Glossy of Herbal Terms
abortifacient: an agent that can induce abortions.
alkaloid: a nitrogenous, basic, and often medicinal, plant compound.
allergen: a compound that produces an allergic reaction.
alterative: a compound that alters body metabolism.
analeptic: a restorative.
analgesic: an agent that relieves pain.
anodyne: an agent that relieves pain through reducing nerve excitability.
anthelmintic: a preparation to rid the body of worms.
anthraquinones: a ketonic tricyclic anthracenes with laxative action.
anti-: prefix for terms designating amelioration, relief, or removal.
antiacid: an agent to relieve excess stomach, blood or bowel acidity.
antiasthmatic: an agent to dilate bronchioles or break up mucus.
antibiotic: an agent to inhibit the growth of, or destroy bacteria.
anticarcinogen: an agent to counteract cancer.
anticatarrhal: an agent to counteract mucus formation.
antidepressant: an agent that counteracts mental depression.
anti-diarrheal: an agent to relieve diarrhea.
antiemetic: an agent that relieves stomach sickness and vomiting.
antihyperlipidemic: an agent to reduce arterial plaques.
antilithic: an agent to removes stones or gravels; lithotryptic.
antipsychotic: see tranquilizer.
antipyretic: an agent to reduce fever; febrifuge.
antisecretory: an agent that dries the body tissues.
antiseptic: an agent for skin application to destroy bacteria.
antispasmodic: an agent to lessen muscle spasms; spasmolytic.
aperient: a gentle laxative.
aphrodisiac: an agent to awaken sexual desires.
apothecary: a person who formulates and dispenses materia medica. Place where materia medica is prepared and stored.
astringent: an agent that coagulates protein. Astringents constrict tissues. Plant astringent usually contain tannins, which bind proteins, leading to a reduction of secretions or discharge.
balsams: resinous mixtures containing cinnamates and benzoates.
beta-carbolines: tricyclic MAO inhibitors, hallucinogens.
bitter: referring to the bitter taste.
bradycardia: a slowed heartbeat.
C-5, C-10,…: used to denote the number of carbon atoms.
carcinogen: a substance that predisposes cancer development.
carminative: a substance to relieve the body of excess gas.
catalyst: a preparation that makes other remedies more effective.
catarrh: another term for mucus.
cathartic: see purgative.
cholagogue: an agent to promote the flow of bile into the small intestine.
compress: a topical application used to soften tissue and relieve inflammation or pain.
CNS: abbreviation for the central nervous system.
depressant, CNS: a compound that reduces mental function.
coumarins: bicyclic, aromatic molecules that antagonize vitamin K.
cream: a thick liquid or semi-solid preparation for topical use.
CV: abbreviation for cardiovascular.
decoction: a boiled extract, used for the preparation of roots.
decongestant: an agent to relieve nasal congestion.
demulcent: a compound that protects abraded tissues.
depurative: an agent that is detoxifying or purifying.
dextrins: partial hydrolysis products of starch.
diaphoretic: a compound that increases perspiration; sudorific.
diuretic: an agent promoting urination.
dyspepsia: an impairment in digestion.
emetic: an agent to induce vomiting.
emollient: an agent that smooths and protects the skin.
emmenagogue: a preparation that hastens the onset of menses.
emulsion: a mixture of two or more liquids that are normally un-mixable with the aid of an emulsifier.
euphoriant: an agent to stimulate mental or physical pleasure.
expectorant: preparations used to break up phlegm in lungs.
fatty acids: hydrolysis products of fats.
febrifuge: see antipyretic.
flavonoids: a class of tricyclic molecules.
galactogogue: an agent to increase the flow of milk.
GI: abbreviation for gastrointestinal.
glyco-: a prefix indicating the attachment of a sugar to a molecule.
glycosides: sugar esters.
glyceract: tincture made using vegetable glycerine instead of alcohol.
gums: water swellable carbohydrate derivatives.
HCN: hydrogen cyanide, a respiratory poison.
hemolytic: a compound capable of dissolving red blood corpuscles.
hemorrhagic: a compound that leads to internal bleeding.
hemostatic: a compound that retards bleeding; styptic.
hepatic: an agent used in maintenance of liver function.
homeostasis: the healthy tendency to equilibrium between interdependent systems.
hydragogue: a substance that increases water discharge.
hypotensive: an agent to reduce blood pressure.
hypnotic: an agent that induces sleep. They do not cause hypnotic trance.
infusion: a water extract; a tea.
infused oil: an oil that has had plant material infused into it.
laxative: an aid to solid waste elimination of bowel.
liniment: a liquid or lotion made with oil that is used topically to relieve pain.
lithotriptic: see antilithic.
lotion: a thick smooth liquid that is used for application to the skin for medicinal or cosmetic purposes.
MAO: monoamine oxidase, a major brain detoxification enzyme.
materia medica: the body of knowledge collected about materials used for their therapeutic properties. In the case of herbalists, this would be herbs and other plant materials.
inhalation: this refers to the use of steam, which is inhaled
miotic: a compound that dilates the pupils.
mucilage: water-insoluble sugar derivatives.
mydriatic: an agent used to dilate the pupils.
MW: abbreviation for molecular weight.
nervine: an agent that relieves nervousness; mild tranquilizer.
nootropic: these enhance cognition and memory and facilitate learning.
oleoresins: natural mixtures of resins and volatile oils.
organoleptic: being, affecting, or relating to qualities such as taste, colour, odour, and feel.
oxytocic: an agent to promote uterine contractions during childbirth.
parasiticide: an external or internal agent to destroy parasites.
parasympathomimetic: an agent that excites the parasympathetic nervous system, e.g., tobacco.
pectins: partially methoxylated uronic acid sugars.
pectoral: helps to strengthen and aid healing of the respiratory system.
pediculicide: an agent to control lice.
pharmacognosy: the study of medicines that are obtained from natural sources.
PMS: premenstrual syndrome.
purgative: a strong laxative and emetic agent.
refrigerant: an agent to cool the body down.
resins: water-insoluble mixtures of resins, their acids, and alcohols.
rubefacient: an agent applied topically that brings a blush (irritation) to the skin and increases skin circulation. They can often bring relief to deeper (internal) pain.
saponins: glycosides with a soaplike water suspension.
sedative: mild depressant; somnorific. They are calming to the nervous system, they reduce stress and nervousness.
sialogogue: an agent that promotes the flow of saliva.
solar infusion: an infusion made by soaking plant materials in oil, in a sealed jar and allowing it to sit in a sunny location to allow the phytochemicals to be extracted.
soporific: induce sleep. See hypnotics above.
spasmolytic: see antispasmodic.
sp.: abbreviation for species (singular).
spp.: abbreviation for species (plural).
sterols: molecules related to cholesterol and some hormones.
stimulant: an agent to increase body metabolism.
stimulant, CNS: a compound that excites mental function.
stomachic: a preparation for the benefit of the stomach; also a tonic.
styptic: astringents that reduce or stop external bleeding.
sudorific: see diaphoretic.
tachycardia: a raised heartbeat rate.
tannins: bitter principles of plants containing plant polyphenols.
tea: a water extraction of plant material by infusing the material in hot water.
terpenes: hydrocarbon volatile oils, often with a strong smell.
tonic: an agent that restores normal tone to the body.
tranquilizer: an agent that reduces psychotic behaviour.
vermifuge: see anthelmintic.
vulnerary: an agent to increase the healing of wounds.
waxes: esters of fatty acids with high molecular weight alcohols.
xanthines: CNS stimulants with a purine type structure, e.g., caffeine