Today herbal remedies, supplements and therapies are everywhere. Some offer little or no understanding, for the layperson, of how the herb(s) should be used or how they work. With our ever-increasing mindfulness of what is “good for us” and “healthy”, when choosing to use a natural or herbal approach to our health and wellness, it is important to know what herbs might DO to you, in you or for you. It is important to know WHY you are choosing an herb and not enough to know that the herb was listed on your favorite message board, or that it “worked for my friend”.
In order to help you understand how you might use herbs, following is a glossary of common terms, what they mean, and some herbs that each term applies to.
These herbs have immune system enhancers which help the body adjust to change, regulate stress and restore natural immune resistance. Herbs that are used for this purpose include Echinacea, garlic, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, goldenseal, pau d'arco and suma
Alternatives are considered useful in altering body chemistry gradually. Herbs with alterative properties stimulate gradual changes in metabolism and tissue function in acute and chronic conditions and increase overall health, energy, vigor and strength. Alternatives are similar to tonics, which help both the overall systems as well as organs, tissues and cells. Alterative herbs, include aloe vera, black cohosh, blue cohosh, blue vervain, capsicum, cascara sagrada, chamomile, damiana, dandelion, echnicacea, elecampane, fenugreek, garlic, gentian, ginger, gingo biloba, goldenseal, hawthorn, horsetail, milk thistle, red clover, red raspberry, schizandra, suma, yarro and yellow dock root.
Analgesic herbs are used to relieve pain without loss of consciousness. Some of the herbs commonly used as analgesics include feverfew, lobelia, mullein, pau d'acro, skullcap, willow bark and wood betony.
Anesthetics are used for their ability to cause physical insensitivity. Examples of herbs with this property are caraway, kava and tea tree.
Herbs with this property have the ability to soothe and reduce the intensity of pain. Herbs with this ability include anise, chamomile, cloves, juniper, pleurisy root and rosemary.
Anorectic herbs help to reduce appetite. Herbs with this asset include chickweed, ephedra, fellel, garcinia and guarana.
An antacid is used to neutralize acids in the stomach and intestinal tract. Herbs used for this include dandelion, fennel, ginger, kelp, Iceland moss and slippery elm.
Herbs with anathematic agents either expel or destroy worms in the body. Other similar terms to describe such agents include vermifuge, mermicide and taeniacide. Herbs with these fighting abilities include black cohosh, blue walnut, gentian, goldenseal, mandrake, prickly ash, pumpkin seed and senna.
Anti-asthmatics are used to help relieve the symptoms associated with asthma. Some of the anti-asthmatic herbs are elecampane, ephedra, gotu kola, lobelia, prickly ash, wild cherry and yerba santa.
Antibacterial herbs are those that fight and destroy bacteria and include alfalfa, basil, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, parsley, peppermint, rhubarb, turmeric, uva ursi and yucca.
Herbs that work as natural antibiotics help the body's immune system destroy growths of microorganisms. Some herbs commonly used as natural antibiotics include buchu, chaparral, echinacea, garlic, goldenseal, myrrh, red clover and yellow dock.
These are herbs that help dissolve and eliminate, as well prevent the formation of mucus and inflammation of the mucus membrane. Herbs that are considered to be ant catarrhal include comfrey, elecampane, ephedra, fenugreek, licorice, lobelia, marshmallow, mullein and wild cherry.
Anticoagulant herbs help the body prevent clotting of the blood. Herbs with this constituent include garlic, turmeric and yellow maillot.
Antiemetics prevent vomiting, and herbs with this ability include clove, Iceland moss, raspberry and spearmint.
Antifungal agents act against and destroy various fungi. Herbs in this category include alfalfa, cinnamon, cloves, garlic, kava kava, kombucha, parsley, St. John's wort, skullcap, thyme and turmeric.
Herbs with this property work opposite to herbs with galactagogue properties. Sage and black walnut are examples of herbs in this category.
Antihydrodics reduce levels of perspiration. Herbs with this ability include astragalus and sage.
