Adaptogen: improves the body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether mental, physical or emotional.

Alterative: curative herbs which gradually nourish and purify the system

Analgesic/anodyne:  relieves pain

Antacid: reduces stomach acid

Anthelmintic: destroys or expels worms from the digestive system

Anti-biotic: inhibits the growth of bacteria. Some herbs directly kill pathogens, while others stimulate the body’s own immune response

Anti-catarrhal: removes excess catarrh (mucous), mostly from the upper respiratory tract

Anti-depressant: lifts mood, counters depression

Anti-emetic: reduces nausea and vomiting

Anti-fungal: helps the body destroy or resist fungal pathogens. Some actually kill fungal organisms and others support the body’s immune system to fight infection

Anti-histamine: oppose the action of histamines

Anti-hypertensive: reduces blood pressure

Anti-inflammatory: helps the body fight inflammation

Anti-neoplastic: inhibits the growth of tumours

Anti-oxidant: cancer preventative, reduces number of free radicals in the body

Anti-pruritic: relieves itching

Anti-septic: inhibits growth of bacteria, prevents infection, cell decay and pus formation

Anti-spasmodic: relaxes muscle. Herbs which reduce or ease muscle spasms in both skeletal and smooth muscle (i.e. intestines)

Anti-tussive: suppresses cough reflex when this has become damaging. Herbs which are used to soothe irritating, painful coughs

Anti-viral: kills viruses or leaves them unable to replicate

Anxiolytic/anti-anxiety: reduce anxiety and related feelings of unease

Aperient: mild laxatives to promote regular bowel movement and function

Aphrodisiac: increase sexual potency or excitement

Aromatic: contain aromatic compounds which stimulate the digestion

Astringent: have a binding action on skin or mucous membranes which has a drying, toning effect. Astringent herbs can stop bleeding, excessive fluids or discharges

Bitter: have a bitter taste, stimulate the flow of digestive fluids and liver function. Detoxifying

Carminative: relax stomach and intestinal walls, relieve gas and promote digestion

Cholagogue: stimulate the flow of bile from the liver

Demulcent: soothe inflamed or irritated tissues

Detoxifying: support the liver in removing toxic substances

Diaphoretic: promotes sweating, cools you down

Diuretic: increases the formation and flow of urine. There are a lot of different mechanisms by which a herb can achieve this  

Emetic: causes vomiting. In modern herbalism these are only used in cases of poisoning

Emmenagogue: stimulate or normalize menstrual flow. Can bring on a late period

Emollient: have a soothing or healing effect on the skin

Expectorant: help to remove obstructive mucous from the lungs and airways

Febrifuge: reduces fever

Galactagogue: increases the flow of milk from nursing mothers

Haemostatic: stops or prevents bleeding. Often Astringent herbs

Hepatic: supports the function of the liver

Hypnotic: promotes sleep

Hypoglycaemic: reduces and regulates blood sugar

Hypotensive: reduces blood pressure

Immunostimulant: stimulates the actions of the immune system

Immunomodulator: regulates the actions of the immune system, i.e. when it is overactive as in autoimmune conditions

Laxative: irritates the bowels and promotes contractions to stimulate excretion

Lymphatic: stimulate and cleanse the lymphatic system

Narcotic: powerful analgesics which often also have a hypnotic effect

Nervine: have a relaxing effect on the central nervous system, can reduce anxiety, promote sleep, or strengthen and tone the nerves

 Oestrogenic: normalizes balance of oestrogens in the body.

Oxytocic: promote and assist in easier childbirth

Rubiefacient: increase flow of blood to the skin where they are applied (externally). Produce redness on application e.g. chilli

Sedative: exert a strongly relaxant effect on the nervous system

Tonic: strengthen and support the function of a specific organ, or the whole body

Vasoconstrictor: reduces blood flow, tightens the blood vessels

Vasodilator: increases blood flow, dilates the blood vessels

Vulnerary: helps wounds to heal. Many Astringents, Demulcents and Emollients have wound healing properties

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