Definition of Herbal Actions and Properties
An alphabetical listing. Do me a favor and if you don’t see herbal actions and properties you’d like to know about, let me know and I’ll add them. As with everything on the website, this is a growing list. A work in progress.
Abortifacient – induces abortion, miscarriage, or premature removal of a fetus
Adaptogen – there are several definitions of adaptogens. The first is the one I often use, that is that adaptogens help the whole system, mind, body, spirit and emotions to deal with uncompensated stress. The plants in this category usually have an affinity to one or more (usually more) systems of the body, working to restore balance, health and harmony to that system. Much of the time this is accomplished through the endocrine system. Where they work to modulate the physical, mental, and emotional effects of stress and increase resistance to physiological imbalances and disease by strengthening the immune system
Adjuvant – aids the action of a medicinal agent
Alterative – strengthens and nourishes the body, gently encourages the removal of metabolic wastes
Amphoteric – normalizes function of an organ or body system
Analeptic – has a restorative or stimulating effect on central nervous system
Analgesic – relieves pain
Anaphrodisiac – reduces sexual arousal
Anesthetic – depresses nerve function inducing a temporary loss of sensation or consciousness.
Anodyne – alleviates pain, an analgesic
Anthelmintic – Removes parasitic worms from the digestive system.
Anti-anemic – Prevents or helps with anemia. Increases the number of red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin (an oxygen-carrying protein) in the blood.
Anti- androgenic – reduces the levels of “free” testosterone in the blood.
Antibacterial – destroys or stops the growth of bacteria
Antibiotic– a type of antimicrobial agent active against bacteria.
Anti-bilious – herbs that work with the liver and gall bladder to remove excess bile.
Anti-catarrh – reduces inflamed mucous membranes of head and throat
Antidepressant – acts to prevent or alleviate mental depression
Anti-diarrhetic –prevents or treats diarrhea
Antiemetic – reduces nausea and can help to relieve or prevent vomiting.
Antifungal – an anti-microbial agent that destroys or inhibits the growth of fungus
Antihemorrhagic – reduces or controls hemorrhage or bleeding
Anti-infectious – counteracts or prevents infection
Anti-inflammatory – controls or reduces inflammation, a reaction to injury or infection
Antilithic – Herbs that prevent the formation of or help remove stones or gravel in the urinary system
Antimicrobial – helps destroy or resist pathogenic micro-organisms, destroys microbes. These kinds of herbs are often specific to one or more types of pathogens including fungus or mold, bacteria, virus, parasites and protozoa
Antineoplastic– inhibiting and combating tumor development.
Antioxidant – prevents or inhibits oxidation of cells. In other words, these substances can eliminate hydroxyl free radicals. Meaning that they keep cells healthier.
Antipruritic – prevents or relieves itching
Antirheumatic – protects against and relieves the symptoms of rheumatism. Eases pain and helps reduce inflammation of joints and muscles.
Antipyretic – reduces fever (febrifuge)
Antiseptic – prevents the growth of disease-causing microorganisms.
Antispasmodic – calms nervous and muscular spasms, cramps and convulsions
Antitussive – controls or prevents cough
Antiviral – opposes the action of a virus
Anxiolytic – reduces anxiety
Aperient – relieves constipation, mild laxative
Aphrodisiac – increases sexual desire
Aromatic – an herb containing a high amount of volatile oils. Aromatic plants have a fragrant odor and slightly stimulating properties.
Astringent – Astringents contract tissue and can reduce secretions and discharges.
Bitter – bitter herbs are cooling. They act to stimulate the appetite and digestion.
Bronchial –improves respiration by relaxing spasms or constriction of the bronchi (the upper part of the lungs)
Cariostatic –halts or inhibits the development or continued growth of cancer, carcinomas, or malignant tumors.
Cardiac – act beneficially on the heart
Cardiotonic – increases strength and tone of the heart
Carminative — relieves stomach or intestinal gas and bloating
Catarrhal – Pertains to the inflammation of mucous membranes of the head and throat
Cathartic – produces bowel movements. Used to purge the bowels and stimulate glandular secretions.
Cholagogue – increases flow of bile from gallbladder, thus aiding in digestion and constipation. They can also have a laxative effect.
Counterirritant – produces an inflammatory response for healing purpose
Demulcent – soothes and protects inflamed and irritated mucous membranes both internally and externally. Usually high in mucilage and have a slimy or slippery consistency.
Diaphoretic – increases perspiration by increasing circulation to the skin
Digestive – promotes or aids the digestion
Diuretic – increases urine flow.
Ecbolic – tends to increase contractions of uterus, facilitating childbirth
Emetic – produces vomiting
Emmenagogue – stimulates, regulates and induces menstruation
Emollient – softens and soothes the skin
Estrogenic – stimulates the production of estrogen
Expectorant – Helps the body remove mucus from the respiratory system
F, G, H
Febrifuge – reduces fever
Galactagogue – promotes milk production
Hemostatic – controls or stops the flow of blood
Hepatic– strengthens and tones the liver and stimulate the flow of bile
Hypertensive – raises blood pressure
Hypoglycemia – lowers blood sugar
Hypnotic– helps induce healthy sleep
Hypotensive– reduces elevated blood pressure.
L, M, N
Lactifuge – reduces milk production
Laxative – loosens bowels encouraging bowl movement
Lithotrophic – a substance that causes kidney or bladder stones to dissolve
Lymphagogue – promotes or increases lymph production or lymph flow
Mucilaginous – contain gelatinous constituents made up of polysaccharide-rich compounds. These herbs will often be demulcent and act to cool, soot and coat inflamed mucous membranes
Narcotic – an herb or other substance that in moderate doses dulls the senses, relieves pain, and induces profound sleep but in excessive doses causes stupor, coma, or convulsions
Nervine – strengthens and tones the nervous system, easing anxiety and stress
Nootropic – Primarily effects the brain and nervous system improving cognitive function and mood. Nootropic substances help enhance emotional and mental wellbeing, promote cerebral circulation, stabilize mental state, improve memory and more.
Nutritive – an herb containing a high amount of nutrients. Especially nourishing for the body and mind.
P, R, S
Parasiticide – kills and expels parasites in the digestive tract and on the skin.
Pectoral – Herbs with a general strengthening and healing effect on the respiratory system
Purgative – another word for laxative. Causes the evacuation of the bowels.
Rasayana – A term used in Ayurvedic medicine to describe an herb that increases longevity by nourishing and rejuvenating the system.
Refrigerant – cooling for the system, relieves thirst
Relaxant – tends to relax and relieve tension, especially muscular tension
Rubefacient – simulates circulation locally when applied to the skin.
Sedative – Strongly quieting for the nervous system, exerts a soothing, tranquilizing effect on the body
Sialagogue – increases the production and flow of saliva
Stimulant – temporarily quickens or enliven the physiological function, increases organ function
Stomachic – promotes digestion and strengthen the stomach
Sudorific – increase perspiration
T, U, V
Tonic – stimulates energy, increases strength and tone
Trophorestorative – nourishes and restores balance to the body. Trophorestorative herbs typically have a strong affinity for an organ or organ system and correct deficiency and weakness not only through temporary stimulation but by deeply nourishing that organ or organ system.
Vermifuge – expels worms from the intestines
Vulnerary – aids in healing wounds.