A-Z Glossary of Terms Used in Herbal Medicine "A"



Herbal Medicine uses numerous terms which describe the action of the herb in question.  In the table below you'll find an alphabetical list of some of the most commonly used herbal medicine terms.



Abortifacient: Causes premature abortion of the embryo. Examples are pennyroyal, aloe, sandalwood.




These herbs that help us adapt to stress by supporting the adrenal glands, the endocrine system. They work holistically.


Examples are ginseng root, nettle leaf, sarsaparilla, licorice root and ashwagandha.




Known as 'blood cleansers' in the past, these herbs improve lymphatic circulation, boost immunity and help clear chronic conditions, particularly of the skin.


These herbs help chronic conditions because they aid in the elimination of metabolic toxins. Alteratives may be prescribed for sores, boils, tumours and cancers.


In addition they reduce fevers, detoxify the liver, kill parasites and worms, help in the treatment of infectious, contagious diseases and epidemics. Flu, acne, herpes, and venereal diseases also respond to this type of herb.


Examples are ginseng, aloe, sandalwood, red clover,  burdock, bayberry, black pepper, cinnamon, myrrh, and safflower.




These herbs treat illness caused by amoeba e.g. amoebic dysentery.



Analgesic or anodynes: These herbs reduce or eliminate pain.


Examples are camphor, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, echinacea, lavender flower, feverfew herb, cabbage leaves, wintergreen leaf, passionflower herb and flower.




The opposite of an aphrodisiac. These herbs decrease or delay sexual desires/feelings.



Induces anaesthesia or numbness.


Examples are ashok, calamus, gudmar, and jatamanshi.




Antiparasitic - these herbs destroy and dispel worms, parasites, fungus and yeast. They are also known as vermicides or vermifuges.


Examples are Pau d'arco, goldenseal, wormseed, wormwood, ajwan, cayenne, peppers, and pumpkin seeds.




These herbs are pain relievers. Also known as analgesics.


Examples are ashok, barberry, cedar, and ginger.




Helps to neutralise excess stomach acidity.


Examples are marshmallow root and leaf, meadowsweet herb, hops flower, and sweet flag.




These herbs combat nausea, stomach ache, and other bilious symptoms that are caused by an excessive secretion of bile.



Antibiotic: Inhibits the growth of bacteria.


Examples are turmeric and echinacea.



Antidepressant: A drug that counters depression.



Antidiabetic: Support diabetes, may also help body to utilise insulin more effectively.


Examples of herbs are amalaki, blackberry, fenugreek, gudmar, senna, and shilajit.



Antidiarrhoeal : Useful for helping stop diarrhoea.


Examples are Blackberry, comfrey, gentian, red raspberry, and yellow dock, black pepper, and ginger.



Antiemetic: Prevents and alleviates nausea and vomiting.


Examples are Cloves, coriander, ginger, and raspberry.



Antiepileptic: Herb that combats epileptic fits or seizures.


Anti-haemorrhagic: Prevents or alleviates haemorrhage.



Anti-inflammatory: Reduces inflammation.



Anti-=lithic: Helps to prevent the formation of stones in the kidneys and bladder.



Anti-=periodic : This medicine prevents the periodic recurrence of attacks of a disease e.g. malaria.


Examples are barberry, chirayata, guduchi, kutaj, and vacha.



Antiphlogistic: Herb that counteracts inflammation. (See anti-inflammatory above).


Antipyretic: Reduces fever, destroys fever toxins and induces perspiration to increase the loss of heat. Similar to febrifuge or refrigerant.


Example are amalaki, black pepper, brihati, nirgundi, safflower, sandalwood.



Antirheumatic: Herb that relieves or cures rheumatism.



Antiscorbutic: Effective in the prevention or treatment of scurvy.



Antiseptic: A herb, drug or other substance that prevents decay or putrefaction. A substance that inhibits the growth and development of microorganisms without necessarily destroying them. Also see Bitter.


Examples are aloe, chitrak, gokshura, gudmar, sandalwood and turmeric.




Relieves or prevents involuntary muscle spasm or cramp.


Examples are chamomile, ashwagandha, basil, calamus, guggul, licorice, myrrh, sage, gotu kola, jatamanshi, peppermint, sandalwood, and spearmint.




These herbs are used by practitioners to improve or cure syphilis. Also called antiluetic.


Examples are black pepper, cedar, guduchi, guggul.


Antitussive: Used to prevents or alleviate a cough.




These herbs can act against poisonous matter from animals.




Herbs that destroy pathogens or disease producing organisms.



Aperient : A mild or gentle laxative.


Example: Rhubarb.



Restores or increases sexual power and desire. There are two types :-


Tonics -
These herbs tone and develop the sexual organs.


Stimulants -

These are prescribed to increase the functioning of the reproductive organs.


Examples are angelica, ahwagandha, asparagus, fenugreek, fo-ti, ginseng, gokshura, hibiscus, kapikachu seeds, pippali, rose, saffron and shatavari.


The nutritive tonics such as aghwagandha, bala, fo-ti, ghee, licorice, marshmallow, sesame seeds and shatavari increase semen and breast milk.




These herbs stimulate the appetite.


Examples are cardamom, coriander.




These herbs produce a natural movement of the bowel.




Herb with a pleasant, fragrant scent and a strong taste. These may be used to help to disguise the taste of other herbs in preparations.


Examples are cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, peppermint, and turmeric.




These cause a local contraction of the skin, blood vessels, and other tissues and this stops the discharge of blood, mucus, etc. Usually used locally as a topical application.


Examples are amalaki, arjuna, ashok, cinnamon, jasmine, sandalwood, and yarrow.




Further information about Herbal terms:

 B-C      D      E      F-L      M-O      P-S      T-Z

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