Medicine Woman

  (Waynesville, North Carolina)
dangerous herbs, medicinal herbs, culinary herbs
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We often hear words such as aleratives,  anti

microbial , aperient, cholagogue and other strange

sounding names.  But, what are they?  These are all

called actions or herbal properties. They refer to

the energetic pathway of how an herb affects the

body.  Every herb has more than one such action. 

Here we will find out some of the actions and

which herbs have these actions.  This is just

enough information to give you an idea of what

these terms mean and what herbs would be in

each category. Many herbs are in many different

categories, thus, making them easy to work with. 

This is by no means conclusive and I probably

won’t be able to list every herb in every category. 

Like I have mentioned before, herbalism is a hugh


 Also, I am mentioning herbs that have been used

and some people have found them to work.  This

does not mean that I necessarily condone the use

of some of these herbs.  For herbs that I really

would not use myself I have an * just after the




ADAPTOGENS   Enable the body to avoid

reaching a point of collapse or over stress b/c it

can adapt “around” the problem.   They help the

body deal with stress.  Adaptogens seem to

increase the threshold of resistance to damage

via support of adrenal gland and pituitary gland

function. A/K/A a tonic, especially when an herb

can have a normalizing effect.



EXAMPLES: dong quai, panax ginseng, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus),


CIRCULATORY SYSTEM Adaptogen are Hawthorn, Lime blossom and garlic







ALTERATIVES    are so called blood cleansers;

however, what they really do is act to alter the

body’s process of metabolism so that tissues can

best deal with the range of functions from

nutrition to elimination.  Many of the herbs with

this action improve the body’s ability to eliminate

waste from the body through the kidneys, liver,

lungs or skin.   They help assimilate nutrients and

eliminate metabolic waste products.  Alteratives

are good for skin diseases, arthritis and auto

immune problems.


EXAMPLES:   burdock root,   (for skin problems:

combine burdock root with red clover or yellow

dock *)  


Echinacea and marigold. Also nettles, alfalfa,

dandelion root, sarsaparilla 





ANTHELMINTIC  destroy or expel worms from the digestive system.  This term is synonymous with Vermifuge and Anti Parasitic.


EXAMPLES:  aloe * (not internally), garlic, pomegranate, tansy (not internally), thuja, wormwood, and rue*




ANALGESICS   relieve pain.


EXAMPLES:  chamomile, catnip, cramp bark, lobelia*, valerian*




ANTACIDS   neutralize excess stomach acid


EXAMPLES:  fennel, kelp, slippery elm





 ANTI ABORTIVES  inhibit simultaneous abortion and bleeding


EXAMPLES:   red raspberry, skullcap*, cramp bark*




ANTI ASTHMATICS   relieve wheezing


EXAMPLES:   mullein, lobelia*, wild cherry bark




ANTI BILIOUS       These herbs help the body to

remove excess bile and can thus aid in cases of

biliary and jaundice conditions.  Compare wirh

Cholagogues and Hepatics, with whom they are

often synonymous.



EXAMPLES:   balmony*, barberry*, dandelion, fringetree *, golden seal, mugwort, vervain*, wild yam, wormwood.





 inhibit or destroy bacteria and viruses while

stimulating the body's immune response.  The

only time we should use anti biotic is in an



EXAMPLE:  Echinacea, goldenseal, thyme, juniper berries




ANTI CATARRHALS  eliminate and help prevent

excess mucus formation (sinus area)  These are

used for ear, nose and throat infections.


EXAMPLE: golden rod * is one of the best plant

remedies we have for catarrhal states, especially

for upper respiratory catarrh, whether acute or

chronic. It may be used in combination with other

herbs in the treatment of influenza.  (for upper

respiratory  Echinacea, elder, golden rod)


Elder is another herb. Use the flowers ( may use

elder flowers with peppermint, yarrow or hyssop

for colds and fevers.)

Peppermint can be used widely wherever there is

excess mucous being secreted. Peppermint is

one of the best carminative agents available. 

Use with elder flowers and yarrow.


OTHER HERBS THAT ARE ANTICATARRHAS:   cayenne, garlic, marshmallow, mullein, sage, thyme


EXAMPLES: cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, anise, mullein,




ANTI EMETIC   reduce a feeling of nausea and can help relieve or prevent vomiting.


EXAMPLES:  black horehound,   ( combine with

meadowsweet and chamomile)

Lemon Balm    combine with hops, chamomile or

meadowsweet. For digestive trouble.  (for stress

and tension use lemon balm and lavender)


OTHER HERBS THAT ARE ANTI EMETIC:   cayenne, dill, cloves, fennel, ginger




ANTI INFLAMMATORY   help the body to combat

inflammations Herbs mentioned  under

demulcents, emollients and vulneraries will often

act in this way, especially when they are applied



EXAMPLES:  chamomile, white willow bark , 




CIRCULATORY SYSTEM: these herbs may be of

use for reducing inflammation in blood vessels:

lime, hawthorn berries, yarrow


DIGESTIVE SYSTEM: chamomile, licorice, golden seal, calendula, peppermint


URINARY SYSTEM: golden rod


MUSCLES AND SKELETON  willow bark, meadowsweet, feverfew.




