Herb effect terms


Very soon after you start reading about herbs, you’ll come across technical names that describe the kind of things particular herbs are good for.

Don’t be intimidated by these terms.

They’re just fancy names for simple concepts.

Need to stimulate the flow of bile from your gall bladder? You need a “cholagogue.”

Need to control or stop the flow of blood? Reach for a “hemagogue.”

Are you a mom with a new baby who needs more milk? That’s what a “galactagogue” is for.

Coughing too much? “Antitussive” to the rescue.

Got an itch? Try a “antipruritic.”

Below is a list of medical terms used to describe the effects of herbs.

Medical Terminology

abortifacient – inducing abortion

adjuvant – aiding the action of a medicinal agent

analeptic – restorative or stimulating effect on central nervous system

analgesic – relieve pain

anaphrodisiac – reduces capacity for sexual arousal

anesthetic – induces loss of sensation or consciousness due to the depression of nerve function

antianemic – preventing or curing anemia

antibacterial – destroying or stopping the growth of bacteria

antibilious – easing stomach stress

anticatarrh – reduces inflamed mucous membranes of head and throat

antidepressant – therapy that acts to prevent, cure, or alleviate mental depression

antidiabetic – preventing or relieving diabetes

antidiarrhetic- substances use to prevent or treat diarrhea

antiemetic – stopping vomiting

antifungal – destroying or inhibiting the growth of fungus

antihemorrhagic – controlling hemorrhaging or bleeding

anti-infectous – counteracting infection

anti-inflammatory – controlling inflammation, a reaction to injury or infection

antimalarial – preventing or relieving malaria

antimicrobial – destructive to microbes

antioxident – prevents or inhibits oxidation

antipruritic – preventing or relieving itching

antipyretic – agent that reduces fever (febrifuge)

antirheumatic – easing pain of rheumatism, inflammation of joints and muscles

antiseptic – agent used to produce asepsis and to remove pus, blood, etc.

antispasmodic – calming nervous and muscular spasms or convulsions

antitussive – controlling or preventing cough

antiviral – opposing the action of a virus

aperient – a very mild laxative

aperitive – stimulating the appetite for food

aphrodisiac – substance increasing capacity for sexual arousal

asepsis – sterile, a condition free of germs, infection, and any form of life

astringent – agent that constricts and binds by coagulation of proteins a cell surface

bitter – stimulates appetite or digestive function

cardiotonic – increases strength and tone (normal tension or response to stimuli) of the heart

carminative – causing the release of stomach or intestinal gas

catarrhal – pertaining to the inflammation of mucous membranes of the head and throat

cathartic – an active purgative, producing bowel movements

cholagogue – an agent that increases flow of bile from gallbladder

cicatrizant – aiding formation of scar-tissue and healing wounds

counterirritant – agent producing an inflammatory response for affecting an adjacent area

demulcent – soothing action on inflammation, especially of mucous membranes

dermatitis – inflammation of the skin evidenced my itchiness, redness, and various lesions

diaphoretic – increases perspiration (syn: sudorific)

diuretic – increases urine flow

dysmenorrhea – painful menstruation

dyspepsia – imperfect or painful digestion

ecbolic – tends to increase contractions of uterus, facilitating childbirth

emetic – produces vomiting

emmenagogue – agent that regulates and induces normal menstruation

emollient – softens and soothes the skin

errhine – bringing on sneezing, increasing flow of mucus in nasal passages

escharotic – a caustic substance that destroys tissue and causes sloughing

estrogenic – causes the production of estrogen

euphoriant – produces a sense of bodily comfort; temporary effect and often addictive

expectorant – facilitates removal of secretions

febrifuge – an agent that reduces or relieves a fever

flatulence – excessive gas in the stomach or intestine

galactagogue – an agent that promotes the flow of milk (syn: galactogenic)

hemagogue – an agent that promotes the flow of blood

hemostatic – controls the flow or stops the flow of blood

hepatic – having to do with the liver

herpetic – treating skin eruptions relating to the herpes virus

hypertensive – raises blood pressure

hypoglycemant – agent that lowers blood sugar

hypotensive – lowers blood pressure

lactifuge – reduces the flow of milk

laxative – substance that acts to loosen the bowels contents

masticatory – increases flow of saliva upon chewing

narcotic – induces drowsiness, sleep, or stupor and lessons pain

nervine – a nerve tonic

neuralgia – severe sharp pain along the course of a nerve

parturfaciant – induces contractions of labor at childbirth

purgative – laxative, causes the evacuation of intestinal contents

resorbent – aids reabsorption of blood from bruises

rheumatism – a general term for acute or chronic conditions characterized by inflammation of the muscles and joints (includes arthritis, gout, bursitis, myositis, and fibromyositis).

rubefacient – agent which reddens skin, dilates the vessels, and increases blood supply locally

sedative – exerts a soothing, tranquilizing effect on the body

soporific – inducing sleep

stimulant – temporarily increases body or organ function

stomachic – aids the stomach and digestion action

sudorific – acts to increase perspiration

tonic – a substance that increases strength and tone

– Ken McCarthy