Herbal Glossary

Herbal Glossary

Herbal Glossary

From Adaptogen to Vulnerary, here's an explanation of what all these medical terms mean. 

NB. This is a general listing, and by no means exhaustive, and some herbs listed below may not be suitable for horses.

Adaptogen Herbs that normalise and restore body functions and increase the body's nonspecific resistance to stress:
~ i.e. ginseng, liquorice, nettle and astragalus

Alterative Also known as blood purifiers. Herbs that gradually restore health and vitality to the body:

~ i.e. burdock, red clover, nettle, oregon grape, alfalfa, gota kola, marshmallow, dong quai, and ginseng

Analgesic/Anodyne A substance that relieves pain:
~ i.e. scullcap, valerian, passion flower, catnip and chamomile

Anaphrodisiac The opposite of aphrodisiac, a substance that decreases or delays sexual desires:
~ i.e.valerian, hops

Antacid A substance that neutralises excess acid in the stomach and intestinal tract:
~ i.e. dandelion, fennel, slippery elm, catnip, mullein and meadowsweet

Anthelmintic Herbs that expel or kill worms:
~ i.e. garlic, wormwood, turmeric, sage and thyme

Antibiotic A substance that inhibits the growth of or destroy bacteria, viruses or amoebas:
~ i.e. echinacea, goldenseal, myrrh, pau d'arco, juniper berries, thyme and garlic

Anticatarrhal A substance that eliminates or counteracts the formation of mucous:
~ i.e. cayenne, ginger, sage, cinnamon, anise, gota kola, mullein, comfrey and wild cherry bark

Anti-inflammatory Herbs that reduce inflammation:
~ i.e. St. John's wort, calendula, arnica, licorice, chamomile and turmeric

Antilithic Herbs that prevent or dissolve and discharge urinary/biliary stones and gravel:
~ i.e. dandelion, cleavers, corn silk, uva ursi. For gallbladder: Oregon grape and chaparral.

Antiphlogistic Reduces localized inflammations, itching and swelling

Antipyretic Cooling herbs used to reduce fevers:
~ i.e. basil, gota kola, skullcap, chickweed, yarrow

Antiseptic Substances that can be applied to the skin to prevent the growth of bacteria:
~ i.e. goldenseal, calendula, chaparral, myrrh and the oils of thyme, garlic, pine, juniper berries and sage

Antispasmodic Herbs that prevent or relax muscle spasms:

~ dong quai, black cohosh, valerian, raspberry leaves

Antitussive Herbs that calm the coughing spasm
~ coltsfoot, plantain

Aphrodisiac Substances used to improve sexual potency and power:
~ ginseng, burdock

Aromatic A pleasant smelling and tasting herb that stimulates the gastro-intestinal system, and improves the taste of medicines and foods:
~ i.e. lavender, peppermint, cinnamon, citrus peel

Astringent Herb causing constriction of tissues:
~ i.e. witch hazel, yellow dock, uva ursi, calendula, myrrh, blackberry root

Bitter Stimulates gastric function:
~ i.e. hops, dandelion.

Carminative Promotes digestion, expels gas, and relieves gripping:
~ i.e. anise, fennel, chamomile, peppermint, ginger.

Cholagogue Herbs taken to promote the flow and discharge of bile into the small intestine:
~ i.e. goldenseal, oregon grape, dandelion, wild yam.

Demulcent Soothing substances taken internally that protect and sooth the digestive, respiratory and urinary systems by triggering reflex mechanisms that travel through the spinal nerves effectively reducing inflammation and irritation:
~ i.e. comfrey, marshmallow, slippery elm.

Diaphoretic Substances that promote perspiration:
~ i.e. elder, yarrow, ginger.

Diuretic Substances that increase the flow of urine:
~ i.e. dandelion, couch grass, uva ursi, plantain.

Emmenagogue Herbs that promote menstruation:
~ i.e. juniper berries, myrrh, black cohosh.

Emollients Substances that sooth and soften the skin:
~ marshmallow, comfrey root, slippery elm, chickweed, plantain.

Expectorant Herbs that help expel mucus from the lungs and throat.
~ Stimulating Expectorant: Herbs that stimulate the nerves and muscles of the respiratory system to manifest a cough: elecampane
~ Relaxing Expectorant: Herbs that reduce tension in lung tissue, often easing tightness, allowing natural coughing and flow of mucus to occur:  coltsfoot, liquorice
~ Amphoteric Expectorant: Herbs that stimulate or relax the respiratory systems, using the body's choice which is necessary: mullein, horehound, garlic

Febrifuge Herbs that assist the body in reducing fevers:
~ i.e. catnip, elder, peppermint

Galactogogue Substance that increase the secretion of milk:
~ anise, fenugreek, blessed thistle, fennel and vervain

Hemostatic Herbs that are internal astringents that arrest internal hemorrhaging:
~ blackberry, cayenne, mullein, goldenseal, uva ursi, yellow dock, witch hazel

Hepatic Herbs that strengthen and tone the liver:
~ oregon grape, agrimony, dandelion, goldenseal, wild yam

Hypnotic Herbs that have a powerful relaxant and sedative action, and help induce sleep:
~ hops, valerian

Hypotensive Herbs that reduce elevated blood pressure:
~ crampbark, garlic, yarrow, hawthorn berries

Laxative Substances that stimulate bowel movement:
~ cascara sagrada, psyllium, yellow dock

Lymphagogue Herbs that support the health and activity of the lymphatic system:
~ cleaver, calendula, echinacea

Nervine Herbs that calm nervous tension and nourish the nerves:
~ chamomile, hops, scullcap

Oxytocic Substances that stimulate uterine contractions to assist and induce labour:
~ black cohosh, uva ursi

Pectoral Herbs that generally strengthen and heal the respiratory system:
~ elecampane, coltsfoot, comfrey, mullein

Rubefacient Substances that increase the flow of blood to the surface of the skin and produce redness. They draw inflammation and congestions from deeper areas:
~ nettle, cayenne, black pepper

Sedative Herbs that quiet the nervous system:
~ valerian, passion flower, chamomile, catnip

Sialogogue Herbs that promote the secretion and flow of saliva:
~ echinacea, black pepper, cayenne, ginger, liquorice

Stimulants Herbs that increase the energy of the body, quicken circulation, break up obstructions and congestion:
~ cayenne, ginger, wormwood

Styptic Herbs that arrest or reduce external bleeding due to astringent action on blood vessels:
~ yarrow, cayenne, plantain

Tonic Herbs that stimulate nutrition by improving the assimilation of essential nutrients by the organs, they improve systemic tone giving increased vigour, energy and strength to the tissues of either specific organs or to the whole body. Most tonics have an affinity for a particular system.
~ Nerve tonics: valerian
~ Heart tonics: hawthorn, ginseng
~ Stomach tonics: elecampane
~ Liver tonics: dandelion

Vasodilator Herbs that expand blood vessels and allow increased circulation:
~ ginkgo, Siberian ginseng, ginger, cayenne

Vulnerary Herbs that help the body to heal wounds by promoting cell growth and repair:
~ comfrey, calendula, chickweed, marshmallow, aloe vera, rosemary, thyme and slippery elm