ANTI LITHIC   are herbs that prevent the

formation of stones or gravel in the urinary

system and can help the body in the removal of

those already formed.   Anti lithics should always

be used with demulcents and anti microbial

herbs.  There were no herbs listed that I would

use. But for those of you who want to know:

pellitory of the wall (Parietaria diffusa); buchu,

bearberry , juniper, hydrangea (Hydrangea

arborescens); parsley piert (Aphanes arvensis);

gravel root, couchgrass, stone root, sea holly,

wild carrot



ANTI MICROBIAL   herbs can help the body to

destroy or resist pathogenic microorganisms.  It

is a mistake to talk about remedies being

“anti biotic” as this literally means anti life.

Many plants with this action are also anti

inflammatory and  anti bacterial, anti fungal, anti

viral.  The only time we should ever use anti

biotic is in an emergency. 


EXAMPLES:  Echinacea is the prime remedy to

help the body rid itself of microbial infections. It is

effective against both bacterial and viral attacks,

by supporting the body’s own immunity.   Used

with yarrow it will effectively stop cystitis.



aniseed, caraway, cayenne, clove, coriander,

eucalyptus, garlic, juniper, marigold, marjoram,

peppermint, plantain (not internally), rosemary,

sage, thyme.




ANTI PYRETICS  reduce fever by neutralizing acidic blood and cooling the body.


EXAMPLES: elder flowers, peppermint, basil, skullcap*




ANTI SEPTICS  inhibit bacteria growth both internally and externally


EXAMPLES:   thyme, sage




ANTI SPASMODICS  relax muscle spasms and cramps



EXAMPLES:  for  the  respiratory system:  thyme, aniseed, oregano, and garlic


THE DIGESTIVE SYSTEM:  chamomile, hops, peppermint, sage, thyme, dill, fennel




APERIENT      is a mild and gentle form of

laxative. aperients work in such a way that only

the natural bowel movements and functions are



EXAMPLES:   Rhubarb root Rheum palmatum

(not the garden rhubarb that we make pies and

jellies with). Psyllium, linseed, agar agar, yellow

dock root*,  dandelion root, burdock root,






APHRODISIACS  rejuvenate sexual organs and their functions



EXAMPLES:  ginseng, garlic



AROMATIC  herbs have a strong and often

pleasant odor, which can stimulate the digestive

system.  and are useful in aromatherapy. 


EXAMPLES:  aniseed, , fennel, caraway, white

horehound, lemon balm, basil, caraway,

cardamom, celery chamomile, cinnamon, cloves,

coriander, dill, fennel, hyssop, ginger,

meadowsweet, peppermint, rosemary, sage





 ( a/k/a  ANTI HAEMORRHAGIC) dry up 

discharges, swollen tonsils, and hemorrhoids. 

They are also wound healing and act as a barrier

against infection.  Int the gut, they reduce

inflammation and inhibit diarrhoes and are widely

used in the various diseases of digestion. They

are symptomatic, not preventative.


EXAMPLES:  aloe juice*, shepherd's purse, white

oak bark, blackberry leaves, self heal, turmeric,

ginger, meadowsweet, comfrey  (not internally) ,

marshmallow root , yarrow (not internally)





BITTER   These are herbs that have a

predominately bitter taste.  Because of Bitter

herbs wide effect on the body’s physiology they

help enormously in treating the body as an

integrated whole. 


EXAMPLES:  yarrow (not internally), dandelion

leaf, rue, wormwood, gentian root*, hops,

valerian*, white horehound,  greater celandine*,

barberry*, balmony*,  boldo,  golden seal,

centaury*, chicory, mugwort, blessed thistle,

willow bark





CARDIAC TONIC   general term for herbal remedies that have a beneficial action on the heart. 




FOR THE CIRCULATORY SYSTEM: hawthorn berries, yarrow, rosemary, lemon balm, garlic.


FOR THE MUSCLES AND SKELETON SYSTEM:   cayenne, ginger, mustard 




CARMINATIVES  relieve gas and intestinal

stagnation, while increasing circulation.  These

aromatic spices can be used daily to promote

better digestion, assimilation, and elimination


WARMING CARMINATIVES work best for people

who have weak digestion

EXAMPLE:  anise, basil, bay leaves, ginger,

cinnamon, cloves


COOLING CARMINATIVES work well for people

who get toxic headaches from the foods they eat

or overeat.


EXAMPLES:  mints, chrysanthemum, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel





CHOLAGOGUES  promote bile flow and stimulate peristalsis


EXAMPLES:  aloe vera (not internally) , Oregon grape root,  barberry, culver’s root*, wild yam root




DEMULCENTS soothe inflamed tissue


EXAMPLE:  comfrey leaves (not internally); marshmallow root, slippery elm, flaxseed tea, fenugreek



DIAPHORETICS  promote sweating as a warm

tea and act as diuretic when served cold. Primary

action is on the respiratory system and sinuses. 


EXAMPLES: ginger, flaxseed, sage


STIMULATING DIAPHORETICS are hot and pungent. They drain the lymphatics.


EXAMPLES:  camphor, basil, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, eucalyptus (not internally), ginger, sage, thyme.



fevers and remove toxins from the skin. They

perform well at the onset of acute symptoms of



EXAMPLES: catnip, chamomile, chrysanthemum,

peppermints, elder flowers, yarrow flowers,







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