Medicine Woman

  (Waynesville, North Carolina)
dangerous herbs, medicinal herbs, culinary herbs
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We often hear words such as alterative,  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 huge field.      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 herb. 




REFRIGERANTS  are cooling herbs used as or in beverages to cool us on a hot day. They could also be used to bring down a fever.


EXAMPLES:  borage, burnet, licorice, lemon balm, raspberry leaves


SEDATIVES  are  herbs that exert a soothing or tranquilizing effect; sedatives may be general, local, nervous or vascular.  Sedatives calm the nervous system , thus reducing stress and nervousness throughout the body.  Many herbs have sedative qualities .


EXAMPLES:  black cohosh*, black haw*, catnip, chamomile flowers, cramp bark, lavender, lemon balm, lime blossom, motherwort*,red clover, rosemary,  squaw weed*, yarrow. Valerian*



SIALAGOGUE  stimulates the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands.


EXAMPLES: blue flag * cayenne, centuaury*, gentian, ginger, prickly ash, horse radish, licorice



SOPORIFIC  induces sleep


EXAMPLES:  hops, valerian*, chamomile, cramp bark ( b/c it relaxes the muscles and relieve tension; it is said to be safe to use during pregnancy  for nervous discomforts, however, I don’t suggest using this herb during pregnancy)


STIMULANTS  increases internal heat, dispels internal chills and strengthens metabolism and circulation.  Stimulants refuse to act in the presence of an excess of animal foods.  Stimulants and narcotics never act as quickly upon persons accustomed to using alcohol freely, as upon those who do not use alcohol.


EXAMPLES:  bayberry, black pepper, blood root, boneset, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, cloves, cohash root, damiana, fever few, ginger root, golden rod, horseradish, hyssop, mother wort, mustard, nutmeg, pleurisy root, pennyroyal, peppermint, prickly ash, quaking aspen, sarsaparilla root, spearmint, summer savory, vervain, white pepper, wintergreen, yarrow, yellow root.



STYPTIC   (anti hemorrhagic)  Styptics reduce or stop external bleeding by their astringency.  ( contracting a blood vessel; stopping a hemorrhage by astringent action Anti-hemorrhagic or styptic herbs can prevent and stop excessive internal bleeding in some cases. Some herbs affect female reproductive organs and regulate excessive bleeding from fibroids and menstruation. Herbs that heal an irritated gastrointestinal tract may also stop bleeding from certain diseases.


EXAMPLES:  calendula,  (helps reduce the bleeding); shepherd’s purse (one of my favorites for female hemorrhaging after child birth and for certain other uterine bleeding); yarrow; witch hazel herb ( not the stuff you purchase in the drug store); comfrey leaf ( fresh); plantain leaf ( again in fresh form) .  These are tried and true old fashioned remedies.  You may not see these in the books and on line.  I have used all of these at various times on myself and others with excellent results.  I do not suggest the taking internally of comfrey or plantain, However, both are your new best friend when outside and you cut yourself quite badly, trust me. 



SUDORIFIC induce involuntary perspiration that helps to reduce fever, cool the body, and speed the elimination of toxins from the system. These herbs are useful in fevers, colds, and detoxification formulations

EXAMPLE:  chamomile, couch grass, peppermint



THYMOLEPTIC   modifies mood in serious affective disorders such as depression


EXAMPLES: Nervine tonics.   ST John’s wort,   passion flower; damiana,    Clary sage, lemon balm, lavender , mugwort, Siberian Ginseng.






TONICS   restore, nourish and support the entire body and exerts a gentle strengthening effect on the body.  There are certain tonics for certain body systems:


    CARDIOVASCULAR/ CIRCULATORY SYSTEM:   hawthorn, garlic, horse chestnut, lime blossoms, ginseng, motherwort

    DIGESTIVE SYSTEM:  aniseed chamomile, dandelion, garlic, golden seal, mugwort

(I don’t suggest as safe but everyone else seems to : acrimony, angelica, balmony (maybe I don’t know enough about it); centaury, comfrey, condurango, cranesbill, fringetree, gentian, rue, wormwood )


MUSCLES AND SKELTON SYSTOM:  boneset, burdock root, nettles, sarsaparilla, wild yams

( I don’t suggest these as safe, but, for those who feel they know more than everyone else: agrimony, angelica, black cohosh, bogbean, comfrey)

NERVOUS SYSTEM:  lemon balm, ginseng, mugwort,, oats

(I don’t suggest these as safe, but, for those who feel they know more than everyone else: black cohosh, bugleweed, damiana, Lady’s slipper ( is best as a lovely flower left in the woods); mistletoe ( also best left hanging in the archway somewhere at Christmastime), skullcap,


RESPIRATORY SYSTEM:  eucalyptus, Echinacea, mullein, hyssop, thyme, white horehound, licorice, marshmallow leaf


SKIN:  burdock root, comfrey leaf, Echinacea, dandelion leaf and root, marigold, nettles, red clover, sarsaparilla, yellow dock


VULNERARY  assists in healing of wounds by protecting against infection and stimulating cell growth. Applications are generally most effective when fresh herb is applied.


EXAMPLES:  all heal, calendula, comfrey leaf,  horse tail grass , marshmallow , oak bark ,  plantain




URINARY ANTI SEPTIC      shepherd’s purse, uva ursi, celery, cranberry, goldenrod, pine bark*, pipsissewa *,




Tone and normalize the function of the female reproductive system.

Examples: red raspberry leaves, nettles  ( these are the safest herbs to use); cramp bark (maybe, but, not during pregnancy)





US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health


THE HERBALIST by Joseph E.. Meyer


THE  COMPLETE GUIDE TO HERBAL MEDICINE  by Charles W. Fetrow and Juan R. Avila both pharmD

THE HONEST HERBAL  by Varro E. Tyler

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