COMPRESS: A piece of cloth soaked in herbal decoction and applied externally with pressure

DECOCTION: An herbal dose obtained by boiling or simmering a certain weight of herb in a measured liquid for a specified amount of time. A standard decoction is made with 1 oz of herb to 2 ½ cups of liquid (usually distilled water), bring to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes. By this time the liquid should be reduced by half. If more has evaporated top with liquid to make 1 ¼ cups. A decoction is usually for the tougher parts of the plant, roots, bark, stems and seeds.

DEPURATIVE: An herbal agent that purifies (can be both a type of concoction and an action of an herb)

EAU DES CARMES: A sleep inducing remedy produced by the Carmelite Nuns during the Middle Ages. It contained lemon rind, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and coriander in a white wine. It doesn’t say how this was made but I can see it being made as a spiced wine, strained and served warmed.

ELIXIR: A liquid containing alcohol and medicinal herbs that is sweetened usually with sugar or honey. If you sweeten a tincture, it becomes an elixir, and when you add a tincture to an infusion it becomes a tonic.

EMULSIONS: a preparation composed of totally un-homogeneous substances that are intimately mixed causing one to be suspended in the other, like oil and egg in mayo.

ESSENCE: A preparation of an herbal medicine in concentrated form. The difference between this and a tincture is that the herbs are concentrated first usually by an extraction method that takes a lot of equipment and time. It is best to purchase an essence for use.

ESSENTIAL OILS: An oil present in plants usually containing terpenoids that is extracted by steam distillation. See essence.

FOMENTATION: An application of a hot moist substance also see poultice.

INFUSION: An herbal dose obtained by pouring a certain amount of boiling water over a certain weight of herb and leaving it too steep for a set amount of time. A standard infusion is 1oz of dried herb to 2 ½ cups of water, average time to steep 5 minutes. Some recipes call for more or less time.

MACERATING: Is for herbs that are likely to lose some of their therapeutic value if heated which should be steeped in oil, vinegar or alcohol. To macerate pack a glass jar with crushed fresh herb, cover with liquid, seal and leave for two weeks, shake jar each day. At two weeks strain and repeat process until liquid smells strongly herbal and put in fresh crushed herbs each time. Seal the bottle when done and store in a dark cool place for use as needed.

MELITTA: Any liquid medicine mixed with honey instead of syrup.

OINTMENT: A solid herbal medication applied externally that softens when applied to soothe the skin. They usually have a base of coconut oil or bee’s wax.

OXYNEL: A preparation containing honey, water and vinegar used as an expectorant that is usually 5 parts honey, 1 part water, 1-part vinegar.

PLASTER: A medication that is applied externally and covered with a cloth, different from a poultice as it is not hot, and different from a compress as it is not applied with pressure.

POULTICE: A crushed herb that is heated then spread on cloth and wrung out that then gets applied to bruised or inflamed skin with the goal of drawing out an affliction. The difference between a poultice and a compress; A poultice is a heated herb that is then applied without pressure. A compress is liquid herb applied with pressure and not wrung out. The clue is in the word com-press, meaning to press on or apply pressure, and the compress is to get medicine to an affliction rather than to draw it out as is done in a poultice.

TINCTURE: A solution of extracts obtained by steeping herbs in alcohol or a solution of alcohol and water.

TONIC: A concoction that stimulates and invigorates the body as a whole or a specific system like the nervous system, of the body or specific organ, and is usually a blend of various herbs.

UNGUENT: A fatty medicinal preparation for external use that liquifies when applied

VULNERARY: An agent used in treating wounds (can be both a type of concoction and an action of an herb)


ADAPTOGEN: Any substance that increases the body’s resistance to stress like Ashwagandha.

ADJUVANT: A substance that enhances the effect of another medication, similar to drinking alcohol while on prescription medicine.

ALTERATIVE: A substance that gently detoxes the blood and enhances liver, kidney and skin clearance.

ANALGESIC: A substance that reduces pain.

ANESTHETIC: A substance that reduces or abolishes sensation or makes skin numb.

ANODYNE: An herb capable of soothing, comforting, calming or relieving pain like comfrey, valerian and others.

ANTI-HYDROTIC: An herb that slows the perspiration by reducing the action of the sweat glands Opposite of diaphoretic.

ANTIEMETIC: Something that prevents nausea and vomiting.

ANTIPYRETIC: a substance that reduces fever by lowering the body temperature.

ANTIRHUEMATIC: An herb that eases the pain and inflammation in joints and muscles.

