• acetylcholine

    In the body, it functions as a neurotransmitter for the nervous system, and is important for the brain.

  • alkaloid

    A chemical constituent of a plant that has nitrogen. Alkaloids have a pronounced effect on the nervous system. Well-known alkaloids include caffeine, nicotine, quinine, cocaine, and morphine.

  • carotenoids

    A class of phytonutrients, these are colorful plant pigments that the body can turn into vitamin A. They are powerful antioxidants.

    See also: flavonoids

  • flavonoids

    Found in most plant material. Responsible, along with carotenes, for the coloring of fruits, vegetables and herbs.

    Have many health-promoting effects, including: anti-allergic, anti-cancer, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-viral.

    Related: carotenoids.

  • glucoquinine

    A constituent of a plant believed to lower blood sugar.

  • Indoles

    The second largest group of alkaloids (C8H7N), derived from the decomposition of proteins containing the amino acid tryptophan.


  • adaptogen

    Helps the body deal with stress. Recharges the adrenal glands and provides a normalizing effect upon bodily processes.

  • alterative

    Alters the condition of the blood, aiding in assimilating nutrients and eliminating metabolic waste.

    Basically, An herb that restores health. Alterative herbs are generally used over a long period of time because they work gradually.

    A.k.a blood purifier

  • analgesic

    Relieves pain. Some analgesic herbs are used topically, some internally.

    a.k.a anodyne

  • antacid

    Neutralizes acid in the stomach and intestines.

  • anthelmintic

    Destroys and expels internal parasitic worms from the system.

    Related: parasiticide, vermifuge, vermicide

  • anti-cattarhal

    Helps remove excess mucus from the body, and particularly the ear, nose, and throat.

  • anti-inflammatory

    Helps the body control inflammation in a balanced way. (Inflammation is a natural part of the immune response.)

  • antiasthmatic

    Relieves asthma symptoms by breaking up mucus and dilating bronchioles.

  • antibilious

    Removes excess bile from the body.

  • antibiotic

    Stimulates the body’s immune system. Some antibiotics also kill germs.

  • anticatarrhal

    Helps eliminate excess mucus from the body.

  • antiemetic

    Effective against nausea, vomiting, and motion sickness.

    Related: emetic

  • antifungal

    Kills or inhibits the growth of fungi.

  • antilithic

    Helps prevent and eliminate stones and gravel from the kidneys and bladder via a flushing action

    Related: lithotriptic

  • antimicrobial

    Helps kill or prevent the growth of bacteria and micro-organisms. Applied topically.

    Related: antiseptic

  • antioxidant

    Renders free radicals (highly reactive molecules created during the process of breathing oxygen) harmless.

  • antipyretic

    Reduces fevers.

    Related: diaphoretic, refrigerant

  • antirheumatic

    Helps resolve or alleviates the symptoms of rheumatism. Most are also alteratives or anti-inflammatories.

  • antiseptic

    Prevents the growth of bacteria.

    Related: antimicrobial

  • antispasmodic

    Eases or prevents cramps or muscle spasms in the body.

  • antitussive

    Suppresses coughs.

  • aperient

    Has a mildly laxative effect.

  • astringent

    Restores tone to tissues by helping them constrict. Also reduces discharge and secretions. Most astringents contain tannins.

    hemostatic, styptic

  • bitter

    Stimulates digestive juices via interaction with taste buds.

  • blood tonic

    Promotes the production of more blood cells in the body. Useful for anemia.

  • carminative

    Helps prevent/express gas in the gastrointestinal tract

  • cholagogue

    Stimulates the flow of bile from the liver.

  • demulcent

    Rich in mucilage.  Soothes and heals irritated and inflamed tissue. Emolients have the same effect on external tissue (skin).

  • diaphoretic

    Induces sweating.

    Related: antipyretic, refrigerant

  • diuretic

    Increases the flow of urine.

  • emetic

    Induces vomiting.

    Related: antiemetic

  • emmenagogue

    Helps promote menstruation and the menstruation cycle; a tonic herb for the female reproductive system.