Herbs with this ability reduce inflammation in the body without acting directly on the cause of the inflammation. Herbs in this category include birth, chicory, cranberry, elder flowers, eucalyptus, fennel, feverfew, ginger, licorice, marshmallow, papaya, passion flower, peppermint, pine tree bark, queen of the meadow, rhubarb, rosemary, safflower, turmeric, wild yam and witch hazel.
Antilithic herbs work to prevent the formation of stones in the gall bladder and kidney, as well as aiding the expulsion of those already formed. Antilithics are similar to lithotriptics. Some herbs used for this purpose are buchu leaves, hydrangea and uva ursi leaves.
Antimicrobials helps the body destroy microbes by affecting their growth and multiplication, Herbs with this ability include fennel, feverfew, myrrh, pau d'arco, rhubarb, tea tree and uva ursi.
Herbs with this quality destroy, inhibit and prevent tumors. Herbs in this category include aloe vera, black walnut, burdock, cat's claw, chickweed, flaxseed, garlic, hops, horsetail, ho-sho-wu, irish moss, mistletoe, pau d'arco, periwinkle, pine tree bark, rhubarb, saffron, St. John's wort, slippery elm and turmeric.
Antioxidant herbs counteract the negative effects of oxidation on body tissues. Included in this category are barley, billberry, cat's claw, chaparral, gingo biloba, milk thistle, pine tree, rosemary, sage and turmeric
This constituent counteracts the effects of periodic diseases (intermittent) like malaria. Herbs in this category include angelica, blue vervain, boneset, chinchone, eucalyptus, golden seal and willow.
Herbs with antitussive agents are cough suppressants. Herbs in this category include coltsfoot, comfrey, horehound, mullein and wild cherry bark
Ant venomous agents counteract venom, as from snakebite. Herbs with this quality include pennyroyal and plantain
Antiviral agents act to destroy viruses in the body. Herbs with antiviral qualities include aloe vera, astragalus, barley, boneset, calendula, echinacea, ho-shouwu, licorice, maitake, reishi, pau d'arco, red raspberry and turmeric
An aphrodisiac is used to help restore normal sexual potency and function and improve sexual desire. Some herbs used as aphrodisiacs include astragalus, damiana, false unicorn, fenugreek, ginseng, kava kava and saw palmetto
An astringent acts to contract and tighten, similar to styptic. This constricting action can help eliminate secretions and hemorrhaging. Some herbs with astringent actions are amaranth, blackberry root, black walnut, capsicum, elecampane, ephedra, fenugreek, horsetail, hydrangea, mullein, oak bark, queen of the meadow, St. John wort, slippery elm and witch hazel
This is an agent that acts on the mucous membranes in the mouth to promote appetite and encourage digestion. Herbs in this category include alfalfa, blackberry, blessed thistle, bugleweed, chaparral, chinchona, eyebright, feverfew, gentian, licorice, quassia, watercress, wild cherry and wild lettuce
Agents that clean and remove impurities from the blood, similar to depurative. Examples of blood purifiers include birch, buckthorn, calendula, centaury, couch grass, dandelion, plantain and watercress
Herbs that can help eliminate gas from the stomach and intestine are considered carminatives. Some of the herbs commonly used are angelica root, capsicum, caraway seeds, catnip, chamomile flowers, echinacea, fennel, ginger, hops, lemon balm, parsley root, peppermint, saffron and valerian
This herb property increases the flow of bile which aids digestion, as well as acting as a mild laxative. Herbs which are used for this purpose are aloe vera, barberry, culvers root, dandelion, goldenseal, hops, licorice, Oregon grape root and wild yam
Agents that relieves congestion in the upper respiratory tract. Herbs with decongestant properties include ephedra, lobelia, pennyroyal, valerian and yerba santa
These herbs work internally to help soothe and protect the mucous membranes in the body. Some herbs with this property are aloe vera, burdock, chickweed, comfrey, echinacea, fenugreek, flaxseed, Irish moss, kelp, licorice, marshmallow, mullein, oatstraw and psyllium
Diaphoretic herbs help the body produce perspiration to help the skin eliminate toxins, similar to sudorific. Herbs with diaphoretic properties include angelica, blue vervain, boneset, borage, butchers broom, capsicum, catnip, chamomile, elder flowers, elecampane, ephedra, garlic, hyssop, lemon balm leaves and yarrow.
