Glossary of Terms and Actions

Acidic – Having a pH less than 7.

Acrid – Sharp or biting to the taste or smell. Acrid herbs often ‘grab’ at the back of the throat. A sub-category of Pungent. Examples include Bay Laurel, Cayenne, Lobelia, Angelica, Cinnamon, Black Cohosh, Coriander, Ginger

Adaptogen – Herbs that help balance, restore and protect the body. Examples: Reishi,

Adrenal tonic – Boosts the activity of the adrenal glands while toning and nourishing them.

Aggregate – A fruit that develops from the merger of several ovaries that were separate in a single flower. Examples of aggregate fruits include Blackberries, Dewberries, Raspberries.

Alkaline – Having a pH greater than 7.

Alterative – Herbs that gradually restore healthy bodily functions. See also depurative. Examples: Elderberry & flower

Alveoli – Microscopic air sacs in the lungs.

Analgesic – Herbs capable of reducing or eliminating pain without causing loss of consciousness. Examples: Reishi, California Poppy, Bay Laurel, Cinnamon, Clove, Usnea

Androgynophore –  the shared male and female reproductive structure of a flower.

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

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

Anodyne – Herbs that soothe or eliminate pain

Antacid – A substance which neutralizes stomach acidity.

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

Antianaphylactic – Herbs that work against allergic reactions (anaphylactic) to slow or stop them. Example: Reishi,

Antibacterial – Herbs that inhibit bacterial growth or kill bacteria. Examples: Reishi, Bay Laurel, Calendula, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antibiotic – Herbs that have the ability to destroy or inhibit the growth of other microorganisms. Examples: Usnea, Echinacea, Honeysuckle

Anticatarrhal – Herbs that help the body to remove excess mucous from the body. Examples include Elderberry & flower, Goldenrod, Plantain, Peppermint

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

Antiemetic – Herbs that are effective against vomiting and nausea.

Antifungal – Herbs that inhibit fungal growth or kill fungi. Examples include Peppermint, Black Walnut, Bay Laurel, Oregon Grape Root, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antihistamine – Herbs used to block the histamine reaction. Examples: Stinging Nettle, Lemon Balm, Reishi, Osha

Anti-inflammatory – Reduces inflammation in the body. Examples: Reishi, Willow, Bay Laurel, Elderberry & flower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antilithic – Herbs which work against the formation of calculi, such as kidney stones.

Antimalarial – Preventing or relieving the symptoms of malaria.

Antimicrobial – Herbs  that kill microorganisms or inhibits their growth. Examples: Usnea, Honeysuckle

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

Antioxidant – Herbs that that may protect cells against the effects of free radicals. Examples: Lemon Balm, Reishi, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antiparasitic -Herbs used for the treatment of parasitic diseases such as nematodes, cestodes, trematodes, and infectious protozoa.  See also antiprotozoal. Examples: Usnea

Antiprotozoal – Herbs used in treatment of protozoan infection. See also antiparasitic. Examples: Usnea

Antipyretic – Reduces or lowers fever.

Antirheumatic – Herbs that alleviate or prevent rheumatism. Examples: Elderberry & flower

Antiscorbutic – Herbs that can prevent or cure scurvy.

Antiseptic – Herbs that prevent infection by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms. Examples include Bay Laurel, Usnea

Antispasmodic – Relieves spasms in the body. Examples include Wild Cherry, Crampbark, Bay Laurel, Elderberry & flower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antithrombotic – Herbs that reduce the formation of blood clots (thrombi).

Antitumor – Preventing or inhibiting the formation or growth of tumors. Examples: Reishi, Turkey Tail, Chaga, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Antitussive – Herbs that have the ability to suppress a cough. Examples: Reishi

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

Antiviral – Herbs that inhibit viral growth or kill viruses. Examples: Prunella, Lemon Balm, Spilanthes, Reishi, Bay Laurel, Elderberry, Usnea, Honeysuckle

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. Examples include Peppermint, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Bay Laurel, Rosemary,

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. Examples include Bay Laurel, Elderflower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Atrophy – Gradual loss of muscle or flesh usually because of disease or lack of use.

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.

Basidiocarp – The fruiting body of a fungi that produces spores.

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 – Having or being a taste that is sharp, acrid, and unpleasant; not sweet, salty or sour. Examples include Bay Laurel, Orange Peel, Wormwood, Mugwort, Motherwort, Dandelion, Gentian, Reishi, Jamaican Dogwood

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

Blood tonic – Herbs that invigorate and nourish blood, while reinforcing the effects of iron and other nutrients. These herbs may reduce fatigue, enhance stamina and vitality, improve digestive function, ease nausea, relieve abdominal pain and cramps, improve nutrient uptake, promote healthy liver function and strengthen the immune system.

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. Examples: Usnea

Calmative – Having a soothing effect.

