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Herbal Actions
  • Abortifacient: An herb or substance that induces or causes an abortion, miscarriage, or premature expulsion of a fetus. (abortient, abortive) example: aloe.
  • Absorbent: An herb or substance that promotes absorption, soaks up liquid, or acts as a sponge.
  • Acidic: An herb or substance that reacts with an alkaloid to produce a salt.
  • Acidifier: An herb or substance that increases or imparts acidity, or lessens alkalinity, to the body fluids, especially the blood or the urine. (ant: alkalinizer, antacid)
  • Acrid: An herb or substance that has a hot biting taste, or causes heat and irritation when applied to the skin. (Syn: caustic cauterant, corrosive, escharotic)
  • Adaptogens: Herbs that help us adapt to stress by supporting the adrenal glands, the endocrine system, and the whole person. Examples are ginseng root, sarsaparilla, licorice root, and ashwagandha.
  • Adulterant: An impure ingredient or a substitute product introduced into a preparation.
  • Alkaloids: Alkaloids are compounds containing nitrogen in a heterocyclic ring, usually derived from amino acids. It is present in almost all vascular plants.
  • Alkaloidal: An herb or substance that is usually derived from plants, and is typically nitrogen bearing, intensely bitter, and potentially toxic. It reacts with an acid to produce a salt. (e.g. Caffeine, morphine, berberine) (ant: acidic)
  • Alterative: These herbs alter or change a long-standing condition by aiding the elimination of metabolic toxins. Gradually facilitates a beneficial change in the body. These herbs also heal sores, boils, tumors, cancers; reduces fevers; detoxifies the liver, kills parasites and worms; helps in the treatment of infectious, contagious diseases and epidemics, flu, acne herpes, and venereal disease. Examples are: ginseng, aloe, black pepper, cinnamon.
  • Amino acids: Amino acids are basic structural units of proteins. Amino acid consists of carboxylic acid and an amino functional group. Amino acids may be essential amino acids (necessary for body) and non-essential amino acids.
  • Analgesic or Anodyne: These herbs reduce or eliminate pain. Some herbs are strong pain relievers, often working best against pains of specific causes. Examples: camphor, chamomile, cinnamon, cloves, lavender flower, passionflower herb and flower.
  • Anaphrodisiac: An herb or substance that reduces or represses sexual desire or potency.
  • Anesthetic: An herb or substance that temporarily reduces, deadens, or abolishes physical sensations. Thus it tends eliminate pain and the sense of touch. The effect may be local or general. (Syn: Analgesic, Anodyne, Narcotic, Sedative)
  • Anodyne: An herb or substance that soothes, relieves, or reduces pain without causing unconsciousness. (Syn: Analgesic, Anesthetic, Narcotic, Sedative)
  • Antacid: An herb or substance that corrects acidity by neutralization, usually in the stomach. (Ant: Acidifier, Syn: Alkalinizer)
  • Antagonist: An herb or substance that opposes the action of some other agent or medicine, especially the toxic effects of alkaline poisons.
  • Anthelmintic: An agent that destroys and expels worms from the intestines. Same as vermifuge
  • Anti-asthmatic: Anti-asthmatics are used to help relieve the symptoms associated with asthma. Some of the anti-asthmatic herbs are ephedra and gotu kola.
  • Antibacterial: Antibacterial herbs are those that fight and destroy bacteria and include alfalfa, basilchamomile, cinnamon, clove, peppermint, rhubarb and turmeric.
  • Antibiotic: Inhibits the growth of germs, bacteria, and harmful microbes. Examples: turmeric.
  • Anti-depressant: A drug used to prevent or treat clinical depression.
  • Antidiabetic: Herbs used against diabetes. Examples of herbs: amalaki, blackberry, fenugreekgudmarsenna, and shilajit.
  • Antidiarrhea: Herb used to cure diarrhea. Examples are blackberry, gentianblack pepper, and ginger.
  • Antidote: An herb or substance that counteracts a poison by, [a] chemically destroying the poison, [b] mechanically preventing absorption, or [c] physiologically opposing the effects of the poison in the body after absorption.
  • Anti-dysenteric: An herb or substance that counteract dysentery.
  • Antifungal: Antifungal agents act against and destroy various fungi. Herbs in this category include cinnamon, cloves, garlic, St. John’s wort, thyme and turmeric.
  • Antigalactagogue: Herbs with this property work opposite to herbs with galactagogue properties. Sage and black walnut are examples of herbs in this category.
