Properties of Herbs
Herbal properties can be placed into 3 main categories according to the actions they produce in the body.
- Detoxifying Properties: These herbs are used when the body has accumulated poisons and they need to be flushed out.
- Building & Toning Properties: These herbs work to strengthen the body, thus improving the function of internal organs. They help to strengthen the body’s resistance to disease. You use these to help recover from injury, acute ailments, childbirth, etc. They are also used in times of emotional instability, impotence, anemia, etc.
- Symptom Relieving Properties: These herbs counteract or relieve specific systems. If you were treating an infection, then you would use herbs with antibiotic properties. If you were treating muscle spasms you would use an antispasmodic herb. Symptom relieving herbs are good, provided you know the cause of the ailment.
Here is a list of the 3 classifications and some of the corresponding properties. Use this list as a guideline only. Some herbs have properties that will fall into all 3 classes, but we are basically getting a feel for the PRIMARY properties first. Herbal medicine is not a pure linear science. It requires individual observation in treatments and medical intuition. No two people are exactly alike and neither is their illness. It is foolish to think the exact herb or dosage will work for every person. Each body reacts differently to drugs as well as herbs. It is your job to learn about the herbs and monitor your patients until you have found the best remedy for them. Sometimes you have to do a little experimenting; this is all part of the healing science of herbs. It always has been. We will cover dosages later but you should be aware that frailty, age, body weight and dispositions all play a part in prescribing proper dosages.
Building & Toning
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The following terms are commonly found in reference works on herbal medicine. These are listed here for your reference.
Abortifacients: Herbs that induce or cause the premature expulsion of a fetus. I DO NOT RECOMMEND YOU TRY TO ABORT A FETUS. That is pure murder and you will be judged accordingly. I have listed these herbs for your awareness. These herbs have other healing qualities that are of great importance, just become acquainted with them so you will know to NEVER GIVE THEM TO A PREGNANT WOMAN!!!
Angelica, Blessed Thistle (large doses), Blue Cohosh (except in last month of pregnancy), Buckthorn, Juniper, Mandrake, May apple, Mistletoe, Pennyroyal, Ragwort, Shepard’s Purse, Tansy.
Acrid: An herb having a hot bitter taste or causing heat and irritation when applied to the skin.
Blue Flag, Buttercup, Celandine, Fig Stems, Wild Turnip, Nettle, Mustard.
Adjuvant: An herb added to a mixture to enhance the principle ingredient. These herbs have their own properties, but they act as a carrier and a buffer for the primary herb.
Anise, Chamomile, Ginger, Licorice, Cayenne.
Alternatives’: These are the blood purifiers. Most herbs that promote blood purification act on the spleen, liver, kidneys and bowels. These herbs can be used gradually over a long period of time, allowing a slow detoxification. This will improve the entire glandular function as well as promote good digestion and assimilation. Infections, arthritis, skin diseases and cancers are caused by impure blood. Be mindful that a proper diet must strictly be used in all blood purification therapies.
Alfalfa, Barberry, Bayberry, Black Cohosh, Blessed Thistle, Burdock, Cayenne, Chaparral, Chickweed, Cleavers, Comfrey, Dandelion, Devil’s Claw, Echinacea, Elder, Eyebright, Garlic, Ginseng, Goldenseal, Gotu Kola, Kelp, Licorice Root, Mandrake, Marshmallow, Nettles, Oregon Grape Root, Pipsissewa, Plantain, Poke Root, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Red Clover, Rhubarb, Sarsaparillas, Sassafras, St. John’s Wort, Uva Ursi, Wood Betony, Yellow Dock.
Anodyne & Analgesic: An herb that soothes or relieves pain. They lesson the excitability of the nerves and nerve centers. They are closely allied to antispasmodics. Most of these herbs can be used externally as fomentations and internally as teas, tinctures or powders.
Chamomile, Cloves, Echinacea, Ginger, Hops, Juniper, Kava Kava, Lady’s Slipper, Lobelia, Mullen, Passion Flower, Skullcap, Valerian, Vervain, White Willow, Wild Lettuce, Wild Yam, Wood Betony.
Anthelmintics: Herbs that have the capacity to destroy and expel intestinal parasites and worms. Many people have worms to some degree. It’s a good idea to use one or two of these herbs twice a year. Parasites are well adapted to the human body and it takes careful preparation and determination to rid them of the body. Fasting is very effective when using anthelmintics.
