Glossary of Terms and Actions

Acidic – Having a pH less than 7.

Alkaline – Having a pH greater than 7.

Alterative – Herbs that gradually restore healthy bodily functions. See also depurative.

Alveoli – Microscopic air sacs in the lungs.

Anesthetic – An herb that temporarily depresses neuronal function, producing total or partial loss of sensation.

Annual – Plants that complete their life cycle in one year or less (grow from seed to seed).

Anthelmintic – Herbs that expel parasitic worms either by stunning or killing them.

Antibacterial – Herbs that inhibit bacterial growth or kill bacteria.

Antidepressant – Herbs used for the treatment of depression and other conditions.

Antifungal – Herbs that inhibit fungal growth or kill fungi.

Antihistamine – Herbs used to block the histamine reaction.

Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation in the body.

Antimicrobial – Herbs  that kill microorganisms or inhibits their growth.

Antineoplastic – Herbs which inhibit or prevent the growth or development of malignant cells.

Antioxidant – Herbs that that may protect cells against the effects of free radicals.

Antirheumatic – Herbs that alleviate or prevent rheumatism.

Antiscorbutic – Herbs that can prevent or cure scurvy.

Antiseptic – Herbs that prevent infection by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms.

Antispasmodic – Relieves spasms in the body.

Antivenomous – Having the ability to neutralize venom in the body.

Antiviral – Herbs that inhibit viral growth or kill viruses.

Aperient – Herbs having a mild purgative or laxative effect. See also laxative.

Apex – Peak or summit; in botany, the top of the flower spike.

Aphrodisiac – Herbs that elevate, nourish and/or sustain intimacy and sensual desire

Appetite stimulant – Stimulates the appetite.

Aromatic – Plants with high volatile oil levels which smell strongly, stimulating the digestive system.

Arteriosclerosis – a thickening and hardening of arterial walls in the arteries. Also referred to as artherosclerosis.

Arthritis – A form of joint disorder that involves inflammation of one or more joints.

Asthma – A disorder that causes the airways of the lungs to swell and narrow, leading to wheezing, shortness of breath, chest tightness, and coughing.

Astringent – Herbs that tend to shrink or constrict body tissues.

Basal rosette – Plants that grow out of the ground from a central source, with leaves growing in a circle around this base. Examples include Chicory, Dandelion and Plantain.

Biennial – Plants that take 2 years to complete their life cycle. The first year they grow leaves only, the second year they produce flowers, fruits and seeds.

Bitter tonic – Herbs that support the digestive system, boost immunity and promote overall vitality.

Bronchi – The two large branches of the airway passage in the lungs.

Bronchioles – The smaller airway passages that branch off from the bronchi.

Bronchitis – Inflammation of the mucus membranes of the bronchi.

Bronchodilator – Herbs that dilate the bronchi and bronchioles, decreasing resistance in the respiratory airway and increasing airflow to the lungs. Also referred to as bronchial dilators.

Calmative – Having a soothing effect.

Canescent – Covered with short, fine whitish or grayish hairs or down; hoary.

Cardiotonic – Herbs that act as tonics to the heart, toning the muscle and the heart’s action.

Carminative – Inducing the expulsion of gas from the stomach and intestines.

Catarrh – A disorder of inflammation of the mucous membranes in one of the airways or cavities of the body.

Chicken pox – A highly contagious, airborne disease caused by primary infection with varicella zoster virus often affecting children.

Cholagogue – Herbs that support the gall bladder and liver by promoting the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the intestines.

Cholera – An infection of the small intestine caused by the bacterium Vibrio cholerae that causes diarrhea and vomiting.

Circumscissile – Splitting or opening along a circumference, with the top coming off as a lid.

Cleistogamous (flowers) – Of or relating to a flower that does not open and is self-pollinated in the bud. Examples include Violet

Colitis – Inflammation of the colon (large intestine).

Compress – A piece of cloth soaked in a tea or infusion of herbs and applied to the affected area of the body.

Corolla – The inner envelope of floral leaves of a flower, usually of delicate texture and of some color other than green; the group of flower petals collectively.

Croup – A condition that causes inflammation of the upper respiratory tract usually caused by a virus.

Deciduous – Plants that seasonally lose their leaves.

Decoction – A tea-like drink of herbs produced by boiling the herb in water.

Decongestant – Helps to relieve nasal congestion in the upper respiratory tract.

Demulcent – Herbs that form a soothing film over mucus membranes to relieve pain and minor inflammation of that area.

Depurative – Purifies or purgative for the blood. See also Alterative.

Deobstruent – Having power to clear or open the natural ducts of the fluids and secretions of the body.

Deodorant – A substance applied to the body to prevent body odor caused by the bacterial breakdown of perspiration in the armpits, feet, and other areas of the body.

Diaphoretic – Promotes sweating, helpful for relieving a fever through perspiration.

Digestive – Aids in digestion.

Diphtheria – An acute infection caused by the bacteria Corynebacterium diphtheriae.

Diuretic – Stimulates the flow of urine.

Dysentery – An inflammation of the intestine, especially the colon, that results in severe diarrhea, accompanied by fever and abdominal pain usually caused by an infection.

Dysmenorrhea – Medical term for menstrual cramps.

Dyspepsia – The medical term for indigestion.