  • Anti-inflammatory: Herbs with this ability reduce inflammation in the body without acting directly on the cause of the inflammation. Herbs in this category include chicory, cranberry, fennel, ginger, licorice, marshmallow, papaya, passion flower, peppermint, pine tree bark, rhubarb, rosemary, safflower, turmeric and wild yam.
  • Antimicrobial: Antimicrobials helps the body destroy microbes by affecting their growth and multiplication, herbs with this ability include fennel, myrrh, and rhubarb.
  • Antioxidant: Antioxidants are molecules which can interact with free radicals and terminate the chain reaction before vital molecules are damaged. Antioxidant herbs counteract the negative effects of oxidation on body tissues. Included in this category are barley, Gingo biloba, pine tree, rosemary, sage and turmeric.
  • Antiperiodic: Prevents the periodic recurrence of attacks of a disease; as in malaria. Examples: barberry, chirayata, guduchi, kutaj, and vacha.
  • Antipyretic: Reduces fever by reducing production of heat at its centers; destroying fever toxins; sweating to increase the loss of heat; drawing out the heat. Same as febrifuge or refrigerant. Examples: amalaki, black pepper, nirgundi, safflower and sandalwood.
  • Antirheumatic: Herb that relieves or cures rheumatism.
  • Antiscorbutic: Effective in the prevention or treatment of scurvy.
  • Antiseptic: Prevents decay or putrefaction. A substance that inhibits the growth and development of microorganisms without necessarily destroying them. Examples: aloe, chitrak, gudmar, sandalwood, and turmeric.
  • Antispasmodic: Relieves or prevents involuntary muscle spasm or cramps by strengthening nerves and the nervous system. Examples: camomile, ashwagandha, basil,calamus, guggul, licorice, myrrh, sage, gotu kola, jatamanshi, peppermint, sandalwood, and spearmint.
  • Antiviral: A drug which is used to destroy or inhibit growth and reproduction of viruses.
  • Anxiety: A permanent state of worry and nervousness often accompanied with physical sensation such as nausea, chest pain or shortness of breath.
  • Aperient: A mild stimulant for the bowels; a gentle purgative.
  • Aphrodisiac: Restores or increases sexual power and desire. Two types: tonics: develop tissue substance. Stimulants: increase the functioning of the reproductive organs. Examples: Ahwagandha, asparagus, fenugreek, ginseng, gokshura, hibiscus, pippali, rose, saffron, and shatavari. The nutritive tonics such as ahwagandha, bala, ghee, licorice, marshmallow, sesame seeds, and shatavari increase semen and breast milk.
  • Appetizer: An herb or substance that excites or increases the appetite. (Syn: digestive)
  • Aromatic: Herb with a pleasant, fragrant scent and a pungent taste. Examples: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, fennel, peppermint, and turmeric.
  • Arthritis: Arthritis is the painful inflammation of the joints.
  • Ascaricide: An herb or substance that kills nematode or unsegmented worms such as roundworms and threadworms.
  • Asthma: It is chronic disease of respiration with attacks of breathlessness, wheezing and tightening of chest.
  • Astringent: Causes a local contraction of the skin, blood vessels, and other tissues, thereby arresting the discharge of blood, mucus, etc. Examples: amalaki, arjunaashok, cinnamon, jasmine, sandalwood, and yarrow.
  • Ayurveda: Ayurveda means “Science of life”. It is the oldest and holistic system of medicine, native to Indian Sub-continent.
  • Bark: Bark is the outer covering of stem, branches or roots of the tree. It is the tissue of plant outside xylem.
  • Bitter: A solution of bitter, often aromatic, plant products used as a mild tonic. These herbs reduce toxins, destroy infection, high fever, heat, fever in blood, internal fever, heated liver, much thirst, sweating, inflammation, and infection. Examples: aloe, barberry, chirayata and gentian.
  • Bitter tonic: An herb or substance, or combined formula, that acts on the gastric mucous membranes of the mouth and stomach increasing their tone and activity and thereby improving the appetite and promoting digestion. (Syn: bitter)
  • Blood Purifier: An herb or substance which speeds up the process of detoxification and excretion of waste products in the blood by stimulating intestinal, liver, or bile functions, or creating laxative effects. (Syn: depurative, detergent)
  • Botanical name: A botanical name is a formal scientific name given to plants by International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN).
  • Bronchial: An herb or substance that relaxes constricting spasms and opens the bronchi or upper part of the lungs, thus improving respiration.
