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Herbal Vocabulary Guide

Here's a short list of some keywords that should be known when starting your herbalism or tea journey! It is important to understand these so we know what kind of effect herbs and plants will have on our bodies. Please be sure to consult your physician prior to beginning any supplement.

Herbal Terms to Know:

Abortifacient: An herb or plant that causes an abortion to occur

Adaptogen: An herb that improves resistance to stress

Alterative: An herb that detoxifies and increases vitality

Anesthetic: An herb that causes loss of sensation in a body part

Analgesic: An herb that relieves pain

Annual: A plant that flowers and dies in one season

Antibacterial: An herb that inhibits the growth of bacteria

Anthelmintic: An herb that destroys intestinal worms; (vermifuge)

Anti-catarrhal: An herb that suppresses the buildup of phlegm

Anticonvulsant: An herb that is helpful in the treatment of seizures

Antifungal: An herb that destroys fungi or inhibits their growth

Antihistamine: An herb that counteracts the action of histamine which results in the reduction of an allergic response

Anti-inflammatory: An herb that reduces inflammation

Antimicrobial: An herb that destroys micro-organisms

Antioxidant: An herb that inhibits oxidation and protects cells from damage

Anti-parasitic: An herb that kills parasites

Antipyretic: An herb that reduces a fever

Antiseptic: An herb that prevents infection

Antispasmodic: An herb that reduces muscle spasms

Antiviral: An herb that destroys viruses or inhibits their growth

Aperient: An herb that is a mild laxative

Aphrodisiac: An herb that stimulates sexual excitation

Astringent: An herb that reduces bleeding or discharge by precipitating proteins from surfaces of cells

Biennial: A plant that takes two years to complete its growth cycle

Bitter: An herb that stimulates the secretion of digestive juices

Carcinogenic: An herb that can cause cancer

Carminative: An herb that relieves flatulence

Cleansing: An herb that promotes excretion of waste products

Cooling: An herb that reduces internal "heat" through the excretion of toxins

Deciduous: A term used to refer to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves at the end of the growing season

Decongestant: An herb that relieves congestion

Demulcent: An herb that soothes irritated tissues

Depressant: An herb that reduces nervous activity

De-toxicant: An herb that removes poison from the body

Diaphoretic: An herb that promotes sweating and reduces fever

Dioecious: A term used to refer to plants that have male and female parts on separate plants

Diuretic: An herb that increases urine output

Emetic: An herb that causes vomiting

Emmenagogue: An herb that induces menstruation

Emollient: An herb that soothes and softens the skin

Expectorant: An herb that encourages the expulsion of phlegm

Febrifuge: An herb that reduces fever

Galactogogue: An herb that increases the flow of breast milk.

Hepatic: An herb that acts on the liver

Herbaceous: A term used for plants that completely die off each year, no stem left above ground

Insecticidal: An herb that kills insects

Laxative: An herb that encourages bowel movements

Mucilaginous: An herb that contains a thick and sticky substance that coats and protects mucous membranes in the body

Nervine: An herb that supports the functioning of the nervous system

Nutritive: An herb that supports the whole body as a food

Oxytocic: An herb that promotes contractions of the uterus

Perennial: A plant that lives longer than 2 years

Purgative: An herb that acts as a strong laxative

Relaxant: An herb that relaxes tense body tissues

Restorative: An herb that restores good health

Rubefacient: An herb that increases blood flow and reddens the skin, promotes toxin removal

Sedative: An herb that reduces stress and tension

Sialagogue: An herb that stimulates secretion of saliva

Stimulant: An herb that increases bodily activity

Tonic: An herb that supports the overall functioning of the body and promotes a feeling of wellbeing

Vermifuge: An herb that promotes the expulsion of intestinal worms

Vulnerary: An herb that promotes healing of wounds

Warming: An herb that stimulates circulation and digestion

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