Herbal Vocab List

This is a list of many different herbal terms. It is ever growing. If you have any questions or requests contact me @ Melissa@Melissaandyarrow.com and I'll help you out!


Adaptogen- (Supportive) Basically herbs that help the body adapt to stress.

Aerial parts- above ground parts of a plant. Such as flower, leaf, stem.

Alterative-(Detoxifying) Herbs that alter or clean the blood. Most alteratives support the function of different elimination organs such as the lungs, lymph, spleen, liver, kidneys and bowels. These herbs work slowly over time.

Herbs: Chickweed, Cleavers, Dandelion, Nettles, red clover.

Amenorrhea: absence of menstrual period in women of reproductive age.

Analgesic -(Symptom Regulating) relieve pain (Anodyne)

Anesthetic - induces loss of sensation or consciousness due to the depression of nerve function

Antianemic - preventing or curing anemia

Antibacterial - destroying or stopping the growth of bacteria

Anticatarrhal -(Detoxifying) reduces inflamed mucous membranes of head and throat, hel breakdown excess mucus conditions.

Herbs: Yarrow, comfrey, echinacea, mullein, sage, garlic, capsicum.

Conditions: chronic or excessive discharge from nose, throat, lungs, stomach, intestines or urinary tract. Colds, flu and pneumonia, usually accompanied by chronic hacking cough.

Antidepressant - therapy that acts to prevent, cure, or alleviate mental depression

Antiemetic - (Symptom Regulating) stopping vomiting and relieve nausea.

Antifungal - destroying or inhibiting the growth of fungus

Antihemorrhagic - controlling hemorrhaging or bleeding

Anti-infectious - counteracting infection

Anti-inflammatory -(symptom regulating) controlling inflammation.

Antimicrobial - destructive to microbes

Antipyretic - (Symptom regulating) agent that reduces fever (febrifuge)

Antiseptic - (Symptom regulating) destroy or prevent growth of bacteria and reduce the decay of tissue and formation of pus.

Herbs: Comfrey, echinacea, garlic, mullein, plantain, rosemary, thyme.

Conditions: Cuts, abrasions, wounds, ulcers, abscesses, gangrene, active infections.

Antispasmodic - (Symptom regulating) calming nervous and muscular spasms or convulsions.

Antitussive - controlling or preventing cough

Antiviral - opposing the action of a virus

Anti-venomous-can help relieve bites and stings and can draw out poisons from the body.

Anxiolytic: Herbs that help relieve anxiety by working on the nervous system.

Astringent - (Regenerating) agent that constricts and binds by coagulation of proteins on a cell surface. Increases firmness and tone of tissues. Lessens excessive discharge from organs, body parts, abscesses and ulcers.

Herbs: Calendula, capsicum, comfrey, plantain, mullein, st.john’s wort, yarrow.

Conditions: Hemorrhoids, sagging tissues, ulcers, abscesses, chronic tearing and sinus, vatinal or urinary discharge.


Bacteriostatic-Chemical or biological agent that stops bacteria from reproducing but not necessarily killing them.

Bioavailability-how well a substance can be absorbed by the body.

Bitter - Stimulates appetite or digestive function 


Carminative - (Symptom Regulating) causing the release of stomach or intestinal gas. Help with symptoms of stagnant digestion.

Catarrhal - an excessive accumulation of mucus and epithelial cells that form on the mucus membranes in the respiratory and digestive system.

Cell Proliferant-encouraging healthy cell growth.

Cholagogue - an agent that increases flow of bile from gallbladder. Should not be used if there is a known gallbladder obstruction.

Choleretic- support liver health by increasing bile production

Constitution-a persons unique blend of energetic qualities.


Decoction-A tea, usually from bark, rhizomes, roots or other woody parts, made by boiling the parts in water.

Decongestant-An agent that shrinks swollen membranes in the upper respiratory tract,  making it easier for a person to breathe.

Demulcent -(Symptom Regulating) soothing action on inflammation, especially of mucous membranes. Demulcent herb produce slime that coat and soothe mucous membranes. This promotes natural production of moistening secretions within the body’s systems.

Dermatitis - inflammation of the skin evidenced my itchiness, redness, and various lesions

Diaphoretic- (detoxifying) increases perspiration by raising the body’s temperatures and promoting sweating. Diaphoretics influence the entire circulatory system, sudorifics are herbs that simply stimulate the sweat glands.  