  • emolient

    Softens and soothes skin. Applied topically as opposed to demulcents, which do the same internally.

  • expectorant

    Expels excess mucus from the body.

  • galactogogue

    Increases milk production in humans and other animals.

  • hemostatic

    Helps stop hemorrhaging and internal bleeding. Contains astringents that help coagulate the blood.

    Related: astringent, styptic

  • hepatic

    Helps support the liver. Tones, strengthens, and increases the flow of bile. All hepatic herbs contain bitters.

  • hypertensive

    Raises blood pressure.

    Related: hypotensive

  • hypotensive

    Lowers blood pressure.

    Related: hypertensive

  • immunomodulator

    Any herb that has an effect on immune system responsiveness.

  • laxative

    Promotes bowel movement.

    Carthartics are much more severe, cleaning out the whole colon. Purgatives are in between the gentler laxatives and carthartics.

  • lithotriptic

    Eliminates stones and gravel from the kidneys and bladder by helping to dissolve them.

    Related: antilithic

  • nervine

    Calms, strengthens, and tones the nervous system.

  • parasiticide

    Destroys and expels internal parasitic worms and external parasites such as lice.

    Related: anthelminticvermicidevermifuge

  • parturient

    Supports and facilitates the birthing process. Often these are uterine tonics and stimulants.

  • pectoral

    Helps heal and strengthen the respiratory system.

  • refrigerant

    Cools the body, reducing fever, by evaporation / perspiration.

    Related: diaphoretic, refrigerant.

  • rubefacient

    Used topically to draw inflamation and congestion from deeper tissue. They dilate capillaries, increase circulation, and warm the surface of the skin. They also can be irritating to the skin.

  • sedative

    Promotes sleep and relaxation. Helps with stress and other nervous system disorders.

  • sialagogue

    Aids in digestion by increasing saliva production.

  • stimulant

    Enhances energy. Some stimulants are addictive. Others are nourishing and work to enhance deep energy in the body.

  • stomachic

    Tones the stomach, aiding in digestion or promoting appetite

  • styptic

    Helps stop external bleeding via its astringent / coagulating effects.

    Related: hemostatic, astringent

  • tonic

    In herbal medicine, a formulation used to restore and promote general health by working on the body’s various systems.

  • vermicide

    Kills parasites.

    Related: anthelminticparasiticidevermifuge

  • vermifuge

    Helps eliminate parasites by stunning them.

    Related: anthelminticparasiticidevermicide

  • vulnerary

    Used in the healing of wounds

Jim McDonald’s site has a great page listing medical actions of herbs.


  • amenorrhea

    An abnormal absence of menstruation.

  • leucorrhea

    An abnormal, odorless, whitish or yellowish discharge from the vagina.

  • menorrhagia

    Abnormally heavy menstrual bleeding

  • rheumatism

    A generic term for a medical disorder affecting the joints or connective tissues.


  • bitter principle

    A bitter principle is a component of an herb that stimulates the bitter receptors of the tongue. It also stimulates saliva and bile production and the secretion of digestive juices.

  • essential oil

    Also known as a volatile oil, an essential oil is derived by distillation from the non-seed parts of a typically aromatic plant. It evaporates at room temperature and does not leave a stain. Essential oils are used medicinally and also as perfumes, flavors, and in aromatherapy.

    Related: fixed oil

  • fixed oil

    Also called non-volatile or carrier oil, a fixed oil is derived by pressing the seeds of a plant.*  It won’t evaporate at room temperature and will leave a stain. It is insoluble in water.

    Fixed oils are used in making soaps and lotions, and also as solvents for extracting plant properties. Glycerin is a by-product of fixed oils.

    *Fixed oils are also derived from animals, but this site isn’t about that. 🙂

    Related: essential oil, glycerin

  • glycerin

    A by-product when creating fixed oils, glycerin is used as a solvent for extracting plant properties. It’s very sweet and is often used as a base for children’s medicine.

    Related: fixed oil

  • tonic

    In herbal medicine, a formulation used to restore and promote general health by working on the body’s various systems.

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