Basic Herbal Terminology

An understanding of herbal terminology is absolutely necessary before working with herbs. You should never use an herb or essential oil for medicinal purposes before knowing exactly how it will affect the body.

Herbal TeaPregnant or breastfeeding women need to check with a qualified healthcare provider before beginning any herbal preparations, and the same rules apply before giving herbs to children.

This list will help decode some of the jargon found in herbal books, and should be kept as a reference as you explore the beautiful world of herbal medicine.

Abortificant– An agent that induces or causes premature expulsion of a fetus.

Acrid– Having a hot, biting taste or causing heat and irritation when applied to the skin.

Alterative– An agent which produces gradual beneficial change in the body, usually by improving nutrition, without having any marked specific effect and without causing sensible evacuation.

Analgesic– A drug which relieves or diminishes pain; Anodyne

Anaphrodisiac– An agent which reduces sexual desire or potency.

Anesthetic– An agent that deadens sensation.

Anthelmintic– An agent that destroys or expels intestinal worms; Vermicide, Vermifuge

Antibiotic– An agent that destroys or arrests the growth of micro-organisms.

Anticoagulant– An agent that prevents clotting in a liquid such as blood.

Antiemetic– An agent that counteracts nausea and relieves vomiting.

Antihydrotic– An agent which reduces or suppresses perspiration.

Antilithic– An agent which reduces or suppresses urinary calculi (stones) and acts to dissolve those already present.

Antiperiodic– An agent which counteracts periodic or intermittent diseases (such as malaria).

Antiphlogistic– An agent which reduces inflammation.

Antipyretic– An agent which prevents or reduces fever.

Antiscrofulous– Counteracts scrofula.

Antiseptic– An agent for destroying or inhibiting pathogenic or putrifactive bacteria.

Antispasmodic– An agent that relieves or checks spasms or cramps.

Antitussive– An agent that relieves coughing.

Aperient– A mild stimulant for the bowels; a gentle purgative.

Aphrodisiac– An agent for arousing or increasing sexual desire or potency. Continue reading