Herbal Atlas

I have read and studied many books on plants and herbs and still to this day I need to look up and reference certain terms and vocabulary words! So I decided to create a list of concepts, terms and words that hopefully will be beneficial to you as you read my blog!


Herbal Preparations

Tisane: An “herbal tea”. Blend of herbs to be extracted in hot OR cold water; not necessarily containing “tea” leaves. To prepare a cup of “herbal tea” it usually is measured by 1-3 tablespoons per cup of water & steeped until your preferred strength.

Infusion: An herbal infusion is generally made from the flowers or leaves of the plant.  Unlike a tea, it is made by taking 1 quart of boiling water and pouring it over 1 ounce of herb and letting steep 30 minutes – overnight depending on the specific herb; then strained. Infusions are wonderful to make in bulk and store in the fridge to drink freely throughout the day & week. Herbs used are usually tonic herbs that promote overall health.

Decoction: Decoctions are made by slowly simmering the tougher parts of a plant such as the roots, barks and seeds. It is harder to extract the constituents because of the firm exterior, therefore need to simmer up to 45 minutes, or until your water level goes down by half. The longer you simmer, the stronger the decoction.

Infused Oils: Herbal oils are made by steeping the herb in a air tight mason jar covered in a topical carrier oil such as olive, coconut, sunflower or grapeseed. You can store in a cool dark place, solar infuse or use a double boiler.

Salves: The main ingredient in a salve is an herbal oil. The trick is to add beeswax. The ratio to make a salve is usually 1 cup of oil to 1/4 cup beeswax. You can add vitamin E to help preserve the salve, but usually lasts for a ver long time in a cool location.

Tincture: A tincture is a high proof- alcohol, vegetable glycerin (glycerol), vinegar extraction of a specific or blend of herbs. These are the strongest of herbal preparations and usually diluted with tea or water. They are measured by dropper-full or teaspoon. They are made by taking fresh or dried herb and covering it with your menstruum (liquid used) in an air tight mason jar and letting sit 4-6 weeks, then straining.

Liniments: herbal liniments are used for topical use only and are made similarly to a tincture only using rubbing alcohol or witch hazel as the menstruum. They are generally used for toners, disinfectants or injured muscles.


Herbal Properties

Adaptogens: herbs that promote our bodies reaction to stress whether that be mental or cellular stress. ( Schisandra berry, Reishi Mushroom, Ashwagandha, Ginseng, Holy Basil)  

Alteratives: sometimes known as blood purifiers, have an action on the lymphatic and metabolic systems. They help flush and detoxify. Herbs that grow in the spring generally have this action such as dandelion, red clover, cleavers, yellow dock, burdock)

Analgesics: pain- relieving herbs; (California poppy, valerian root, clove, chamomile)

Antacids: helps neutralize excess acids in the digestive system and sometimes joints. (Fennell, slippery elm, dandelion)

Antibiotics: herbs that stimulate our bodies immune system by slowing down the growth of bacteria. (echinacea, myrrh, thyme, goldenseal, garlic)

Anti-inflammatory: act differently on the body than over-the-counter anti-inflammatories- instead of inhibiting the inflammation response, they encourage healing through inflammatory mediators to promote healing. Inflammation IS a good thing – it means your bodies immune response is working well, think of an herbal anti-inflammatory as an aid for your bodies already working mechanism.  Another thing to remember about these herbs is that they have a very broad action because inflammation is caused by many different things, therefore there might not be a specific “all-heal” herb in this category. (turmeric, ginger, chamomile, garlic, cinnamon, cayenne, peppermint, birch, frankincense)

Antiseptics: generally applied to the skin to slow or prevent bacteria growth. (witch hazel, calendula, murk, thyme, garlic, pine, juniper, sage)

Antispasmodics: preventing or relaxing muscle spasms throughout the body, acting on muscular, reproductive and digestive systems. (valerian root, red raspberry leaf, passionflower, cramp bark, chamomile, peppermint, hops)

Astringents: promote the tightening of tissues on mucous membranes or skin helping with excess secretions. ( witch hazel, calendula, juniper berry)

Aromatics: herbs that create a medicinal action on the nervous system and digestive system through their aroma, usually diffused as an essential oil or used as an herbal steam; many herbs are in the mint family (lemon balm, peppermint, rosemary, lavender, cinnamon) 

Bitters: bitter herbs are characterized by their bitter taste and have a strong action on digestive secretions. They are herbs and foods that are necessary to have within our diets to promote proper digestion. (dandelion, hops, yarrow, wormwood, mugwort, chamomile) 

Carminatives: herbs that relive gas and abdominal discomfort. ( anise, caraway, fill, ginger, fennel, peppermint)

Demulcents: herbs that contain mucilage- a slippery, slimy gel-like substance. They soothe and protect inflamed and irritated tissues, membranes and organs. These herbs are usually used to sooth irritated throat tissue, and help with the function of the digestive and urinary tract system. ( licorice, slippery elm, violet leaf, marshmallow root)

Diaphoretics: plants characterized by their ability to induce or promote sweating and elimination thought the skin; sometimes associated with fever. (ginger, yarrow, cayenne, elder flowers/berries, catnip, peppermint, hyssop)

Diuretics: increasing the flow of urine. This helps many disorders of the urinary tract, kidneys, water retention, skin, and lymphatic system. (uva ursi, dandelion, cleavers, juniper, nettles)

Emmenagogues: herbs that promote menstruation for the purpose of regulating a woman’s menstrual cycle. ( black cohosh, yarrow, mugwort)

Emollients: much like demulcents, these are herbs that are soften, soothe and protect the outer skin; these include oils. (slippery elm, marshmallow root, plantain, chickweed, aloe)

Expectorants: herbs that help remove mucous from the lungs, throat and upper respiratory system. ( lobelia, mullien; steam inhalation of eucalyptus, sage, juniper)

Galactogogues: herbs that stimulate milk production in nursing mothers. (fennel, hops, anise seed milk thistle)

Laxatives: herbs used to promote bowel movements. There are many different strengths of laxatives and are taken dependently on the specific condition. ( Senna, marshmallow root, burdock)

Nervines: nourishing to the nervous system, calming anxiety, tension, and stress- they are categorized along with adaptogens and relaxants (oats, st. johns wort, chamomile, lavender, linden, valerian, lemon balm , hops)

Sedative: herbs that calm the nervous system- can be relaxant and antispasmodic herbs. (California poppy, valerian, Passion flower, catnip, hops, chamomile)

Stimulants: increases overall energy of the body, drive, vitally and circulation and combat mental or physical fatigue. (coffee, black/green tea, ginkgo, ginseng)

Tonics: tonic herbs strengthen and tone overall areas of the body (organs/ organ systems) with continued and regular use.  (oats, hawthorn, motherwort, dandelion, red raspberry leaf, linden)