Emmenagogue – Stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area; can bring on menstruation.

Emollient – Herbs that sooth and protect the skin when applied externally. They help heal inflamed or irritated mucous membranes when taken internally. Examples include Aloe, Burdock, Comfrey, Marshmallow, Mullein, Slippery Elm, Violet.

Expectorant – Promotes and facilitates the discharge of mucus and fluids from the respiratory tract. See also Tincture.

Extract – Also referred to as tincture. Preparations made by extracting, and preserving, the active properties of herbs using alcohol.

Febrifuge – Herbs that reduce fever.

Galactagogue – Increases the milk supply in a lactating woman.

Glabrous – Free from hair or down; smooth.

Hemorrhaging - Excessive discharge of blood from the blood vessels; profuse bleeding.

Hemorrhoids – Painful, swollen veins in the lower portion of the rectum or anus.

Hemostatic – Works to slow or stop bleeding or hemorrhaging.

Hepaprotective – Herbs that protect and prevent damage to the liver.

Hepatic – Acts on the liver.

Hypotensive – Reduces blood pressure.

Infusion – A medicinal remedy made by boiling water,  pouring it over herbs and letting it steep for 1 – 8 hours.

Kidney tonic – Restores or increases tone in the kidneys.

Laxative – Herbs used to produce bowel movements. See also aperient.

Lithotriptic - Herbs that help dissolve calculus.

Lobed leaves - a leaf having deeply indented margins (edges). Examples include Oak, Chicory, Ginkgo, Sassafras.

Margins – The edges of leaves.

Menorrhagia  – Unusually long and heavy menstrual cycles.

Mucilaginous – Herbs which contain polysaccharides which give them a slippery texture and mild taste, are soothing and cooling and are often used topically. Examples include Slippery Elm, Marshmallow, Plantain

Mucolytic – Herbs that make the mucus (sputum), which is made in your lungs, less thick and sticky and easier to cough up.

Nervine – Having a beneficial effect on the nervous system.

Nutritive – Herbs that nourish the body. Examples include Chickweed, Comfrey, Dandelion, Kelp, Marshmallow, Nettles, Oatstraw, Red Clover, Slippery Elm, Yellow Dock, Violet

Ophthalmic – Pertaining to the eye.

Pectoral – Herbs that tonify and strengthen the pulmonary system. Examples of pectorals include Marshmallow, Mullein, Osha, Violet, Wild Cherry.

Perennial – Plants that die back to the roots after a complete growing cycle and return from the roots the next growing season.

Pertussis – A highly contagious disease caused by the bacteria Bordetalla pertussis. Commonly known as whooping cough.

Petiole – The stalk or stem of a leaf.

Pneumonia – Inflammation of the lungs primarily affecting the microscopic air sacs (alveoli). It can be caused by a virus or bacteria, microorganisms, certain drugs and other conditions such as autoimmune disease.

Poultice – A soft, moist mass of herb, often heated and applied directly over the skin or on top of a thin cloth to treat aches, inflammation or painful areas to heal and reduce pain.

Prolapse – From the Latin word prolabi meaning to fall out. A condition where organs fall out of place.

Ray flowers – Any of a number of strap-shaped and typically sterile florets that form the ray. Also called ray floret. Examples include Dandelion, Chicory, Daisy (outer white petals).

Refrigerant – Herbs that cool the body from the inside out, reducing heat in the body.

Regenerative – Herbs that have the ability to regenerate, restore or renew tissue in the body.

Restorative – Herbs that restore the body to health. Examples include Alfalfa, Astragalus, Nettles, Violet

Relaxant – Calming and soothing without being sedating

Resinous – A thick, sticky substance that is secreted from a plant.

Rheumatism – A non-specific term for medical problems affecting the joints and connective tissue.

Salve – A mixture of oils and hardening agent such as beeswax used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.

Scurvy – a disease that occurs when one has a severe lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in their diet. Scurvy causes general weakness, anemia, gum disease, and skin hemorrhages.

Sessile -  A characteristic of plants whose flowers or leaves are borne directly from the stem or peduncle, and thus lack a petiole or pedicel. Examples include Trillium, Solomon’s Seal, St. John’s Wort, Cleavers, upper leaves of Chicory.

Spit poultice – Simple poultice made by chewing a fresh leaf and applying it directly to a wound.

Stimulant – Energizes a system of the body.

Stomachic – Herbs that tone the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite.

Styptic – Stops bleeding by constricting tissue and blood vessels.

Terete – Cylindrical or slightly tapering, and without substantial furrows or ridges.

Tincture – Also referred to as extract. Preparations made by extracting, and preserving, the active properties of herbs using alcohol. See also Extract.

Tonic – Herbs that restore or increase body tone.

Toothed leaves – Margins (edges) of leaves that are jagged. Examples include Dandelion, Nettles, Rose, Blackberry, Chicory.

Tuberculosis – An infectious disease caused by the mycobacterium tuberculosis that affects the lungs but can affect other organs as well.

Typhoid – An infection commonly caused by the bacteria Salmonella typhi that causes diarrhea and a rash.

Urogenital System – The combination of the reproduction organs and urinary system.

Varicose veins – swollen, twisted, and sometimes painful veins that have filled with an abnormal collection of blood.

Vulnerary – Has wound healing properties.

Whooping cough – see Pertussis.


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