ANTITUSSIVE: An agent that prevents coughing.

APERIENT: A laxative.

APERITIF: An herb or food that stimulates the appetite like parsley or an alcoholic drink like wine served 20 minutes before the meal.

ASTRINGENT: an herb that tightens the skin, a topical that can help stop bleeding and decrease mucous secretions such as blood or infection.

BACTERIDE: An herb that destroys bacteria (antiseptic)

BANE- BANEFUL HERB: Herbs that are toxic, poisonous or deadly.

BITTER: Bitter herbs that stimulate the appetite by irritating the taste buds which stimulate the appetite and flow of digestive juices. See Aperitif.

CALMATIVE: An herb that is a mild sedative like chamomile.

CARCINOGENIC: Anything that can cause cancer. Yes, there are herbs and plants that can cause cancer or make cancer worse, like tobacco and others.

CARMATIVE: Something that relieves flatulence and griping pains in the stomach or bowel.

CATHARTIC: An agent that stimulates bowl action more forcefully than a laxative – see purgative.

CHOLERETIC: A substance that stimulates the liver to produce more bile or to stimulate the release of bile from the gall bladder and bile ducts into the duodenum.

COSITIVE: An agent that causes constipation.

DEMULCENT: An oil or substance that can be used to protect or soothe a mucous membrane.

DEPURITIVE: A substance used to purify the blood.

DIAPHORETIC: Something that increases perspiration or urination.

DIUERETIC: An herb that stimulates the elimination of water from the body.

EMETIC: An herb that promotes vomiting like lobelia.

EXPECTORANT: Herbs that causes phlegm to be coughed up from the lungs

HEMOSTATIC: An herb that stops bleeding when applied, also known as a Styptic.

HYPERTENSIVE: An agent that increases blood pressure and is vasoconstrictive. NOTE: It is important to pay close attention to these two words. There is only one letter difference in them, yet they do very different things that can be of great help or cause great harm depending on the persons health.

HYPOTENSIVE: An agent that reduces blood pressure and is a vasodilator.

MUSCILAGE: A gelatinous substance occurring naturally in some herbs like mallow and is used to soothe inflammation of the skin.

MYDRATIC: Anything that causes the pupils to dilate.

NARCOTIC: A substance that in small doses deadens pain but in large doses can damage the nervous system or be fatal.

NERVE TONIC: A medical preparation that is meant to stimulate and tone up the nervous system and give a sense of wellbeing.

NERVINE: A relaxant or calmative that treats nerve disorders (such as neuropathy)

PURGATIVE: A strong laxative.

RESORPTIVE: An herb applied topically to make bruises disappear like comfrey.

RUBEFACIENT: an herb that reddens the skin like mustard or cinnamon.

SIALAGOGUE: Herbs that produce a flow of saliva.

SUFFIX: Hem- blood, Hep- liver, Hypo- restrictive or less, Hyper- more, or overactive.

SYNERGIST: An agent that increases the effectiveness of another when combined. This is different than an adjuvant in that the synergist works with the medicinal qualities and an adjuvant only increases the aftereffects.


ACTIVE CONSTITUIENTS: A medicinally effective chemical substance found in plants.

ALKALOIDS: Are a diverse group of basic compounds with alkaline properties and generally a marked physiological effect on the nervous system that typically contain nitrogen. They generally have a bitter flavor, and most are poisonous to varying degrees. They produce varied effects, such as analgesic, anesthetic, tranquillizing, vasoconstriction, and hallucinatory actions.

BETA SITOSTEROL: Found in soya beans used for the manufacture of steroids- may reduce cholesterol has anti -inflammatory properties.

BISABOLOL: An agent that calms the stomach and gives a blue color to the essential oil of chamomile.

CYANIDE: A poisonous chemical found in some seeds such as the wild cherry pit.

POLYPHENOLS: Herbs that are antioxidants in nature like blueberries.

SAPOAIN: Are plant glycosides that produce a soapy film in water. See also Mucilage.

SCOLPAMINE: A poisonous plant chemical of the alkaloid group that is obtained from plants in the nightshade family. That are typically used as a sedative, and in combination with other herbs like Ashwagandha. It is also used as a truth serum as it makes people talk more openly than normal.

TANNINS: A compound found in plants that binds to and precipitates proteins, amino acids and alkaloids and are present in almost all teas. To reduce tannins, use a drop of milk in your tea.

TERPINOID: A hydrocarbon considered an essential oil that is common in our diets and can enhance the effects of some herbs.