Cane – The stem of a raspberry, blackberry, certain roses, or similar plants.

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. Examples: Reishi, Motherwort, Hawthorn

Carminative – Inducing the expulsion of gas from the stomach and intestines. Examples include Peppermint, Lemon Balm, Bay Laurel

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

Cerebral vasorelaxant – Causing a decrease in vascular pressure resulting in the reduction in tension of the blood vessel walls in the brain.

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.

Circulatory stimulant – Promotes better circulation of blood from the trunk of the body to the periphery, thus warming the tissue, especially the hands and feet. Examples include Cayenne, Ginger, Bay Laurel

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.

Conjunctivitis – The swelling (inflammation) or infection of the membrane lining the eyelids (conjunctiva).

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.

Corymbs – A flower cluster whose lower stalks are proportionally longer so that the flowers form a flat or slightly convex head.

Counterirritant – Creates inflammation in one location with the goal of lessening the inflammation in another location.  Examples include Cayenne

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. Examples: Elderberry & flower

Decumbent – (of a plant or part of a plant) lying along the ground or along a surface, with the extremity curving upward.

Deltate (leaf) – Triangular in shape.

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. Examples: Elderberry & flower, Honeysuckle

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.

Detoxifying – Counteracts or destroys toxic properties.

Diaphoretic – Promotes sweating, helpful for relieving a fever through perspiration. Examples include Bay Laurel, Elderberry & flower, Honeysuckle

Digestive – Aids in digestion. Examples include Peppermint, Elderberry & flower

Dioecious – Having the male and female reproductive organs on separate plants (of the same species) rather than different parts of the same plant. Examples include Bay Laurel,

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

Discoid – Shaped like a disc, pertaining to the shape of a flower head.

Discutient – An agent or process that disperses a tumor or lesion. Examples include Dandelion (sap), Elderberry & flower

Diuretic – Stimulates the flow of urine. Examples include Bay Laurel, Dandelion, Jamaican Dogwood, Elderberry & flower, Honeysuckle

Drug synergist – The joint action of herbs working with pharmaceuticals to increase the effectiveness of the pharmaceuticals. Examples: Usnea

Drupe -  A fleshy fruit with thin skin and a central stone containing the seed. Examples include Plum, Cherry, Almond, Olive, Bay Laurel, Avocado

Drupelet- A small drupe, usually one of a number forming a compound fruit. Examples of drupelets are Blackberries, Dewberries and Raspberries.

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.

Emetic – Herbs that cause vomiting. Examples include: Honeysuckle

Emmenagogue – Stimulates blood flow in the pelvic area; can bring on menstruation. Examples include Bay Laurel,

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, Elderflower

Entire margin – Leaves with smooth, non-toothed edges.

Expectorant – Promotes and facilitates the discharge of mucus and fluids from the respiratory tract. Examples: Reishi, Elderberry & flower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

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

Extrafloral nectaries – Nectar producing glands located on leaves, petioles, flower buds, bracts, and/or stems. Examples are Passionflower, Prunus, Peony,

Febrifuge – Herbs that reduce fever. Examples include Willow, Elderflower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Fermentation – A metabolic process that converts sugar to acids, gases and/or alcohol. Often referred to as fermented.

Floricanes – The flowering and fruiting stem of a biennial plant, especially of a bramble. Examples include Blackberry and Raspberry.

Galactagogue – Increases the milk supply in a lactating woman. Examples include Fenugreek, Elderflower,

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.

Hepatoprotective – Herbs that protect and prevent damage to the liver. Examples: Reishi,

Hepatic – Acts on the liver.

Hepatonic – Herbs that cleanse, build and restore the liver.

Hepatotoxic – Being injurious to the liver.

Herbal Energetics – HE are the study of the plants energies, which give us insight on how plants work to heal us. By looking at the tastes, heating, cooling and digestive effects and other potencies each plant possesses, we can better understand how to apply them for medicinal use.

Hypnotic – Calming to the point of inducing sleep.

Hypoglycemic – Lowers content of glucose in the blood. Examples include Cinnamon, Ginger

Hypotensive – Reduces blood pressure. Examples: Reishi, Honeysuckle

Immunomodulator – Herbs that balance the immune system, stimulating a suppressed immune system and suppressing an over-stimulated immune system.  Examples: Elderberry, Reishi

Immunostimulant – Stimulates the immune system. Also known as immune stimulant. Examples: Echinacea, Spilanthes, Reishi, Bay Laurel, Usnea

Inferior ovary – The leaves and sepals are above the ovary.

Inflorescence – The complete flower head of a plant including stems, stalks, bracts, and flowers.

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. Examples include Green Tea, Elderberry & flower, Honeysuckle

Leaf Axil – The angle between the upper side of a leaf or stem and the stem or branch that supports it.

