Herbal Actions: Healing Words

Every field comes with it’s own language. Herbal Medicine is no different. In this series, we’ll talk about herbal actions and meanings, and the herbs associated with them. Learning herbal actions is a great way to understand what you’re really asking your body to do when taking an herb.

Let’s dive in!

The “Gogues”

This suffix is from the Greek agogus, which means leading or guiding, which is a fairly apt description. In general, the ‘gogues’ increase function and/or secretion of an organ or body system. For example, a galactogogue is an herb that promotes lactation.  A sialagogue is an herb that encourages formation of saliva. When you see ‘gogue’ at the end of a word, think Go! Go! Go! It’s like a cheering squad for whatever body system it’s associated with.

Some common 'Gogues and associated herbs:


From the Greek ‘emmena’ for menses. These act to encourage menstruation, either through toning the uterus, increasing bloodflow, or supporting the circulatory system.

A few emmenagogue herbs: Ginger, cayenne, black pepper, cinnamon, mustard, yarrow, rosemary, lavender, basil, dang quai


From the Greek ‘galakt’ for milk, these herbs increase milk flow in breastfeeding women through providing nutrition, relaxation, or directly stimulating milk ducts.

A few galactogogue herbs: Fenugreek, fennel, caraway, dill, anise, hops, alfalfa, oatmeal, chickweed


From the Greek ‘sialon’ for saliva, these herbs promote not only saliva, but from that a cascade of actions associated with digestion, including increase of appetite.

A few sialagogue herbs: Echinacea, prickly ash, anise, cayenne


From the Greek ‘chole’ for bile, these herbs encourage the gallbladder to secrete bile, an important part of digestion, particularly of fats.

A few cholagogue herbs: Dandelion, burdock, gentian, yellow dock, chicory, mugwort