- Vermicides: These herbs destroy worms without necessarily expelling them from the bowels. They should be combined with laxative herbs.
Black Walnut, Garlic,Olive Leaf, Sage, Tansy, Thyme, Wormwood.
- Vermifuges: These herbs expel worms from the bowels. They rapidly evacuate the upper intestines and bowels.
Cascara Sagrada, Gentian, Senna, Tansy, Wormwood.
Antacids: These herbs will correct an acid condition in the stomach, blood and bowels.
Comfrey leaves & root, Flax Seed, Mullein, Red Raspberry, Slippery Elm, Wood Betony.
Antiabortives: Herbs used to counteract abortive tendencies.
Cramp Bark, Lobelia, Red Raspberry Witch Hazel.
Antiasthmatics: Herbs used to relieve asthma.
Agrimony, Angelica, Hyssop, Lungwort, Mullein, Myrrh, Prickly Ash Bark, Skunk Cabbage.
Antibiotic: Antibiotic herbs inhibit the growth of and destroy viruses and bacteria. These herbs naturally help promote the body’s immune system.
Chaparral, Echinacea, Garlic, Goldenseal, Hops, Juniper Berries, Myrrh, Olive Leaf, Rosemary Oil, Thyme.
Anticatarrhals: These herbs eliminate mucus conditions. While they rid the body of catarrh (excess mucus) they also aid in healing. It would be useful to use laxative and/or diuretic herbs when using Anticatarrhals.
Angelic, Anise, Bayberry, Bistort, Cayenne, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cranesbill, Elecampane, Figs, Flax Seed, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Irish Moss, Lobelia, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Raisins, Wild Cherry, Yerba Santa.
Anticoagulant: An herb that prevents blood clotting. These will help in breaking up blood clots.
Yellow Melilot, White Melilot (sweet clover).
Antiemetic: These herbs counteract nausea and relieve vomiting.
Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Goldenseal, Lobelia (small doses), Peach Leaves, Peppermint, Red Clover, Spearmint, Sweet Basil.
Antihydrotic: An herb that reduces or suppresses perspiration.
Antilithic or Lithotryptic: These herbs act to dissolve and discharge urinary and gall bladder stones and gravel.
Barberry, Buchu, Cascara Sagrada, Chaparral, Corn Silk, Dandelion, Devil’s Claw, Gravel Root, Horsetail, Hydrangea Root, Juniper Berries, Marshmallow, Oregon Grape Root, Parsley, Uva Ursi.
Antipyretic or Refrigerant: An herb that reduces or prevents fever, or acts as a body temperature coolant.
Alfalfa, Boneset, Camphor, Chickweed, Cleavers, Cranberries, Elder Flowers, Gotu Kola, Lemon Balm, Lemons, Licorice, Limes, Oranges, Skullcap, Valerian.
Antiscorbutic: An herb loaded with Vitamin C in the prevention of scurvy.
Barberry berries, Black Berries, Black Currant, Burdock Root, Blueberries, Chickweed, Dandelion, Cranberries, Juniper Berries, Rosehips, Hibiscus, Poke Root, Stinging Nettle, Wood Betony, Yellow Dock.
Antiseptic: An herb that prevents the growth of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria.
Anise oil, Barberry, Beth Root, Bistort, Black Walnut, Buchu, Chaparral, Echinacea, Garlic, Goldenseal, Juniper Berries, Myrrh, Nettles, Olive Leaf, Oregon Grape Root, Plantain, Rosemary, Saw Palmetto, Thyme, White Oak Bark, White Willow, Wormwood.
Antispasmodic: Herbs to relieve muscle spasms, cramps and convulsions.
Black Cohosh, Blue Haw, Blue Cohosh, Calendula, Cascara Sagrada, Cayenne, Cramp bark, Fennel, Garlic, Hawthorn Berries, Kava Kava, Lady’s Slipper, Lemon Balm, Lobelia, Motherwort, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Mullein, Oat, Passion Flower, Peppermint, Pleurisy Root, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Rue, Sage, Skullcap, Skunk Cabbage, Spearmint, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Wild Yam.
Aperients: Herbs that promote a mild laxative effect and soften stools.
Agar-Agar, Figs, Flax Seed, Licorice Root, Olive Oil, Prunes, Raisins, Rose Hips, Senna.
