Each herb contains different biochemical constituents, including vitamins, minerals, hormones, enzymes, chlorophyll, essential fatty acids and fiber, which provide the body with what it needs to boost the immune system and aid healing. To make it easier to find the herb needed for a particular problem, the following list categorizes common herbal properties and explains their uses.
These herbs have immune system enhancers which help the body adjust to change, regulate stress and restore natural immune resistance. Herbs which are used for this purpose include echinacea, garlic, Ginkgo biloba, ginsing, goldenseal, pau díarco and suma.
Alteratives are considered useful in altering body chemistry gradually. Herbs with alterative properties stimulate gradual changes in metabolism and tissue function in acute and chronic conditions and increase overall health, energy, vigor and strength. Alteratives are similar to tonics, which help both the overall system as well as aiding particular organs, tissues and cells. Alterative herbs include aloe vera, black cohosh, blue cohosh, blue vervain, capsicum, cascara sagrada, chamomile, damiana, dandelion, echinacea, elecampane, fenugreek, garlic gentian, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, hawthorn, horsetail, milk thistle, red clover, red raspberry, schizandra, suma, yarrow and yellow dock root.
Analgesic herbs are used to relieve pain without loss of consciousness. Some of the herbs commonly used as analgesics include feverfew, lobelia, mullein, pau díarco, skullcap, willow bark and wood betony.
Anesthetics are used for their ability to cause physical insensitivity. Examples of herbs with this property are caaraway, kava kava and tea tree.
Herbs with this property have the ability to soothe and reduce the intensity of pain. Herbs with this ability include anise chamomile, cloves, juniper pleurisy root and rosemary.
Anorectic herbs help to reduce appetite. Herbs with this asset include chickweed, ephedra, fennel, garcinia.
An antacid is used to neutralize acids in the stomach and intestinal tract. Herbs used for this include dandelion, fennel, ginger, kelp, Iceland moss and slippery elm.
Herbs with anthelmintic agents either expel or destroy worms in the body. Other similar terms to describe such agents include vermifuge, vermicide and taeniacide. Herbs with these fighting abilities include black cohosh, blue walnut, gentian, goldenseal, mandrake, prickly ash, pumpkin seed and senna.
Antiasthmatics are used to help relieve the symptoms associated with asthma. Some of the antiasthmatic herbs are elecampane, ephedra, gotu kola, lobelia, prickly ash, wild cherry and yerba santa.
Antibacterial herbs are those that fight and destroy bacteria and include alfalfa, basil, chamomile, cinnamon, clove, eucalyptus, parsley, peppermint, rhubarb, tumeric, uva ursi and yucca.
Herbs that work as natural antibiotics help the bodyís immune system destroy growths of micro-organisms. Some herbs commonly used as natural antibiotics include buchu, chaparral, echinacea, garlic, goldenseal, myrrh, red clover and yellow dock.
These are herbs which help dissolve and eliminate, as well prevent the formation of mucus and inflammation of the mucus membrane. Herbs that are considered to be anticatarrhal include comfrey, elecampane, ephedra, fenugreek, licorice, lobelia, marshmallow, mullein and wildcherry.
Anticoagulant herbs help the body prevent clotting of the blood. Herbs with this constituent include garlic, turmeric and yellow melilot.
Antimetics prevent vomiting, and herbs with this ability include clove, Iceland moss, raspberry and spearmint.
Antifungal agents act against and destroy
various fungi. Herbs in this category include alfalfa, cinnamon, gloves,
garlic, kava kava, kombucha, parsley,
Herbs with this property work opposite to herbs with galactagogue properties. Sage and black walnut are examples of herbs in this category.
Antihydrodics reduce levels of perspiration. Herbs with this ability include astragalus and sage.
Herbs with this ability reduce inflammation in the body without acting directly on the cause of the inflammation. Herbs in this category include birch, chicory, cranberry, elder flowers, eucalyptus, fennel, feverfew, ginger, licorice, marshmallow, papaya, passion flower, peppermint, pine tree bark, queen of the meadow, rhubarb, rosemary, safflower, turmeric, wild yam and witch hazel.
Antilithic herbs work to prevent the formation of stones in the gall bladder and kidneys, as well as aiding the expulsion of those already formed. Antilithics are similar to lithotriptics. Some herbs used for this purpose are buchu leaves, hydrangea and uva ursi leaves.
