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Herbal Terms Explained

Herbal medicine has many terms that are unique to the field. Here's an explanation for what some of those terms mean.
  • Active Principle: A plant chemical proven to have a medical effect.
  • Antiseptic: A substance that destroys disease causing micro-organisms without harming body tissue.
  • Astringent: A substance the draws together or tightens the soft tissues such as skin or mucous membranes.
  • Decoction: A drink or liquid extract made by boiling plant bark, roots, berries or seeds in water.
  • Diuretic: A substance that increases the flow of urine.
  • Emollient: A substance that softens and soothes the skin and mucous membranes.
  • Essential Oil: The oil of a plant that vaporizes readily and is often obtained by steam distillation, sometimes referred to as a volatile oil.
  • Expectorant: A substance that loosens and helps to expel phlegm.
  • Herbal Tea: A beverage made from steeping or boiling plants with a beneficial effect on the body.
  • Infusion: A preparation in which flowers, leaves or stems are steeped in water that is not boiling.
  • Liquid extract: A concentrated infusion made by soaking an herb in distilled water, grain alcohol, or glycerin for a long period of time.
  • Mucous membrane: The lining of body passage, such as the nose, throat, etc. that protects itself with secretions of mucus.
  • Photosensitivity: A sensitivity to light, most often sunlight. This typically results in a rash or burning sensation, which is brought on by ingestion or application of certain substances.
  • Plaster: Gauze or cloth in which medicine has been wrapped. Herbal plasters are typically applied to the skin.
  • Poultice: An herbal preparation that is usually applied directly to the affected area to relieve pain or swelling.
  • Purgative: A very strong laxative.
  • Tannins: Astringent and bitter compounds found in the seeds and skins of grapes, which slow oxidation and aging.
  • Tincture: An herbal liquid extract that generally involves macerating (separate into constituents by soaking) the herb in alcohol.
  • Volatile Oil: A plant oil that vaporizes readily and is often obtained by steam distillation, used interchangeably with essential oil.
  • Wash: A liquid herbal medical preparation for use on the skin (external use only).

If you learn to take care of yourself using natural remedies you can greatly enhance your ability to take care of your health and those you care about when there are no other resources available.

Return to the Herb List.

For questions and answers about the side effects of herbs see the Herb Forum

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This consumer advocate website is protected by copyright 2011 Askdocweb, Inc. All Rights Reserved. This is a layman's report on herbs that heal and is not intended to replace discussions with a health care provider. Do not use the information on this forum as a substitute for your doctor's advice. Always consult your doctor before taking any drug and follow your doctor's directions. Source material: Food and Drug Administration, Medline, Physician's Desk Reference, and the largest community of people in the world, those who are concerned about side effects and healthcare.
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