Lexicon on terms used for herbal properties

Most definitions are being taken from the Glossary in Susun S. Weed book: “Wise Woman Herbal, Healing Wise.”


Adaptogenic: increases body ability to resist stress while restoring normal physiological functioning.

Alterative: promotes a gradual and beneficial change in a being.

Analgesic: relieves pain without slowing healing. Not narcotic.

Antibacterial: kills and prevent the growth of bacteria.

Antimicrobial: kills and prevent the growth of microbe.

Antiseptic: kills or damages septic (infective) bacteria

Antiviral: kills and prevent the growth of virus.

Anti-cancer: prevent the formation and growth of cancer cells.

Anti-depressant: prevents or relieves depression.

Anti-diarrheal: relieves and prevent diarrhea.

Anti-histaminic: prevents and relieves allergic reactions.

Anti-inflammatory: prevents and relieves inflammation.

Anti-oxidant: prevents oxidation. In metal, oxidation produces rust. In humans, oxidation is in part responsible for signs of aging.

Anti-pyretic: reduce inner fires; cools fevers.

Anti-spasmodic: eases or prevents spasms, convulsions and rigidity, especially in the muscles.

Aperient: gentle opener of the bowels; promotes easy, regular bowel movements.

Astringent: Contracts organic tissues; can reduce secretions and diminish swelling.

Bitter: contains principles which nourish and often stimulate the mucus membrane of the digestive system.

Calmative: nourishes the nervous system and calm the whole person.

Cardio-tonic: nourishes and strengthens the functioning of the heart; may increase the force of contractions and slow the beat.

Carminative: expels gas, relieves and prevents flatulence.

Circulatory: promotes a good circulation of body liquids: lymph, blood

Cholalogue: stimulates flow of bile from gallbladder and through the bile ducts.

Cooling: reduces overheating; thins mucus, increases urine, moderates inflammation.

Decongestant: relieves congestion of the tissues, swollen membranes, mainly from the nose and respiratory tracts.

Demulcant: sooths and reduces irritation internally and externally; protects against further irritation.

Deobstruant: slowly loosens and removes obstructions to health/wholeness/holiness, that is, the flow of life, wether material, psychic, energetic or emotional.

Diaphoretic: promotes diaphoresis (copious, profuse sweating), usually by acting on the nervous system.

Digestive: promotes and strengthens, but does not stimulate digestion; often increases enzymatic action in the digestive system.

Diuretic: promotes, sometimes stimulates, the formation and release of urine.

Emmenagogue: promotes normal flow of menstrual blood.

Emmolient: softens and soothes, usually externally.

Expectorant: encourages, sometimes stimulates, expulsion of mucus or fluid from the bronchial tubes, lungs and respiratory system.

Febrifuge: reduces and dispel fever; literally, makes fever flee.

Galactalogue: increases the quality and quantity of breast milk.

Immunomodulator: regulates and normalizes immune functions.

Hemostatic: stops or control bleeding, internally or externally.

Hypoglycemic: decreases the amount of sugar in the blood; usually tonifies the pancreas and liver.

Lithotriptic: dissolve kidney and bladder stones.

Mucilaginous: glue-like, gelatinous, sticky, viscid, moist; mucilaginous herbs coat, soothe and heal the skin and internal mucus surfaces.

Nervine: nourishes, soothes and restores the nervous system; alleviates nervous irritability.

Pectoral: nourishes and strengthens the chest; relieves lung diseases.

Protective: minimizes damage from environmental pollution.

Relaxant: eases tension and pain without sedating.

Restorative: brings back usual functioning; not as strong as rejuvenative.

Sedative: decreases or slows excessive activity; may repress healing function.

Stimulant: increases or spedds up functional activity; often pushes one past normal limits.

Stomachic: a tonic to the action of stomach; nourishes and strengthens.

Styptic slows or stops bleeding by contracting tissues and blood vessels; usually used externally.

Tonic: nourishes the functioning (tonus) of a muscle, organ, or system; invigorates and strengthens all activity.

Vasodilatative: increases the dilatations of the blood vessels.

Vermifuge: causes the expulsion of parasitic intestinal worms without necessarily killing them.

Vulnerary: promotes and quickens the scar-free healing of wounds (vulnerabilities)