Digestives promote or aid in the digestion process. Such herbs include anise, capsicum, centaury, echinacea, garlic, horseradish, mustard, papaya, safflower and sage
A diuretic is used to increase the flow of urine to relieve water retention. Some herbs used for this purpose are alfalfa, blue cohosh, buchu leaves, burdock, butchers broom, damiana, dandelion, devils claw, false unicorn, fennel, hawthorn, horsetail, hydrangea, juniper berries, lily-of-the-valley, marshmallow, parsley, queen of the meadow, saw palmetto and uva ursi
An emetic is used to induce vomiting. Emetic herbs include bayberry, boneset, buckthorn, culver, false unicorn, lobelia, mandrake, mistletoe, mustard seed, pleurisy, quassia, rue and senega
Herbs with emmenagogue properties promote menstrual flow. Some herbs that help with this situation are angelica, aloe vera, black cohosh, blue cohosh, gentian, ginger, goldenseal, horsetail, juniper berries, mistletoe, myrrh, pennyroyal and saffron
Estrogenic herbs promote or produce estrus. Herbs with estrogenic properties include blue cohosh, dong quai, false unicorn, fennel and licorice
Expectorants help the body expel mucus from the lungs, nose and throat. Herbs used for this purpose include anise seed, blue cohosh, blue vervain, comfrey root, elder flowers, elecampane root, ephedra, flaxseed, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, horehound, hyssop, Irish moss, licorice, lobelia, marshmallow, mullein leaves, slippery elm, wild cherry bark and yerba santa leaves
Herbs with this property help reduce fevers, similar to refrigerant and antipyretic. Some febrifuges are bilberry, boneset, borage, buckthorn, catnip, chamomile, elder flowers, fenugreek, garlic, gentian, ginger, hyssop, pleurisy root, sarsaparilla, white willow bark and wormwood
Herbs with these properties stimulate lactation in women. Herbs in this category include anise, basil, blessed thistle, borage, fenugreek, horsetail and vervain
Germicides are known for their ability to destroy germs and other microorganisms. Herbs in this category include cloves, eucalyptus and tea tree
These herbs help to strengthen, tone, and increase bile flow to promote normal liver function. Some herbs with hepatic properties are barberry bark, cascara sagrada, dandelion root, gentian, goldenseal, horseradish, mandrake root, milk thistle, olive oil, Oregon grape, parsley, queen of the meadow and rhubarb
Hemostatics stop blood flow by acting as antihemorrhagic agents. Herbs in this category include bistort, blackberry, bugleweed, calendula, nettle, periwinkle, shepherds purse and witch hazel
Immunostimulants enhance or boost the body's natural defense against illness and disease. Herbs with this ability include astragalus, barley, dong quai, kombucha, maitake, queen of the meadow, reishi and shiitake
Insecticides are used to kill insects. An example of an herb with this ability is bayberry
These are herbs that help dissolve and eliminate urinary stones from the body. They include buchu leaves butchers broom, cascara sagrada, cornsilk, dandelion devils claw, horsetail, marshmallow, parsley, queen of the meadow, uva ursi and white oak bark
Herbs that are considered mucilants have mucilage properties that have a soothing and demulcent effect. They coat and protect mucous membranes from irritations. Mucilants have a wide variety of applications including coughs, sore throats, and irritated stomach bowels, bladder and kidneys. They can also be used for laxatives, cream and ointments because of their soothing effects. Mucilant herbs include aloe vera, chickweed coltsfoot, comfrey, flaxseed, Iceland moss, marshmallow plantain, psyllium seed and slippery elm
Herbs with narcotic agents can be used to soothe intractable pain or to induce anesthesia. Herbs with these agents should be used carefully. They include bugleweed, guarana and wild lettuce. Herbs that can be used to counteract narcotic effects include alfalfa (for addiction) and marjoram and mustard (for poisoning)
These are used in healing kidney problems. Herbs with nephritic properties include buchu leaves, couch grass root, goldenseal, horsetail, hydrangea, juniper berries, Oregon grape and queen of the meadow root
Nervine herbs help soothe, calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of the nervine herbs are black cohosh, blue vervain, boneset, catnip, chamomile, cramp bark. damiana, gotu kola, hops, lady's slipper, lemon balm, lobelia, oatraw, passion flower, skullcap, valerian root and wood betony.
