Glossary of Medicinal Properties used in Herbal and Plant Medicine

Alterative

Produces gradual beneficial change in body, usually improvement through nutrition/metabolism. Examples: red clover, nettle, sarsaparilla, dandelion, yellow dock root, burdock root, alfalfa. 

Anaesthetic

Deadens sensation, often contains salicin. Examples: rosemary, willow bark, poplar buds, kava-kava. 

Anodyne 

Soothes or relieves pain. Examples: St.-John’s-Wort, valerian, wild poppy, calendula, plantain. 

Anthelmintic

Destroys or expels intestinal worms. Examples: wormwood, quassia chips, black walnut hulls, garlic. 

Antiemetic

Counteracts nausea and relieves vomiting. Examples: peppermint, chamomile, fennel. 

Antibacterial

Destroys or inhibits bacteria. Examples: goldenseal, ginger, tea tree, echinacea and many other herbs.

Antiseptic

Destroys or inhibits pathogenic or putrefactive bacteria. Examples: usnea, echinacea, sage, lemon, goldenseal. 

Antispasmodic

Relieves or checks spasms or cramps. Examples: St. John’s wort, rosemary, chamomile, lavender. 

Appetizer

Excites the appetite. Examples: gentian, ginger, angelica, cardamom, fennel, chamomile, Oregon grape root. 

Aromatic

Having an agreeable odour and stimulating qualities. Examples: mint, fennel, chamomile, lavender. 

Astringent

Contracts and lightens tissue, reducing secretions or discharges. Examples: black tea, chamomile, yarrow, lemon. 

Carminitive

Expels gas from the intestines. Examples: fennel, peppermint, cardamom, ginger, cinnamon, chamomile. 

Carthartic

Empties the bowels, laxative. Examples: senna, coffee berry, cascara sagrada. 

CHOLAGOGUE

A cholagogue is a medicinal agent which promotes the discharge of bile from the system, purging it downward. 

choleretic 

Stimulates the liver to increase the output of bile. E.g. gentian, yarrow and any bitter herb.

Demulcent

Soothes/protects/heals irritated tissue. Examples: plantain, chickweed, mullein, calendula.

Depurative

Depuratives are herbs that are considered to have purifying and detoxifying effects. 

Diaphoretic

Promotes perspiration. Examples: elder, yarrow, peppermint, ginger. 

Diuretic

Increases the secretion and expulsion of urine. Examples: dandelion, nettle, parsley, burdock, chickweed. 

Emetic

Causes vomiting. Examples: lobelia, ipecac, goldenseal, salt water. 

Emmenagogue

Promotes menstrual flow. Examples: angelica, ginger, blue/black cohosh, pennyroyal, motherwort. 

Emollient

Used externally to soften and soothe. Examples: malva, calendula, borage, primrose and violet flowers. 

Expectorant

Promotes discharge of mucus from respiratory passages. Examples: ginger, cayenne, yerba santa. 

Febrifuge

Reduces or eliminates fever. Examples: elderflower, yarrow, rosemary, lemon water. 

Haemostatic

Stops bleeding. Examples: shepherd’s purse, beth root, nettle, goldenseal, yarrow (external as well). 

Nervine

Having a calming or soothing effect on the nerves. Examples: valerian, wild oat, St. John’s Wort, chamomile. 

Purgative

Promotes vigorous emptying of the bowels. Examples: senna, coffee berry, cascara sagrada. 

Sedative

Soothing agent, reducing nervousness. Examples: wild lettuce, passiflora, valerian, chamomile, hops. 

Stimulant

Excites or quickens activity or physiological processes. Examples: yerba mate, guarana, green tea, mint. 

Tonic

Strengths or invigorates organs or entire body. Examples: nettle, red clover, wild oat, burdock, dandelion.

 
© Napiers Herbals Ltd 2014 • Edinburgh and Glasgow • Herbalists and Medical Botanists since 1860
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