Glossary of Herbal Effects on the Body

This glossary serves as a guide to medical terms that are often encountered when working with herbal medicine. These terms are not exclusively used to describe the actions of herbs on the body, but are often used to describe the actions of pharmaceutical drugs and other chemicals as well. Some of them may be familiar to you already because of this.

Please keep in mind that this list of terms has not been evaluated by the FDA, is not intended to act as or replace medical advise or treatment and is for educational purposes only. Please do not hesitate to see a medical professional if you need treatment.

Herbal TermDefinitionLearn More
AbortifacientAn agent that induces the premature expulsion of a fetusComing Soon
AcridAn herb having a hot, biting taste or causing heat and irritation when applied to the skin Coming Soon
AdaptogenAn agent with a non-specific action that causes improved resistance to physical and mental stressComing Soon
AdjuvantAn herb added to a mixture to aid the effect of the principal ingredient Coming Soon
AlterativeAn agent which produces gradual beneficial change in the body, usually by improving nutrition, without having any specific effect Coming Soon
AmoebicidalAn agent which destroys amoeba Coming Soon
Analgesic; AnodyneAn agent which relieves, soothes or diminishes pain Coming Soon
AnaphrodisiacAn agent which reduces sexual desire or potency Coming Soon
AnestheticAn agent that deadens sensation Coming Soon
Anthelmintic; Vermicide; Vermifuge; TaeniacideAn agent that destroys or expels intestinal worms Coming Soon
AntibioticAn agent that destroys or arrests growth of micro-organisms Coming Soon
AnticoagulantAn agent that prevents clotting in liquids such as blood Coming Soon
AntiemeticAn agent that counteracts nausea and relieves vomiting Coming Soon
AntihydroticAn agent which reduces or suppresses perspiration Coming Soon
AntilithicAn agent which reduces or suppresses urinary stones and acts to dissolve those already present Coming Soon
AntiperiodicAn agent which counteracts periodic or intermittent diseases, such as malaria Coming Soon
AntiphlogisticAn agent which reduces inflammation Coming Soon
Antipyretic; FebrifugeAn agent which prevents or reduces fever Coming Soon
AntiscorbuticA source of vitamin C for curing or preventing scurvy Coming Soon
AntiscrofulousAn agent which counteracts scrofula, the symptoms of tuberculosis present outside of the lungs Coming Soon
Antiseptic; DisinfectantAn agent for destroying or inhibiting pathogenic or putrefactive bacteria Coming Soon
AntispasmodicAn agent that relieves spasms or cramps Coming Soon
AntitussiveAn agent that relieves coughing Coming Soon
AperientA mild stimulant for the bowels; a gentle purgative Coming Soon
AphrodisiacAn agent for arousing or increasing sexual desire or potency Coming Soon
AppetizerAn agent that increases the appetite Coming Soon
AromaticA substance having an agreeable odor and stimulating qualities
AstringentAn agent that contracts organic tissue, reducing secretions or discharges Coming Soon
Bitter; Bitter TonicAn herb characterized by a bitter principle which acts on the mucous membranes of the mouth and stomach to increase appetite and promote digestion Coming Soon
CalmativeAn agent that has a mild sedative or tranquilizing effect Coming Soon
CardiacAn agent that stimulates or otherwise affects the heart Coming Soon
CarminativeAn agent for expelling gas from the intestines Coming Soon
Cathartic; Laxative; PurgativeAn agent that acts to empty the bowels Coming Soon
CausticA corrosive substance capable of burning or eating away tissues
CholagogueAn agent for increasing the flow of bile into the intestines Coming Soon
CoagulantAn agent that induces clotting in a liquid such as blood Coming Soon
Counterirritant; IrritantAn agent for producing irritation in one part of the body to counteract irritation or inflammation in another part Coming Soon
DemulcentAn agent that soothes irritated tissue, especially mucous membranes Coming Soon
DeodorantAn herb that has the effect of destroying or masking odors Coming Soon
DepressantAn agent which lessens nervous or functional activity, the opposite of a stimulant Coming Soon
DepurativeAn agent that cleanses and purifies the system, especially the blood Coming Soon
DetergentAn agent that cleanses wounds and sores of diseased or dead matter
Diaphoretic; SudorificAn agent that promotes perspiration Coming Soon
DigestiveAn agent that promotes or aids digestion Coming Soon
DiureticAn agent that increases the secretion and expulsion of urine Coming Soon
Emetic; NauseantAn agent that causes vomiting Coming Soon
EmmenagogueAn agent that promotes menstrual flow Coming Soon
EmollientAn agent used externally to soften and soothe Coming Soon
ErrhineAn agent that promotes sneezing and nasal discharges Coming Soon
Euphoriant; EuphorigenAn agent that induces an abnormal sense of vigor and emotional buoyancy Coming Soon
ExpectorantAn agent that promotes the discharge of mucus from the respiratory passages Coming Soon
GalactagogueAn agent that encourages or increases the secretion of breast milk Coming Soon
HallucinogenAn agent that induces hallucinations Coming Soon
HemostaticAn agent that stops bleeding Coming Soon
HepaticAn agent that acts on the liver Coming Soon
HydragogueA purgative that produces abundant watery discharge Coming Soon
HypnoticAn agent that promotes or produces sleep Coming Soon
MucilaginousAn herb characterized by a gummy or gelatinous consistency
NarcoticAn agent which relieves pain and induces sleep when used in medicinal doses; in large doses narcotics produce convulsions, coma and death Coming Soon
NephriticAn agent that acts on the kidneys Coming Soon
NervineAn agent that has a calming or soothing effect on the nerves; formerly any agent that acts on the nervous system Coming Soon
OxytocicAn agent that stimulates contraction of the uterine muscles and so facilitates or speeds up childbirth Coming Soon
RefrigerantAn agent that lowers abnormal body heat Coming Soon
RestorativeAn agent that restores consciousness or normal physiological activity Coming Soon
RubefacientA gentle local irritant that produces reddening of the skin Coming Soon
SedativeA soothing agent that reduces nervousness, distress or irritation Coming Soon
SialagogueAn agent that stimulates the secretion of saliva Coming Soon
StimulantAn agent that excites or quickens the activity of physiological processes Coming Soon
StomachicAn agent that acts upon the stomach Coming Soon
StypticAn agent that contracts the blood vessels and stops bleeding Coming Soon
TonicAn agent that strengthens or invigorates certain organs or the entire body Coming Soon
VasoconstrictorAn agent that narrows the blood vessels, thus raising blood pressure Coming Soon
VasodilatorAn agent that widens the blood vessels, thus lowering blood pressure Coming Soon
VesicantAn agent that produces blisters Coming Soon
VulneraryAn agent which aids in the healing of topical wounds Coming Soon

Last Updated: April 7th, 2021

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