Antimocrobials helps the body destroy microbes by affecting their growth and multiplication. Herbs with this aability include fennel, feverfew, myrrh, pau díarco, rhubarb, tea tree and uva ursi.
Herbs with this quality destroy, inhibit
and prevent tumors. Herbs in this category include aloe vera, black walnut,
burdock, catís claw, chickweed, flaxseed, garlic, hops, horsetail, ho-shou-wu,
irish moss, mistletoe, pau díaarco, periwinkle, pine tree bark, rhubarb,
Antioxidant herbs counteract the negative effects of oxidation on body tissues. Included in this category are barley, bilberry, catís claw, chaparral, Ginkgo biloba, milk thistle, pine tree, rosemary, sage and turmeric.
This constituent counteracts the effects of periodic diseases (intermittent) like malaria. Herbs in this category include angelica, blue vervain, boneset, chinchona, eucalyptus, goldenseal and willow.
Antiphylogistic herbs prevent inflammation. Herbs with this aability include chamomile, couch grass and tormentil.
Antirheumatic herbs help to ease and prevent arthritis and rheumatism. Some antirheumatics include alfalfa, buchu, buckthorn, bugleweed, burdock, devilís claw, hydrangea, mandrake, queen of the meadow and yucca.
Antiseptics help to prevent and counteract infection and the formation of pus by inhibiting the growth of the infectious organisms. Herbs used are black walnut, chaparral, echinacea, elecampane, garlic, gentian, Ginkgo biloba, goldenseal, myrrh, rose hips, tea tree oil, uva ursi and valerian.
Herbs with this property are used to prevent or counteract spasms. They include black cohosh, blue cohosh, cascara sagrada, catnip, cramp bark, dong quai, gotu kola, hawthorn, juniper berries, kava kava, lobelia, mistletoe and skullcap.
Herbs with antitussive agents are cough suppressants. Herbs in this category include coltsfoot, comfrey, horehound, mullein and wild cherry bark.
Antivenomous agents counteract venom, as from a snake bite. Herbs with this quality include pennyroyal and plantain.
Antiviral agents act to destroy viruses in the body. Herbs with antivviral qualities include aloe vera, astragalus, barley, boneset, calendula, echinacea, ho-shou-wu, licorice, maitake, reishi, pau díarco, red raspberry and turmeric.
An aphrodisiac is used to help restore normal sexual poteny and function and improve sexual desire. Some herbs used as aphrodisiacs include astragalus, damiana, false unicorn, fenugreek, ginseng, kava kava and saw palmetto.
An astringent acts to contract and tighten,
similar to styptic. This constricting action can help eliminate secretions and
hemorrhaging. Some herbs with astringent actions are amaranth, blackbery root,
black walnut, capsicum, elecampane, ephedra, fenugreek, horsetail, hydrangea,
mullein, oak bark, queen of the meadow,
An agent that acts on the mucous membranes in the mouth to promote appetite and encourage digestion. Herbs in this category include alfalfa, blackberry, blessed thistle, bugleweed, chaparral, chinchona, eyebright, feverfew, gentian, licorrice, quassia, watercress, wild cherry and wild lettuce.
Agents that clean and remove impurities from the blood, similar to depurative. Examples of blood purifiers include birch, buckthorn, calendula, centaury, couch grass, dandelion, plantain and watercress.
Herbs which can help eliminate gas from the stomach and intestine are considered carminatives. Some of the herbs commonly used are angelica root, capsicum, caraway seeds, catnip, chamomile flowers, echinacea, fennel, ginger, hops, lemon balm, parsley root, peppermint, saffron and valerian.
This herb property increases the flow of bile which aids digestion, as well as acting as a mild laxative. Herbs which are used for this purpose are aloe vera, barberry, culverís root, dandelion, goldenseal, hoops, licorice, Oregon grape root and wild yam.
An agent that relieves congestion in the upper respiratory tract. Herbs with decongestant properties include ephedra, lobelia, pennyroyal, valerian and yerba santa.
These herbs work internally to help soothe and protect the mucous membranes in the body. Some herbs with this property are aloe vera, burdock, chickweed, comfrey, echinacea, fenugreek, flaxseed, Irish moss, kelp, licorice, marshmallow, mullein, oatstraw and psyllium.
