Herbal Actions by Category, Definition, and Herb

The understanding of actions and the way herbs may be used in combination is fundamental to holistic approach. The specific action is due to a chemical or combination of chemicals present in the herb of a given category; The properties or actions of Cayene is in being an Anti-emetic, Diaphoretic, Anti-microbial, Anticatarrhal, Febrifuge - Anti-Pyretic, Cardiac Tonic, and a Carminative. These are a list of actions with the most useful herbal representatives in each category indicated. The classifications are in alphabetical order.

 Alterative - Alteratives are herbs that will gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. They were at one time known as 'blood cleansers'.

Analgesic; Anodyne - Analgesics are herbs that reduce pain and are either applied externally or taken internally, depending on the case.

Anthelmintic - Anthelmintics will destroy or expel worms from the digestive system. Unfortunately many of the most effective anthelmintics are no longer available since the new Medicines Act was introduced, as they can be toxic in high dosage. Therefore those are not listed here.

Antibilious - The antibilious herbs help the body to remove excess bile and can thus aid in cases of biliary and jaundice conditions. Compare also cholagogues and hepatics.

Anticatarrhal - The anticatarrhal herbs help the body to remove excess catarrhal buildups, whether in the sinus area or other parts.

Anti-emetic - The anti-emetics can reduce a feeling of nausea and can help to relieve or to prevent vomiting.

Anti-inflammatory - The anti-inflammatory herbs help the body to combat inflammations. Herbs mentioned under demulcents, emollients and vulneraries will often act in this way, especially when they are applied externally.

Anti-lithic - The anti-lithic herbs prevent the formation of stones or gravel in the urinary system and can help the body in their removal.

Anti-microbial - The anti-microbial herbs can help the body to destroy or resist pathogenic micro-organisms.

Anti-spasmodic - The anti-spasmodics can prevent or ease spasms or cramps in the body.

Aperient - Aperient herbs are very mild laxatives. See 'Laxatives'.

Aromatic - The aromatic herbs have a strong and often pleasant odour and can stimulate systemic responses of people and animals. They are often used to add aroma and taste to other medicines.

Astringent - Astringents contract tissue by precipitating proteins and can thus reduce secretions and discharges. They contain tannins.

Bitter - Herbs that taste bitter act as stimulating tonics for the digestive system through a reflex via the taste buds.

Cardiac Tonic - Cardiac tonics affect the heart. Their specific function should be looked up in the herbal section.

Carminative - The carminatives are rich in volatile oils and by their action stimulate the peristalsis of the digestive system and relax the stomach, thereby supporting the digestion and helping against gas in the digestive tract.

Cholagogue - The cholagogues stimulate the release and secretion of bile from the gall-bladder, which can be a marked benefit in gall-bladder problems. They also have a laxative effect on the digestive system since the amount of bile in the duodenum increases when one takes them, and bile is our internally produced, all natural laxative.

Demulcent - Demulcents are usually rich in mucilage and can soothe and protect irritated or inflamed internal tissue.

Diaphoretic - Diaphoretics aid the skin in the elimination of toxins and promote perspiration.

Diuretic - Diuretics increase the secretion and elimination of urine.

Emetic - Emetics cause vomiting. Most of the herbs listed cause vomiting only when taken in high dosage which can be found for each herb in the Herbal description.

Emmenagogue - Emmenagogues stimulate and normalize menstrual flow. The term is also often used in the wider context of remedies that act as tonics to the female reproductive system.

Emollient - Emollients are applied to the skin to soften, soothe or protect it and act externally in a manner similar to the way demulcents act internally.

Expectorant - The expectorants support the body in the removal of excess amounts of mucus from the respiratory system.

Febrifuge; Anti-Pyretic - The febrifuges help the body to bring down fevers.

Galactogogue - The galactogogues can help the breast-feeding mother to increase the flow of mother's milk.

Hepatic - The hepatics aid the liver. Their use tones and strengthens it and increases the flow of bile from the liver.

Hypnotic - Hypnotics will induce sleep (not a hypnotic trance).

Laxative - The laxatives promote the evacuation of the bowels.

Mucilage - The mucilaginous herbs contain gelatinous constituents and will often be demulcent and emollient.

Nervine - The nervines have a beneficial effect on the nervous system and tone and strengthen it. Some act as stimulants, some as relaxants.

Oxytocic - The oxytocics stimulate the contraction of the uterus and can thereby help in childbirth.

Pectoral - Pectorals have a general strengthening and healing effect on the respiratory system.

Rubefacient - When rubefacients are applied to the skin they cause a gentle local irritation and stimulate the dilation of the capillaries, thus increasing circulation in the skin. The blood is drawn from deeper parts of the body into the skin and thus often internal pains are relieved.

Sedative - The sedatives calm the nervous system and reduce stress and nervousness throughout the body. They can thus affect tissue of the body that has been irritated by nervous problems.

Sialagogue - The sialagogues stimulate the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands.

Soporific - The soporifics induce sleep. Compare 'Hypnotics'.

Stimulant - Stimulants quicken and enliven the physiological function of the body.

Styptic - Styptics reduce or stop external bleeding by their astringency. See 'Astringents'.

Tonic - The tonic herbs strengthen and enliven either specific organs or the whole body.

Vulnerary - Vulneraries are applied externally and aid the body in the healing of wounds and cuts.

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