Nutritive agents nourish the body. Herbs with nutritive properties include alfalfa, amaranth, barley, bee pollen, chickweed, comfrey, guarana, Iceland moss, Irish moss, kelp, marshmallow, nettle, oatstraw, papaya, pumpkin, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, suma, watercress and yellow dock.
These are herbs that help stimulate uterine contractions to assist and induce a safe labor and delivery. Herbs with oxytocic properties are black cohosh, blue cohosh, pennyroyal and red raspberry.
Parasiticides are those that destroy parasites in the body. Herbs with parasticide agents include chaparral, feverfew, figwort, horseradish, mandrake, papaya, parsley, peach, pennyroyal, plantain, pumpkin, rhubarb, sage, thyme, vervain, wild cherry and wood betony.
Pectoral agents give relief and remedy pulmonary and other respiratory conditions. Examples of pectorals are chickweed, coltsfoot, couch grass, hyssop, Iceland moss and wild cherry.
A cathartic or purgative herbs used for purging and stimulating the action of evacuating the bowels. This action may be mild or strong depending on the need. Purgatives and cathartics are similar to aperients and laxatives, which are mild purgative used to relieve constipation. Herbs considered to be purgative include aloe vera, barberry bark, boneset, buckthorn bark, cascara sagrada, elder flowers, goldenseal, mandrake, Oregon grape root, psyllium, rhubarb root and senna leaves.
Herbs with rubefacient properties are reddening agents that help to increase the flow of the blood to the surface of the skin to aid in healing in cases such as sprains and muscle soreness. Some herbs used for this purpose include camphor, capsicum, cloves, eucalyptus, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard seed, peppermint oil, pine oil, stinging nettle and thyme oil.
Sedative herbs are used to relieve irritability and promote calm and tranquil feelings. Some are catnip, chamomile, cramp bark, dong quai, hawthorn, hops, kava kava, lady's slipper, lobelia, passionflower, red clovers, St. John's wort, schizandra, skullcap, valerian and wood betony.
Herbs with this property help to promote the flow and secretion of saliva to aid in the digestion of starches. Some herbs include bayberry, capsicum, echinacea, gentian, ginger, horseradish, hydrangea, licorice, prickly ash, rhubarb and yerba santa.
These herbs help to increase the function of the body energy levels, circulation, and help eliminate toxins. Herbs with stimulant properties are angelica, boneset, capsicum, damiana, devil's claw, echinacea, elder flowers, elecampane, ephedra, false unicorn, garlic, gentian, ginger, ginkgo biloba, ginseng, ho-shou-wu, milk thistle, prickley ash bark, saffron, sarsaparilla root and suma.
Stomachic strengthen and tone the stomach. Herbs in the stomachic category included agrimony, anise, barberry, basil, caraway, celery, chinchina, cloves, dandelion, gentian, ginseng, gymnema, hops, horseradish, papaya, peach, pennyroyal, quassia, rhubarb, rosehips and watercress.
Herbs with vasodilating agents expand the blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Herbs in this category included fever few, hawthorn and ho-shou-wu.
Herbs with vulnerary properties are used to help promote the healing of wounds, cuts and abrasions. Some used are aloe vera, black walnut, burdock, capsicum, fenugreek, flaxseed, garlic, gentian, goldenseal, hops, horsetail, mullein, oatstraw and plantain leaves.