  • Bronchial asthma: An asthmatic condition in which sudden attacks of breathlessness affecting one or more larger passages of the lungs.
  • Bronchitis: It is inflammation of one or more larger passages of the lungs.
  • Broncho-dilator: An agent that expands the air passages of the lungs.
  • Calculus: Formation of stones in a natural cavity of body.
  • Calefacient: An herb or substance that produce sensation of heat.
  • Calmative: An herb that has a mild sedative or tranquilizing effect.
  • Cancer: A disease wherein there is abnormal multiplication of cells.
  • Carcinostatic: An herb or substance that arrests or inhibits the development or continued growth of cancer, carcinomas, or malignant tumors.
  • Cardiac: An herb or substance that stimulates, tones, or restores the heart. (Syn: cardiac tonic, cardiant, cordial)
  • Cardialgic: An herb or substance that causes heartburn.
  • Cardiac stimulant: Herbs that promote circulation when there is a weak heart.
  • Cardiac Tonic: An herb, substance, or combined formula that strengthens and stimulates the heart metabolism. (Syn: cardiac, cardiant, cardiotonic, cordial)
  • Carminative: Herb that helps to prevent gas from forming in the intestines, and also assists in expelling it. Also increases absorption of nutrients, dispels water, mucus, promotes normal peristalsis; relieves spasms and pain; improves weak digestion from anxiety, nervousness, or depression. Examples: chamomile, chrysanthemum, coriander, fennel, lime, peppermint, ajwan, basil, calamus, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, and turmeric.
  • Carrier: An herb or substance which is added to a formula or mixture of other herbs to aid in the distribution of the medicine to the proper location in the body or to enhance the effect of the other principle ingredients. (Syn: adjuvant)
  • Catarrh: Inflammation of a mucous membrane, with a discharge of running nose.
  • Cathartic: Causes evacuation of the bowels. A cathartic may be either mild (laxative) or vigorous (purgative). Examples: figs, prunes, olive oil, senna, castor oil, and Aloe vera.
  • Caustic: An herb or substance that contains acidic material that has an escharotic or corrosive action capable of burning or eating away living tissues. (Syn: acrid, corrosive, cauterant, escharotic)
  • Common name: The general term given to a particular species called as common name.
  • Coolant: An herb or substance that reduces body temperature.
  • Corrosive: An herb or substance that has a corrosive or acidic substance capable of harming, burning, or eating away tissues. (Syn: acrid, caustic, cauterant, escharotic)
  • Decoction: A liquid preparation obtained by boiling medicinal plant parts in water and then extracting the solid parts by straining the preparation.
  • Demulcent: Soothes, protects, and relieves the irritation of inflamed mucous membranes and other surfaces. (i.e., Protects stomach and urinary bladder lining). Examples: barley, licorice; linseed, olive, and almond oils.
  • Deobstruent: An herb or substance that aids in the removal of obstructions, especially those lodged in organs such as stones. (Syn: anthilitic, antilithic, lithontriptic)
  • Deodorant: An herb or substance that either removes, destroys, masks, or suppresses odor
  • Depressant: An herb or substance that lessens or depresses nervous sensation, lowers a functional activity or reduces vital energy by causing the relaxation of muscles, nerves, or tissues. (ant: stimulant, syn: depresso-motor, motor- depressant)
  • Depurative: Tends to purify and cleanse the blood.
  • Detergent: An agent that cleanses wounds and sores of diseased or dead matter.
  • Diabetes: Any disorders characterized by excessive urine excretion.
  • Diabetes mellitus: It is kind of diabetes with increased blood sugar level and insufficient insulin production in body.
  • Diaphoretic: Promotes perspiration, especially profuse perspiration. Promotes circulation; dispels fever and chills; eliminates surface toxins; relieves muscle tension, aching joints, and inflammatory skin conditions; relieves diarrhea, dysentery, kidneys, liver, urinary, and gall bladder disorders; dispels stones of kidney and both bladders. Examples: basil, ajwan, cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, asparagus, barley, chamomile, chrysanthemum, coriander, fennel and marshmallow.
  • Diarrhoea: Abnormal frequent evacuation of watery stools.
  • Digestives: Assists the stomach and intestines in normal digestion. Examples: coriander, cumin, rock salt, and turmeric
  • Digestive: Digestives promote or aid in the digestion process. Such herbs include coriander, cumin, rock salt, turmeric, garlic, papaya, safflower and sage.