Lenticels – Small, corky, oval or elongated areas on the surface of a plant stem, trunk, or fruit that allow the interchange of gases between the interior tissue and the surrounding air.

Lignicolous – Fungi that grow on wood and cause it to decay.

Liniment – A topical preparation for application to the skin.

Lithotriptic – Herbs that help dissolve calculus.

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

Lymphatic – Herbs that deep clean and improve the flow of lymph through the body system.

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.

Mycelium – The vegetative part of a fungus, consisting of a mass of branching, thread-like hyphae (filaments).

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

Ointment – A remedy that is rubbed on the skin to help heal a wound or to reduce pain or discomfort.

Ophthalmic – Pertaining to the eye.

Ovate (leaf) – An egg-shaped leaf with the broader end at the base.

Palmately compound (leaf) – A leaf with leaflets that originate from a common point at the end of the petiole.

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

Peduncle – The flower stalk which becomes the stem of the fruit.

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

Perfect flower – A flower containing both male and female parts.

Perianth – Outer portion of the flower. Also referred to as tepals.

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

Petiole – The stalk or stem of a leaf.

Phytoestrogenic – Plants containing phytoestrogens, weak hormones found in many plants.

Pinnately compound (leaves) – Leaflets that are attached along an extension of the petiole called a rachis; if there is a terminal leaflet, an odd number of leaflets exist, giving it the name odd-pinnate.

Pistilliferous flower – The female flower.

Pith – Soft or spongy tissue sometimes found in the center of plant stems.

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.

Pubescent – Fine, downy hairs on leaves

Pungent – Having a strong taste or smell. Examples include Bay Laurel, Marjoram, Rosemary, Thyme, Lavender, Ginger, Angelica, Fennel, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Anise, Prickly Ash, Cayenne, Garlic

Purgative – A strong laxative. Examples include Elderflower, 

Rachis – An extension of a petiole in a pinnately compound leaf.

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).

Raynaud’s phenomenon – A condition in which cold temperatures or strong emotions cause blood vessel spasms which blocks blood flow to the fingers, toes, ears, and nose.

Refrigerant – Herbs that cool the body from the inside out, reducing heat in the body. Examples include Peppermint, Honeysuckle

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

Rejuvenative – Restore to youthful vigor, appearance, etc. Examples: Reishi, Elderberry & flower

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

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.

Rosacea – A chronic skin condition that makes the face and/or turn red and may cause swelling and skin sores that look like acne.

Rudimentary stamen – undeveloped stamen.

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.

Sedative – Herbs that tend  to calm, moderate, or tranquilize nervousness or excitement. Examples include Bay Laurel, California Poppy,

Septa – The fleshy partition inside the fruit.

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.

Shrub – Preparation made with herbal syrup and herbal vinegar combined together, typically at equal proportions to be mixed with seltzer or sparkling water.

Sialogogue – Herbs that increase the flow of saliva.

Simple – A leaf that has only one leaflet on the leaf stem.

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

Staminiferous flower – The male flower.

Stimulant – Energizes a system of the body. Examples include Peppermint, Bay Laurel, Elderflower (mild)

Stipules – One of the usually small, paired appendages at the base of a leafstalk in certain plants. Examples include Rose and Passionflower.

Stomachic – Herbs that tone the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite. Examples include Bay Laurel

Styptic – Stops bleeding by constricting tissue and blood vessels.

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

Thermogenic – Increases the caloric burn rate. Herbs include Cayenne

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. Examples include Nettles, Oats, Comfrey, Raspberry, Bay Laurel, Elderberry & flower

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

Torus – The expanded tip of a flower stalk or axis that bears the floral organs or the group of flowers in a head. Also known as a receptacle.

Trophorestorative – Herbs that are nourishing and restorative to both the physiological structure and function of an organ, system or tissue.  Examples include Hawthorn

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.

Vasodilator – Herbs that widen blood vessels and help prevent high blood pressure. Examples include Hawthorn, Bay Laurel, Yarrow, Elderberry & flower, Usnea

Vasorelaxant – Causing a decrease in vascular pressure resulting in the reduction in tension of the blood vessel walls.

Vertigo –  A subtype of dizziness in which a patient inappropriately experiences the perception of motion (usually a spinning motion) due to dysfunction of the vestibular system.  It is often associated with nausea and vomiting as well as a balance disorder, causing difficulties with standing or walking.

Vulnerary – Has wound healing properties. Examples include Bay Laurel, Prunella, Calendula, Plantain, Elderflower, Usnea, Honeysuckle

Whooping cough – see Pertussis.

Whorled – An arrangement of sepals, petals, leaves, stipules or branches that radiate from a single point and surround or wrap around the stem.

Xerostomia – Dry mouth resulting from reduced or absent saliva flow. Xeroxstomia is a side effect of illnesses, medication and other health issues.


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