbs with emetic action include pippali, rock salt, vacha, ipecac, lobelia, apamarga, arka, chakramarda, chitrak and licorice.
Emmenagogue: Herb that brings on menstruation. Herbalists also believe that these herbs clear blood congestion, blood clot; build the blood; moisten female reproductive organs; counteract aging and poor nutrition. Examples are: camomile, aloe, angelica, hibiscus, jasmine, peony, rose, and saffron.
Emollient: A substance that is usually used externally to soften and soothe the skin. Examples: oils, honey, bread or bran poultice, carrots, turnips.
Epispastic: Substances locally applied to the skin. (e.g., mustard).
Errhine: Herbs applied to the mucus membranes of the nose to increase nasal secretion. Examples: black pepper, ginger, amalaki, apamarga, arka.
Esculent: Edible or fit for eating.
Exanthematous: Refers to any eruptive disease or fever. An herbal remedy for skin eruptions such as measles, scarlet fever, etc.
Exhilarant: Herbs that enliven and cheer the mind.
Expectorant: Promotes the thinning and ejection of mucus or exudate from the lungs, bronchi, and trachea; sometimes the meaning is extended to all remedies that quiet a cough. Examples: ginger, licorice, calamus, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, sage, eucalyptus, thyme, wild cherry.
Farinaceous: Having a mealy texture or surface.
Febrifuge: Reduces body temperature and fever. Same as antipyretic and refrigerant.
Galactogogue:Increases breast milk secretion. Examples: Cumin, fennel, musta, pippali.
Germicide: Destroys germs and worms. (see disinfectant.)
Germifuge: Expels germs. (see germicide.)
Hemostatic: Astringent, alterative, stops bleeding, purifies blood. Examples: durba, goldenseal, red raspberry, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger.
Hepatic: Promotes the well-being of the liver and increases the secretion of bile. Example: golden seal.
Herpatic: A remedy for skin eruptions, ringworm, etc.
Hypnotic: Tends to produce sleep.
Laxative: Herb that acts to promote evacuation of the bowels; a gentle cathartic. Examples: castor oil, flax seed, psyllium, rhubarb, senna.
Lithotriptic: Causing the dissolution or destruction of stones in the bladder or kidneys. Examples, arjuna, arka, amalaki.
Maturating: An agent that promotes the maturing or bringing to a head of boils, carbuncles etc.
Mucilaginous: Herbs that have a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes.
Myotic: Cause the contraction of the pupil and diminution of ocular tension.
Narcotic: An addicting substance that reduces pain and produces sleep.
Nauseant. An herb that causes nausea and vomiting. Somewhat similar to an emetic.
Nervine: A substance that calms and soothes the nerves and reduces tension and anxiety. Examples: ashwagandha, bala, gudmar.
Opthalmicum: A remedy for diseases of the eye.
Parasiticide: Destroys parasites. (see germicide, antiparasitic.)
Parturient: A substance that induces and promotes labor.
Parturifacient: Herbs that induces child-birth or labor. Examples: Barley, pippali.
Pectoral: Relieves disorders of the chest and lungs, such as an expectorant.
Poultice: Plant material that is prepared in a special way and applied to the surface of the body as a remedy for certain disorders.
Pungent: Irritating or sharply painful. Producing a sharp sensation of taste or smell.
Purgative: A substance that promotes the vigorous evacuation of the bowels. Usually used to relieve severe constipation. Examples: Aloe, Epsom salt, licorice, rhubarb, safflower, senna.
Refrigerant: Relieves fever and thirst. A cooling remedy. Lowers body temperature. Examples: Aloe, coriander, ginger, hibiscus, orange, lemon, licorice, sandalwood.
Relaxant: Tends to relax and relieve tension, especially muscular tension.
Resolvent: Promotes the resolving and removing of abnormal growths, such as a tumor.
Rubefacient: An agent that reddens the skin by increasing the circulation when rubbed on the surface. Examples: black pepper, cayenne, ginger, licorice, mustard.
Sedative: Herb that allays excitement, induces relaxation, and is conducive to sleep.
Sialagogue: Promotes the flow of saliva. Examples: Arka, black pepper, chitrak, ginger, licorice.
Soporific: Herbs that help to produce sleep.
Stimulant: Herb that increases the activity or efficiency of a system or organ; acts more rapidly than a tonic. Examples: cayenne, camphor,ephedra, barberry extract, yellow thistle juice, sandalwood, gotu kola, guggul, myrrh.
Stomachic: Herbs that give strength and tone to the stomach, stimulate digestion, and improve the appetite. Examples: Amalaki, bilwa, black pepper, cardamom, cedar, chitrak, cumin, ginger, licorice, turmeric.
Styptic: Astringent: arrests hemorrhage and bleeding. Causes vascular contraction of the blood vessels or coagulation of the albuminous tissues of the blood. Checks hemorrhage. Examples: adrenaline, alum.
Sudorific: Herbs that cause heavy perspiration.
Tincture: A solution of the active principal of an herb in alcohol.
Tonic: Herbs that restore and strengthen the entire system. Produces and restores normal tone. A general tonic would be one that braces up the whole system. Example: Aloe, bala, barberry, chirayata, guduchi, katuka, gentian, goldenseal.
Tonic (nutritive): Permanently increases the tone of a part of the body, or the entire system by nourishing and increasing weight. Example: Amataki, ashwagandha, cane sugar, coconut, coriander, dates.
Tonics, Reiuvenative: Regenerates cells and tissues; promotes longevity. Examples: Ashwagandha, guggul, haritaki, calamus, aloe, amalaki, gotu kola, saffron, guggul.
Vermicide: Herb that kills intestinal worms. (see anthelmintic.)
Vermifuge:(Example: Kiremarnewali) An agent that expels intestinal worms or parasites. Same as anthelmintic.
Vesicant: An agent that causes blistering, such as poison ivy.
Vulnerary:An herb used in treating fresh cuts and wounds, usually used as a poultice. A healing substance. Example: Aloe, comfrey, honey, licorice, marshmallow, turmeric, and slippery elm.
Courtesy of Holistic Online
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