Diaphoretic herbs help the body produce perspiration to help the skin eliminate toxins, similar to sudorific.. Herbs with diaphoretic properties include angelica, blue vervain, boneset, borage, butcherís broom, capsicum, catnip, chamomile, elder flowers, elecampane, ephedra, garlic, hyssop, lemon balm leaves and yarrow.
Digestives promote or aid in the digestion process.. Such herbs include anise, capsicum, centaury, echinacea, garlic, horseradish, mustard, papaya, safflower and sage.
A diuretic is used to increase the flow of urine to relieve water retention. Some herbs used for this purpose are alfalfa, blue cohosh, buchu leaves, burdock, butcherís broom, damiana, dandelion, devilís claw, false unicorn, fennel, hawthorn, horsetail, hydrangea, juniper berries, lily-of-the-valley, marshmallow, parsley, queen of the meadow, saw palmetto and uva ursi.
An emetic is used to induce vomiting. Emetic herbs include bayberry, boneset, buchthorn, culver, false unicorn, lobelia, mandrake, mistletoe, mustard seed, pleurisy, quassia, rue and senega.
Herbs with emmenagogue properties promote menstrual flow. Some herbs which help with this situation are angelica, aloe vera, black cohosh, blue cohosh, gentian, ginger, goldenseal, horsetail, juniper berries, mistletoe, myrrh, pennyroyal and saffron.
This includes herbs used externally to help soften, soothe and protect the skin. Some are almond oil, aloe vera, comfrey, fenugreek, flaxseed, Irish moss, linseed oil, marshmallow, olive oil, slippery elm and wheat germ oil.
Estrogenic herbs promote or produce estrus. Herbs with estrogenic properties include blue cohosh, don quai, false unicorn, fennel and licorice.
Expectorants help the body expel mucus from the lungs, nose and throat. Herbs used for this purpose include anise seed, blue cohosh, blue vervain, comfrey root, elder flowers, elecampane root, ephedra, flaxseed, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, horehound, hyssop, Irish moss, licorice, lobelia, marshmallow, mullein leaves, slippery elm, wild cherry bark and yerba santa leaves.
Herbs with this property help reduce fevers, similar to refrigerant and antipyretic. Some febrifuges are bilberry, boneset, borage, buckthorn, catnip, chamomile, elder flowers, fenugreek, garlic, gentian, ginger, hyssop, pleurisy root, sarsaparilla, white willow bark and wormwood.
Herbs with galactagogue properties stimulate lactation in women. Herbs in this category include anise basil, blessed thistle, borage, fenugreek, horsetail and vervain.
Germicides are known for their ability to destroy germs and other microorganisms. Herbs in this category include cloves, eucalyptus and tea tree.
These herbs help to strengthen, tone, and increase bile flow to promote normal liver function. Some herbs with hepatic properties are barberry bark, cascara sagrada, dandelion root, gentian, goldenseal, horseradish, mandrake root, milk thistle, olive oil, Oregon grape, parsley, queen of the meadow and rhubarb.
Hemostatics stop blood flow by acting as antihemorrhagic agents. Herbs in this category include bistort, blackberry, bugleweed, calendula, nettle, periwinkle, shepherdís purse and witch hazel.
Hypotensive herbs cause low blood pressure, similar to antihypertensive which is an agent that lowers blood pressure. Examples of hypotensives include astragalus, barberry, celery, don quai, kelp, mistletoe, rhubarb and wood betony.
Immunostimulants enhance or boost the bodyís natural defense against illness and disease. Herbs with this aability include astragalus, barley, dong quai, kombucha, maitake, queen of the meadow, reishi and shiitake.
Insecticides are used to kill insects. An example of an herb with this ability is bayberry.
These are herbs which help dissolve and eliminate urinary stones from the body. They include buchu leaves, butcherís broom, cascara sagrada, cornsilk, dandelion, devilís claw, horsetail, marshmallow, parsley, queen of the meadow, uva ursi and white oak bark.
Herbs that are considered mucilants have mucilage properties which have a soothing and demulcent effect. They coat and protect mucous membranes from irritations. Mucilants have a wide variety of applications including coughs, sore throats, and irritated stomach, bowels, bladder and kidneys. They can also be used for laxatives, cream and ointments because of their soothing effects. Mucilant herbs include aloe vera, chickweed, coltsfoot, comfrey, flaxseed, Iceland moss, marshmallow, plantain, psyllium seed and slippery elm.
