If you’re like me, you might get lost sometimes when pretty big words get thrown around in talking about the medicinal properties of herbs, like antiemetic or carminative. Just what exactly do these words mean? This glossary page is dedicated to you 🙂

ABORTIFACIENT – Induces the premature expulsion of the fetus.

ALTERATIVE – Herbs that gradually convert an unhealthy condition of an organ to a healthy one. Gradually facilitates a beneficial change in the body.

ANALGESIC – Any substance that relieves pain.

ANAPHRODISIAC – Herbs that decrease or allay sexual feelings or desires.

ANODYNE – Relieves pain and induces the sensitivity of the nerves

ANTACID – Neutralizes the acid produced by the stomach.

ANTHELMINTIC – An agent that destroys and expels worms from the intestines.

ANTIBILIOUS – An herb that combats biliousness. The term biliousness refers to a group of symptoms consisting of nausea, abdominal discomfort, headache, constipation, and gas that is caused by an excessive secretion of bile.

ANTIEMETIC – Prevents or alleviates nausea and vomiting.

ANTIEPILEPTIC – An agent that combats the convulsions or seizures of epilepsy.

ANTILITHIC – Aids in preventing the formation of stones in the kidneys and bladder.

ANTIPERIODIC -Prevents the periodic recurrence of attacks of a disease; as in malaria.

ANTIPHLOGISTIC – An agent that counteracts inflammation.


ANTIRHEUMATIC – An agent 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.

ANTISPASMODIC – An agent that relieves or prevents involuntary muscle spasm or cramps. For example: camomile.

ANTISYPHILITIC – Herbs that improve or cure syphilis. Also called antiluetic.

ANTITUSSIVE – Prevents or improves a cough.


ANTIZYMOTIC – Herbs that can destroy disease-producing organisms.

APERIENT – A mild or gentle laxative. Also called APERATIVE.

APHRODISIAC – Restores or increases sexual power and desire.

AROMATIC – An herb with a pleasant, fragrant scent and a pungent taste.

ASTRINGENT – Causes a local contraction of the skin, blood vessels, and other tissues, thereby arresting the discharge of blood, mucus, etc. Usually used locally as a topical application. The word topical pertains to a certain area of the skin or to a substance that affects only the area to which it is applied.

BALSAM – The resin of a tree that is healing and soothing. For example: myrrh.

BALSAMIC – A healing or soothing agent.

BITTER – A solution of bitter, often aromatic, plant products used as a mild tonic.

CARMINATIVE – An herb that helps to prevent gas from forming in the intestines, and also assists in expelling it.

CATHARTIC – Causes evacuation of the bowels. A cathartic may be either mild (laxative) or vigorous (purgative).

CEPHALIC – Referring to diseases affecting the head and upper part of the body.

CHOLAGOGUE – An herb that stimulants the flow of bile from the liver into the intestines.

CONDIMENT – Enhances the flavor of food.

CORDIAL – A stimulating medicine or drink.

DEMULCENT – Soothes, protects, and relieves the irritation of inflamed mucous membranes and other surfaces.

DEOBSTRUENT – Removes obstructions by opening the natural passages or pores of the body.

DEPURATIVE – Tends  to purify and cleanse the blood.

DETERGENT – An agent that cleanses boils, ulcers, wounds, etc.

DIAPHORETIC – Promotes perspiration, especially profuse perspiration. Same as SUDORIFIC.

DISCUTIENT – An agent that dissolves or causes something, such as a tumor, to disappear. Also called DISCUSSIVE.

DIURETIC – Promotes the production and secretion of urine. For example: parsley.

DRASTIC – A violent purgative.


EMETIC – Causes  vomiting. For example: ipecac, lobelia.

EMMENAGOGUE – An herb that brings on menstruation. For example: camomile.

EMOLLIENT – A substance that is usually used externally to soften and soothe the skin.

ESCULENT – Edible or fit for eating.

EXANTHEMATOUS – Refers to any eruptive disease or fever. An herbal remedy for skin eruptions such as measles, scarlet fever etc.

EXPECTORANT – Promotes the thinning and ejection of mucus or exudate from the lungs, bronchi, and trachea; sometimes the meaning is extended to all remedies that quiet a cough.

FARINACEOUS – Having a mealy texture or surface.

FEBRIFUGE – Reduces body temperature and fever. Same as ANTIPYRETIC and REFRIGERANT.

HEPATIC – An herb that promotes the well-being of the liver and increases the secretion of bile. For example: golden seal.

HERPATIC – A remedy for skin eruptions, ringworm, etc.

HYPNOTIC – Tends to produce sleep.

LAXATIVE – An herb that acts to promote evacuation of the bowels; a gentle cathartic.

LITHOTRIPTIC – Causing the dissolution or destruction of stones in the bladder or kidneys.

MATURATING – An agent that promotes the maturing or bringing to a head of boils, carbuncles etc.

MUCILAGINOUS – Herbs that have a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes.

NARCOTIC – An addicting substance that reduces pain and produces sleep.

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.

OPTHALMICUM – A remedy for diseases of the eye.

PARTURIENT – A substance that induces and promotes labor.

PECTORAL – Relieves disorders of the chest and lungs, such as an expectorant.

POULTICE – Plant material that is prepared in a special way and applied to the surface of the body as a remedy for certain disorders.

PUNGENT – Irritating or sharply painful. Producing a sharp sensation of taste or smell.

PURGATIVE – A substance that promotes the vigorous evacuation of the bowels. Usually used to relieve severe constipation.

REFRIGERANT – Relieves fever and thirst. A cooling remedy. Lowers body temperature.

RELAXANT – Tends to relax and relieve tension, especially muscular tension.

RESOLVENT – Promotes the resolving and removing of abnormal growths, such as a tumor.

RUBEFACIENT – An agent that reddens the skin by increasing the circulation when rubbed on the surface.

SEDATIVE – Allays excitement, induces relaxation and is conducive to sleep.

SIALAGOGUE – Promotes the flow of saliva.

SOPORIFIC – Herbs that help to produce sleep.

STIMULANT – An herb that increases the activity or efficiency of a system or organ; acts more rapidly than a tonic.

STOMACHIC – Herbs that give strength and tone to the stomach, stimulate digestion, and improve the appetite.

STYPTIC – Astringent: arrests hemorrhage and bleeding.

SUDORIFIC – Herbs that cause heavy perspiration.

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 the one that braces up the whole system, such as a cold bath.

VERMIFUGE – An agent that expels intestinal worms or parasites. Same as ANTHELMINTIC.

VESICANT – An agent that causes blistering, such as poison ivy.

VULNERARY – An herb used in treating fresh cuts and wounds, usually used as a poultice. A healing substance.