  • Disinfectant: An agent that cleanses infection by destroying or inhibiting the activity of disease-producing microorganisms.
  • Diuretic: A diuretic is used to increase the flow of urine to relieve water retention.
  • Dysentery: A condition in which excretion of stools frequently containing blood and mucus.
  • Emetic: An emetic is used to induce vomiting.
  • Emmenagogue: Herbs with emmenagogue properties promote menstrual flow. Examples of some herbs are aloe vera, gentian, ginger, myrrh and saffron.
  • Emollient: An herb or substance that is used externally to soften and soothe irritated skin, inflamed tissue, or mucous membranes. (Syn: demulcent, counter irritant)
  • Exhilarant: An herb or substance that excites or elevates the psychic function, or produces an abnormal sense of euphoria, vigor, and buoyancy. (Syn: euphoriant, hallucinogen, hallucinogenic)
  • Expectorant: Expectorants help the body expel mucus from the lungs, nose and throat. Herbs used for this purpose include ephedra, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, licorice andmarshmallow.
  • Extract: A preparation obtained from soaking an herb, plant part, or substance in an appropriate solvent, usually alcohol, water, or glycerin, then removing the solid parts by straining, evaporating some or all of the solvent, and adjusting the result to prescribed standards of concentration.
  • Fatty oils: Fatty oil is non-volatile oil composed fatty acids usually of plant or animal origin.
  • Febrifuge: Herbs with this property help reduce fevers, similar to refrigerant and antipyretic. Some febrifuges are chamomile, fenugreek, garlic, gentian, ginger andsarsaparilla.
  • Fixative: A substance used for the preservation of tissue or cell substance. Also known as fixing or binding agent.
  • Flatulence: Excessive formation of gases in stomach or intestine.
  • Flavones: Flavones are polyphenolic crystalline compound, present in seeds, leaves and in stems as yellow pigment. It shows anti-oxidant activity.
  • Flowers: It is the part of plant consists of reproductive organs i.e. petals and sepals (mainly colored), stamens (male part) and pistils (female part).
  • Fruits: Fruit is matured ovary of plant consisting of the seeds, it is mainly edible part.
  • Galactagogue: An agent that encourages or increases the secretion of milk.
  • Galls: An abnormal plant growth on leaves, branches, or roots that is caused by irritation from an insect, a fungus or a virus.
  • Gingivitis: Inflammations of the gums.
  • Glycosides: Glycosides are naturally occurring compounds containing a carbohydrate (glycone) and a non-carbohydrate (aglycone) moiety in a same molecule.
  • Gonorrhoea: It is common veneral disease caused by bacterium.
  • Gout: It is type of acute inflammatory arthritis.
  • Haemorrhoid: Painful swelling of veins of the anus.
  • Heartwood: Denser inner part of the tree trunk.
  • Hemostatic: Hemoststic used to stop bleeding and purifies blood. Examples: red raspberry, turmeric, cinnamon and ginger.
  • Hepatic: Promotes the well being of the liver and increases the secretion of bile.
  • Herb: A plant or part of plant that is valued for its medicinal, culinary or aromatic.
  • Hypertension: High blood pressure.
  • Hypoglycemic: Lowers blood sugar level.
  • Hypotensive: Low blood pressure.
  • Immunostimulants: Immunostimulants enhance or boost the body’s natural defense against illness and disease. Herbs with this ability include astragalus, barley etc.
  • Inflammations: A pathological process in which pain, heat, redness and swelling occur.
  • Influenza: An acute viral infection of the respiratory tract.
  • Infusion: A solution or extract obtains by steeping or soaking herbs (usually in water).
  • Insecticide: Insecticides are used to kill insects.
  • Insomnia: Inability to sleep.
  • Kapha: One of the three doshas.
  • Laxative: Herb that acts to promote evacuation of the bowels; a gentle cathartic. Examples: castor oilflaxseedpsyllium husk, rhubarbb and senna.
  • Leaves: Leaves are lateral outgrowth from stems or branches or at the base of plants, commonly flat, broad and green in color.
  • Leucorrhoea: A whitish, viscid discharge from vagina and uterine cavity.
  • Menorrhoea: Excessive menstruation.
  • Mucilaginous: An herb or substance that is characterized by a gummy or gelatinous consistency which is soothing and healing to inflamed surfaces and mucous membranes.
  • Mucus: A viscous, slimy and slippery substance.
  • Narcotic: A drug that induces sleep with additive properties.
  • Nauseant: An herb that causes nausea and vomiting. Somewhat similar to an emetic.