Aphrodisiac: Herbs that correct impotence and increase sexual drive.
Cloves, Damiana, False Unicorn, Fennel, Fenugreek, Ginseng, Kava Kava, Sarsaparilla, Saw Palmetto.
Aromatics: Aromatics are herbs with a fragrant smell and an agreeable pungent taste. They have a stimulating effect on the gastrointestinal mucus membrane because f their essential oils. They aid in digestion and expel gas from the stomach and bowels. They are used to cover the taste of bitter herbs. When the digestive system is inflamed these herbs should be avoided.
Anise seed, Barberry, Buchu, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander seed, Fennel, Ginger, Juniper Berries, Nutmeg, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Sassafras, Spearmint, St. Johns Wort, Wood Betony, Wormwood.
Astringent: These herbs increase the tone and firmness of the tissues. They reduce secretions and discharges from the nose, throat, intestines, vagina, and draining sores.
Bayberry, Beth Root, Bistort, Blackberry, Black Walnut, Bugleweed, Calendula, Cayenne, Cleavers, Comfrey Root, Cramp bark, Cranesbills, Dandelion, Elecampane, Ephedra, Eyebright, Fenugreek, Gravel Root, Hawthorn Berries, Horsetail, Juniper Berries, Mullein, Olive Leaf, Pipsissewa, Plantain, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Rhubarb, Rosehips, Rosemary, Sage, Shepards Purse, Slippery Elm, Squaw Vine, St. Johns Wort, Stone root, Uva Ursi, Vervain, Wild Cherry Bark, Witch Hazel, White Oak Bark, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Yerba Santa.
Cardiac’s: Herbs that increase the power of the heart.
Black Cohosh, Hawthorn Berries, Olive Leaf, Motherwort, Bugleweed,
Carminatives: These are herbs that contain volatile oils that stimulate the expulsion of gas from the gastrointestinal tract. Carminatives also increase the tone of the musculature and increase peristaltic action of the digestive system.
Angelic, Anise, Caraway, Cardamom, Catnip, Cayenne, Celery, Chamomile, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Juniper, Myrrh, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Pleurisy Root, Rosemary, Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, Spearmint, Thyme, Valerian.
Cathartics or Laxatives: An herb that causes a rapid evacuation from the upper intestines and the bowels. They clean waste matter from the liver, gall ducts and alimentary canal. They normalize the peristaltic action of the bowels when taken in moderate doses over an extended period of time. They are not habit forming.
Agar-Agar, Aloe, Boneset, Buckthorn, Cascara Sagrada, Cleavers, Flaxseed, Goldenseal, Licorice Root, Mandrake, Motherwort, Oregon Grape Root, Peach Bark, Poke Root, Psyllium Seed, Rhubarb, Safflower, Senna, Yellow Dock.
Cholagogues: These promote the flow of bile and purgation of the bowels. Barberry, Beets, Bistort, Boneset, Cascara Sagrada, Cayenne, Damiana, Dandelion, Gentian, Elecampane, Goldenseal, Hops, Hyssop, Mandrake, Olive Oil, Oregon Grape Root, Vervain, Wild Yam, Wormwood, Yellow Dock.
Condiments: These are used to season foods and increase digestive activity.
Bay Leaves, Cayenne, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander, Cumin, Curry, Dill, Ginger, Nutmeg, Pimento, Sweet Basil.
Demulcents and Mucilage’s: They soften and relieve irritation of the mucous membranes. They have a mucilage property which aids in the soothing of the inflamed parts.
Agar-Agar, Aloe Vera, Burdock, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Comfrey Root, Corn Silk, Fenugreek, Flax Seed, Irish Moss, Kelp, Licorice Root, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Mullein, Peach Bark, Psyllium Seed, Slippery Elm.
Deobstruents: Herbs that remove obstructions from the alimentary canal and other areas.
Barberry (liver), Culver’s Root (bowel), Goldenseal (glands), Gravel Root (kidneys), Hydrangea Root (kidneys), Plantain (blood & kidneys).
Deodorants: Herbs that eliminate foul body odors.
Blackberry, Echinacea, Lovage, Mandrake, Parsley, Spirulina (algae).
Desiccants: Herbs that dry surfaces by absorbing moisture.
Agar-gar, Bladder wrack powder, Corn Starch, Goldenseal powder, Marshmallow powder, Slippery Elm powder.
