Herbal Terms and Medicinal Preparations
This page is designed to help educate you on the various terms and preparations associated with herbal medicine. Click on any of the links to learn more!
Decoction: A tea made from boiling plant material, usually the bark, rhizomes, roots or other woody parts, in water. General guides are to boil your root or bark for at least 30-45 minutes.
Infusion: A tea made by pouring water over plant material (usually dried flowers, fruit, leaves, and other parts, though fresh plant material may also be used), then allowed to steep. The water is usually boiling, but cold infusions are also an option. For medicinal preparations, 15 minutes of infusing time is the general minimum, usually longer with cold infusions.
Tincture: An extract of a plant made by soaking herbs in a dark place with a desired amount of either glycerine, alcohol, or vinegar for two to six weeks. The liquid is strained from the plant material then bottled. There are several methods for tincturing, including maceration, percolation, and the folk method.
Liniment: Extract of a plant added to either alcohol or vinegar and applied topically to employ the therapeutic benefits.
Poultice: A topical application of a soft moist mass of plant material (such as bruised fresh herbs), usually wrapped in a fine cloth.
Essential Oils: Aromatic volatile oils extracted from the leaves, stems, flowers, and other parts of plants. Therapeutic use generally includes dilution of the highly concentrated oil.
Flower Essences: Flower essences are made by infusing flowers or other plant parts in spring water and then adding alcohol as a preservative. The essences are used internally or topically to balance emotional states. The underlying philosophy focuses on stabilizing emotions in order to dissipate illness and stimulate the internal healing processes.
Herbal Medicinal Terms
This list is mostly to help you understand the terms you might come across in herbal medicine or in field guides. There are numerous other terms out there, but here are a few to get you started:
abortifacient – induces abortion
adjuvant - aiding the action of a medicinal agent
analgesic - relieve pain
anesthetic - induces loss of sensation or consciousness due to the depression of nerve function
antibacterial - destroying or stopping the growth of bacteria
anticatarrh - reduces inflamed mucous membranes of head and throat
anti-diarrhetic- substances use to prevent or treat diarrhea
anti-emetic - stopping vomiting
antifungal - destroying or inhibiting the growth of fungus
antihemorrhagic - controlling hemorrhaging or bleeding
anti-inflammatory - controlling inflammation, a reaction to injury or infection
antimicrobial - destructive to microbes
antioxident - prevents or inhibits oxidation
antipruritic - preventing or relieving itching
antipyretic - agent that reduces fever (febrifuge)
anti-rheumatic - easing pain of rheumatism, inflammation of joints and muscles
antiseptic - agent used to produce asepsis and to remove pus, blood, etc.
antispasmodic - calming nervous and muscular spasms or convulsions
antitussive - controlling or preventing cough
antiviral - opposing the action of a virus
aperient - a very mild laxative
astringent - agent that constricts and binds by coagulation of proteins a cell surface
bitter - stimulates appetite or digestive function
carminative - causing the release of stomach or intestinal gas
cathartic - an active purgative, producing bowel movements
cicatrizant - aiding formation of scar-tissue and healing wounds
counter-irritant - agent producing an inflammatory response to affect an adjacent area
demulcent - soothing action on inflammation, especially of mucous membranes
dermatitis - inflammation of the skin evidenced my itchiness, redness, and various lesions
diaphoretic - increases perspiration (syn: sudorific)
diuretic - increases urine flow
dysmenorrhea - painful menstruation
dyspepsia - imperfect or painful digestion
emetic - produces vomiting
emmenagogue - agent that regulates and induces normal menstruation
emollient - softens and soothes the skin
expectorant - facilitates removal of secretions
febrifuge - an agent that reduces or relieves a fever
hemostatic - controls the flow or stops the flow of blood
hepatic - having to do with the liver
hypertensive - raises blood pressure
hypotensive - lowers blood pressure
laxative - substance that acts to loosen the bowels contents
narcotic - induces drowsiness, sleep, or stupor and lessons pain
nervine - a nerve tonic
purgative - laxative, causes the evacuation of intestinal contents
rubefacient – brings blood to the skins surface
sedative - exerts a soothing, tranquilizing effect on the body
soporific - inducing sleep
stimulant - temporarily increases body or organ function
stomachic - aids the stomach and digestion action
sudorific - acts to increase perspiration
tonic - a substance that increases strength and tone