Herbs with narcotic agents can be used to soothe intractable pain or to induce anesthesia. Herbs with these agents should be used carefully. They include bugleweed, guarana and wild lettuce. Herbs that can be used to counteract narcotic effects include alfalfa (for addicition) and marjoram and mustard (for poisoning).
These are used in healing kidney problems. Herbs with nephritic properties include buchu leaves, couch grass root, goldenseal, horsetail, hydrangea, juniper berries, Oregon grape and queen of the meadow root.
Nervine herbss help soothe, calm and nourish the nervous system. Some of the nervine herbs are black cohosh, blue vervain, boneset, catnip, chamomile, cramp bark, damiana, gotu kola, hops, ladyís slipper, lemon balm, lobelia, oatstraw, passion flower, skullcap, valerian root and wood betony.
Nutritive agents nourish the body. Herbs with nutritive properties include alfalfa, amaranth, barley, bee pollen, chickweed, comfrey, guarana, Iceland moss, Irish moss, kelp, marshmallow, nettle, oatstraw, papaya, pumpkin, red clover, rose hips, slippery elm, suma, watercress and yellow dock.
These are herbs which help stimulate uterine contractions to assist and induce a safe labor and delivery. Herbs with oxytocic properties are black cohosh, blue cohosh, pennyroyal and red raspberry.
Parasiticidic herbs are those that destroy parasites in the body. Herbs with parasiticidic agents include chaparral, feverfew, figwort, horseradish, mandrake, papaya, parsley, peach, pennyroyal, plantain, pumpkin, rhubaarb, sage, thyme, vervain, wild cherry and wood betony.
A cathartic or purgative herb is used for purging and stimulating the action of evacuating the bowels. This action may be mild or strong depending on the need. Purgatives and cathartics are similar to aperients and laxatives, which are a mild purgative used to relieve constipation. Herbs considered to be purgative include aloe vera, barberry bark, boneset, buckthorn bark, cascara sagrada, elder flowers, goldenseal, mandrake, Oregon grape root, psyllium, rhubarb root and senna leaves.
Herbs with rubefacient properties are reddening agents that help to increase the flow of blood to the surface of the skin to aid in healing in cases such as sprains and muscle soreness. Some herbs used for this purpose include camphor, capsicum, sloves, eucalyptus, garlic, ginger, horseradish, mustard seed, peppermint oil, pine oil, stinging nettle and thyme oil.
Sedative herbs are used to relieve
irritability and promote calm and tranquil feelings. Some are catnip, chamomile,
cramp bark, dong quai, hawthorn, hops, kava kava, ladyís slipper, lobelia,
passion flower, red clover,
Herbs with this property help to promote the flow and secretion of saliva to aid in the digestion of starches. Some herbs include bayberry, capsicum, echinacea, gentian, ginger, horseradish, hydrangea, licorice, prickly ash, rhubarb and yerba santa.
These herbs help to increase the function of the body energy levels, circulation and help eliminate toxins. Herbs with stimulant properties are angelica, boneset, capsicum, damiana, devilís claw, echinacea, elder flowers, elecampane, ephedra, false unicorn, garlic, gentian, ginger, Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, ho-shou-wu, milk thistle prickley ash bark, saffron, sarsaparilla root and suma.
Stomachics strengthen and tone the stomach. Herbs in the stomachic category include agrimony, anise, barberry, basil, caraway, celery, chinchina, cloves, dandelion, gentian, ginseng, gymnema, hops, horseradish, papaya, peach, pennyroyal, quassia, rhubarb, rosehips and watercress.
Vasoconstricting herbs help to constrict blood vessels and raise blood pressure. Herbs with this property include butcherís brooom, ergot and heather.
Herbs with vasodilating agents expand blood vessels and lower blood pressure. Herbs in this category include fever few, hawthorn and ho-shou-wu.
Herbs with vulnerary properties are used to help promote the healing of wounds, cuts and abrasions. Some used are aloe vera, black walnut, burdock, capsicum, fenugreek, flaxseed, garlic, gentian, goldenseal, hops, horsetail, mullein, oatstraw and plantain leaves.