Diaphoretics: These herbs promote perspiration and increase elimination through the skin. They influence the entire circulatory system. Here are three categories:
1. Stimulating: Angelica, Blessed Thistle, Boneset, Buchu, Elder f lowers, Ephedra, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Hyssop, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Spearmint, Yarrow.
- Neutral: Horehound, Safflower, Sarsaparilla, Sassafras.
- Relaxing: Blue Vervain, Burdock, Calendula, Catnip, Chamomile, Lemon Balm, Motherwort, Mugwort, Passion Flower, Pleurisy Root, Thyme, Vervain, White Willow, Wild Yam.
Discutients: Herbs that dissolve and remove tumors and abnormal growths. These are used in poultices and taken internally in teas.
Black Walnut, Bloodroot, Burdock Root, Cabbage Leaf, Chaparral, Devil’s Claw, Garlic, Sanicle, Red Clover.
Diuretics: Herbs that increase the flow of urine. They are usually combined with a demulcent herb to soothe any irritation from acids or gravel. Diuretic herbs can be used in the treatments of backache, prostatitis, sciatica, kidney stones, bladder ache, lymphatic swelling, scalding urine, gonorrhea, skin eruptions, water retention and more.
Agrimony, Black Berry, Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Buchu, Burdock Root, Celery Seed, Chaparral, Cleavers, Corn Silk, Damiana, Dandelion, Elecampane, False Unicorn, Fennel, Gotu Kola, Gravel Root, Hawthorn, Horsetail, Horseradish, Juniper Berries, Kava Kava Kelp, Marshmallow, Mistletoe, Mullein, Parsley, Pipsissewa, Plantain, Pleurisy Root, Rosemary, Sassafras, Saw Palmetto, Senna, Shepards Purse, Squaw Vine, St. Johns Wort, Stone root, Uva Ursi, White Oak Bark, White Willow.
Emetics: These are herbs used to induce vomiting and evacuation of the stomach. They are usually given in a tea or tincture form.
Bayberry, Chaparral, False Unicorn (large dose), Lobelia tincture (small drop doses).
Emmenagogues: Herbs that are female correctives to the reproductive system. They stimulate and promote normal menstrual function.
Aloe Vera, Angelica, American Pennyroyal, Bayberry, Beth Root, Black Cohosh, Black Haw, Blessed Thistle, Blue Cohosh, Chamomile, Damiana, Gentian, Goldenseal, Horsetail, American Mistletoe, Motherwort, Mugwort, Myrrh, Prickly Ash, Squaw Vine, Tansy.
Emollients: Herbs that are applied to soften soothe and protect external surfaces. They are applied as salves, fomentations, and poultices and may be taken internally for their demulcent quality.
Almond Oil, Aloe Vera, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Comfrey Root, Flax Seed, Irish Moss, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Olive Oil, Plantain, Slippery Elm.
Expectorants: Herbs that promote the discharge of mucus from the lung and throat.
Angelica, Chaparral, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cramp Bark, Elecampane, Ephedra, Fennel, Fenugreek, Garlic, Horehound, Horseradish, Hyssop, Licorice Root, Lobelia, Lungwort, Mullein, Myrrh, Nettles, Parsley, Plantain, Pleurisy Root, Thyme, Vervain, Wild Cherry Bark, Yerba Santa.
Febrifuges: Herbs that reduce fever.
Boneset, Catnip, Dandelion, Hyssop, Peppermint, Shepard’s Purse, White Willow, Yarrow.
Galactagogues: Herbs that increase the secretion of nursing milk in a mother. Anise Seed, Blessed Thistle, Cumin, Dandelion, Fennel, Fenugreek, Raspberry, Vervain.
Hemostatics: Herbs that arrest internal bleeding.
Bayberry (uterus), Beth Root (general), Blackberry (uterus, digestive system), Bistort, Black Cohosh (lungs), Cayenne (powerful), Goldenseal (uterus, bowels), Horsetail, Mullein (bowels, general), Nettles, Stinging Nettle Root (general), White Oak Bark (general), Witch Hazel, Yarrow (external cuts).
Hemetics: Herbs rich in Iron & Manganese and which enrich the red corpuscles of the blood.
Agrimony, Sour Apple (unpeeled), Barberry, Blackberries, Black Walnut, Comfrey, Dandelion, Fenugreek, Gentian, Red Raspberry, Watercress, Wild Apples, Yellow Dock.