Conditions-fevers, colds, flu, edema and skin disorders respond well to diaphoretics

Diuretic - (detoxifying) increases urine flow. Herbal diuretics are usually rich in sources of bioavailable minerals and do not deplete mineral stores.

Herbs- cleavers, dandelion, mullein, plantain, rosemary, st.john's wort,

Conditions- can be used to treat backache, prostatitis, sciatica, kidney stones, bladder ache, lymphatic swelling scalding urine, gonorrhea, skin eruptions, water retention, high blood pressure and obesity.

Dyspiosis- An imbalance of beneficial bacteria in the digestive tract causing digestive problems.

Dysmenorrhea - painful menstruation, difficult menstruation


Edema- excess fluid trapped in the tissues of your body causing swelling.

Emmenagogue - (Detoxifying) something that regulates and or stimulates normal menstruation, can relieve cramps.

Emollient- Having the quality of softening or soothing the skin.

Essential Oils: Volatile oils extracted from plant parts.

Expectorant - (Detoxifying) promotes removal of secretions or mucus from throat and lungs.

Herbs- boneset, comfrey, garlic, mullein, nettles, yarrow

Conditions- bronchitis, colds, flu, respiratory congestion, emphysema, pleurisy, allergies


Febrifuge -(Symptom Regulating) reduces or relieves a fever

Herbs- catnip, dandelion, peppermint, yarrow

Conditions- dangerously high or prolonged fevers

 Fomentation- A preparation involving soaking a cloth in an herbal tea or infusion and then applying to an area of the body. Often used for rashes, pain, headaches.


Galactagogue- Herbs that stimulate the production of breast milk.



Hemagogue - Promotes the flow of blood

Hemostatic - (Symptom Regulating) Controls the flow or stops the flow of blood, can stop bleeding or hemorrhage

Herbs-capsicum (powerful) nettles, red raspberry, witch hazel, yarrow,

Conditions (internal hemorrhage, blood in urine or stools, spitting blood, heavy or hemorrhagic menstruation.

Herb:  Plant used in various forms or preparations for their therapeutic benefits.

Herbal Medicine: An approach to healing which uses plant or plant-derived preparations to treat, prevent, or cure various health conditions and ailments.

Hydrosol: Aqueous solution from steam-distilling aromatic plants. Often a by-product of essential oils.

Hypertensive - high blood pressure

Hypotensive- low blood pressure



Immunomodulator: herbs that broadly support the immune system. Generally used for seasonal allergies, people who frequently get sick.

Infused Oil: Soaking a plant in a carrier oil such as olive oil, to extract the volatile oils from the plant substance. The resulting oil is used therapeutically.  

Infusion: A tea, usually dried, sometimes fresh, flowers, fruit, leaves and other plant parts, made by pouring water over the plant material and allowing it to steep. Boiling water is usually used but cold infusions can be done as well. The tea may be used therapeutically.




Liniment: A plant extract added to alcohol or vinegar and used topically for its therapeutic benefits.


Menstruum: A substance that dissolves a solid or holds it in suspension. A solvent. (The liquid used when making a tincture.)


Nervine- Used to calm the nerves.

NSAID: Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug. aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen are NSAID’s

Nutritive- Providing nourishment.


Oxymel: Herbal preparations made from herb parts, honey and vinegar.


Pastille: An herbal preparation of powdered herbs and honey rolled into pill form.

Poultice: A topical application of bruised or squished herbs so the herbs are moist and the juices released.



Rubefacient: Herbs applied topically to increase circulation of blood to an area of the body by causing dilation of capillaries.

Herbs- Arnica, cayenne, ginger.


Stimulating- (Symptom Regulating) used when the overall condition is sluggish or unresponsive, to excite (a nerve, gland, etc.) to its functional activity.

Herbs-yarrow, garlic, ginger, pmint, boneset.

Styptic-A substance that stops bleeding

Synergist-Increases potency of herbs and pharmaceuticals.


Tea: A plant extract made by soaking plant parts in water.

Tincture- A plant extract made by soaking the plant in alcohol, glycerine or vinegar. The liquid is then used therapeutically.



Vasoconstriction- Narrowing of blood vessels

Vermifuge- Herbs useful in ridding the body of parasites.

Vulnerary- Of use in healing wounds


Wildcrafting: Identifying and harvesting herbs from the wild.