  • Nervine: A substance that calms and soothes the nerves and reduces tension and anxiety. Examples: ashwagandha, bala and gudmar.
  • Nutrient: An herb or substance that affects the nutritive processes and metabolic changes in the body, supplies material for tissue building, contains necessary food values such as vitamins and minerals, or which acts to release these elements from other food which has already been eaten but not assimilated. (Syn: nutriant, nutritive)
  • Nutritive: Same as nutrient.
  • Obesity: Over weight due to excessive accumulation of body fat.
  • Ophthalmic: An herb or substance that acts to heal, soothe, or strengthen the eyes, or which acts as a remedy for diseases of the eye.
  • Pectoral: Acts on lungs.
  • Peptic: An herb or substance that aids in the digestion of food. (Syn: digestive, eupeptic)
  • Pitta: One of the three doshas of body.
  • Powder: A preparation obtained by the finely dispersed solid particles.
  • Psoriasis: A chronic, exfoliative skin disease.
  • Purgative: A substance that promotes the vigorous evacuation of the bowels. Usually used to relieve severe constipation. Examples: aloe, licorice, rhubarb, safflower andsenna.
  • Refrigerant: Relieves fever and thirst. A cooling remedy. Lowers body temperature. Examples: aloe vera, coriander, gingerhibiscus, orange, lemon and licorice.
  • Relaxant: Tends to relax and relieve tension, especially muscular tension.
  • Renal: An herb or substance that strengthens, heals, cleanses, or otherwise affects the kidneys, or is used to treat diseases of the kidneys. (Syn: diuretic, nephritic)
  • Resin: Resin is solid or semisolid hydrocarbon secretion from plants. It consists of volatile terpenes, essential oil and gums.
  • Rheumatism: Any disorder marked by inflammation, degeneration of joints.
  • Rhizomes: Rhizomes are thickened, branching, creeping storage stems, present under ground. Examples: corms, tubers.
  • Roots: The part of a plant, normally underground, that absorbs nutrients and anchors the plant into the ground.
  • Saponins: Saponins are naturally occurring surfactants form soapy leather when dissolve in water.
  • Scabies: A contagious skin disease due to itch mite.
  • Sedative: Sedative herbs are used to relieve irritability and promote calm, relax and tranquil feelings.
  • Seed: It is ripened ovule, consist of embryo, cotyledons and seed coat.
  • Sialagogue: An agent that promotes the flow of saliva.
  • Soporific: Herbs that help to produce sleep.
  • Stem: Stem is the axis of a plant which is generally upright and above ground.
  • Stimulant: Herb that increases the activity or efficiency of a system or organ; acts more rapidly than a tonic. Examples: camphor, ephedra, sandalwood, gotu kola, guggul and myrrh.
  • Stomachic: Herbs that give strength and tone to the stomach, stimulate digestion, and improve the appetite. Examples: amalaki, bilwa, black pepper, cardamom, cedar, chitrak, cumin, ginger, licorice, turmeric.
  • Styptic: Astringent: arrests hemorrhage and bleeding. Causes vascular contraction of the blood vessels or coagulation of the albuminous tissues of the blood. Checks hemorrhage. Examples: adrenaline, alum.
  • Tannins: Tannins are naturally occurring phenolic compounds. They are astringent in nature and used to bind and precipitate proteins.
  • Terpenes: Terpenes are organic compounds consists of hydrocarbons, found mainly in conifers. Terpenes have strong characteristic odors.
  • Tincture: A solution of the active principal of an herb in alcohol.
  • Tonic: Herbs that restore and strengthen the entire system. Produces and restores normal tone. A general tonic would be one that braces up the whole system. Example: aloe, bala, barberry, chirayata, guduchi and gentian.
  • Tumor: Localized undesirable morbid growth of cells.
  • Vasoconstrictor: Herbs with vasoldilating agents expand the blood vessels and lower blood pressure.
  • Vasodilator: An agent that widens the blood vessels, thus lowering the blood pressure.
  • Vata: One of the three doshas.
  • Vermicide: An agent that destroys intestinal worms.
  • Vermifuge: An agent that expels intestinal worms or parasites.
  • Volatile oil: Volatile oils are those plant-derived oils which are totally volatile or evaporating in nature. They are highly aromatic in nature and used in perfumery industry.
  • Vulnerary: An herb used in treating fresh cuts and wounds, usually used as a poultice. Example: aloe, honey, licorice, marshmallow, and turmeric.

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