Hepatics: Herbs which strengthen, tone, and stimulate the secretive functions of the liver, causing an increased flow of bile. Useful in the treatment of jaundice, hepatitis, drug and alcohol abuse to detoxify the liver.
Agrimony, Aloe Vera, Bayberry, Barberry, Blue Flag, Buckthorn, Carrot, Cascara Sagrada, Dandelion, Fennel, Garden Sage, Hyssop, Mandrake, Poke Root, Self Heal, Wild Yam, Wood Betony, Yellow Dock.
Lymphatic’s: Herbs that stimulate and cleanse the lymphatic system. This system is very important in the proper functioning of the immune system. It filters waste to the blood system.
Black Walnut, Chaparral, Dandelion, Echinacea, Garlic, Oregon Grape Root, Poke, Yellow Dock.
Nervines: Herbs that act as a tonic to the nervous system. They are used to relieve pain and regulate the nervous system.
Catnip, Wild Celery, Chamomile, Cramp Bark, Gravel Root, Hops, Lady’s Slipper, Lobelia, Mistletoe, Motherwort, Mugwort, Oat, Parsley, Passion Flower, Pleurisy Root, Skullcap, St. Johns Wort, Valerian, Vervain, Wood Betony.
Nutritives: Herbs that are nourishing and help to build good tissue throughout the body.
Agar-Agar, Alfalfa, Comfrey leaves & root, Dandelion leaves, Green Tea, Horsetail, Irish Moss, Kelp, Licorice, Marshmallow root, Mullein, Nettles, Poke Root, Red Clover, Rose Hips, Sage, Slippery Elm, Watercress, Yellow Dock, Yerba Mate’.
Ophthalmics: Herbs that is specific for healing the eyes.
Blueberries, Borage, Chamomile, Chickweed, Dandelion, Eyebright, Fennel, Goldenseal, Hyssop, Mullein.
Oxytocics: Herbs that promote and assist easy child birth.
Angelica(after birth), Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Cramp Bark (after birth), Juniper Berries, Raspberry, Squaw Vine.
Parasiticides: Herbs that kill animal and vegetable parasites from the skin.
Blackberry, Black Walnut, Cinnamon Oil, Chaparral, Cloves (very powerful), Echinacea, False Unicorn, Garlic, Gentian, Olive Leaf, Rue, Thyme, Wood Betony.
Rubifacients: Herbs that are used in external applications to stimulate and increase blood flow to the surface of the skin to help relieve congestion and inflammation.
Cayenne, Mustard Seed, Peppermint Oil, Prickly Ash, Rosemary Oil, Rue, Thyme Oil.
Sedatives: Herbs that lower the functional activity of organs to calm, moderate and tranquilize.
Black Haw, Bugleweed (arterial, nervine), Catnip, Chamomile, Garden Sage, Hawthorn Berries, Horsemint, Hops, Hyssop, Lady Slipper, Lemon Balm, Passion Flower, Peach Bark, Peppermint, Red Clover, Saw palmetto, Skullcap, Sorrel, Spearmint, St Johns Wort, Valerian, Wild Cherry Bark, Witch Hazel, Wood Betony.
Stalagogues: Herbs that promote the flow of saliva.
Black Pepper, Cayenne, Echinacea, Ginger, Licorice, Prickly Ash.
Soporifics: Herbs that induce a relaxing sleep. Black Cohosh, Catnip, Hops, Lady Slipper, Motherwort, Mullein, Passion Flower, Skullcap, Valerian, Vervain.
Stimulants: Herbs that increase functional activity and energy in the body.
Angelica, Bayberry, Black Pepper, Blessed Thistle, Boneset (powerful), Cardamom, Cayenne, Celery, Cloves, Elder Flowers, Elecampane (gentle), Ephedra, False Unicorn, Fennel, Fo-Ti, Garlic, Ginger, Ginseng, Horseradish, Juniper Berries, Oats, Onion, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Rosemary, Rue, Shepards Purse, Spearmint, Yarrow.
Stomachics: Herbs that strengthen the function of the stomach. They are usually bitter in flavor and this promotes digestion & appetite.
Agrimony, Barberry, Blessed Thistle, Dandelion, Elecampane, Ginseng, Goldenseal, Hops, Juniper Berries, Mugwort, Peach Bark, Rosehips, Rue, Wormwood.