So, here is an under construction glossary to help understand some of this info (with time it gets easier). I’m trying to limit the herb lingo to put it in common language, but some times these concepts are helpful (taken from Michael Tierra’s The Way of Herbs, 1980)-
alteratives – also called blood purifiers which gradually and favorably alter the condition of the body by treating the toxicity of the blood, infections, arthritis, cancer and skin eruptions; they also help the body to assimilate nutrients and eliminate waste products of metabolism. Some examples: red clover, echinacea,dandelion root, elder flowers, alfalfa, aloe vera, angelica, burdock root, comfrey, goldenseal, gota kola, marshmallow, nettles, plaintain, dong quai, ginseng.
analgesics – relieve pain without causing loss of consciousness; some are also antispasmodics, relieving pain by reducing crampling in muscles. Examples: cramp bark, dong quai, cloves, kava kava, lobelia, catnip, camomile, wild yam, skullcap, valerian.
antacids – able to neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines; in most cases, also have demulcent properties to protect the stomach lining. Examples: dandelion, fennel, slippery elm, Irish moss, kelp.
antiabortives – help inhibit abortive tendencies; taken in small quantities during early pregnancy; will not interfere with the natural process of miscarriage when the fetus is damaged or improperly secured. Examples: false unicorn root, lobelia, red raspberry, cramp bark
antiasthmatics – relieve asthma symptoms; some are also strong antispasmodics to dilate the brochioles, others help break up the mucus, some may be smoked for quick relief. Examples: coltsfoot, mullein, wild yam, comfrey, elecampane, wild cherry bark.
antibiotics – substances which inhibit the growth of, or destroy bacteria, viruses or amoebas; has as a primary action the stimulation of the body’s own immune response. Examples: buchu, chaparral, echinacea, goldenseal, myrrh, juniper berries, thyme, garlic.
anticatarrhals – eliminate or counteract the formation of mucus; treatment needs to include herbs that aid elimination through sweat (diaphoretics), urine (diuretics), and feces (laxatives). Examples: black pepper, cayenne, ginger, sage, cinnamon, anise, gota kola, mullein, comfrey, wild cherry bark, yerba santa.
antipyretics – cooling herbs used to reduce or prevent fevers; substances with strong cooling properties are called refrigerants. Cooling may refer to neutralizing harmful acids in the blood (excess heat) as well as reducing body temperature. Examples: alfalfa, boneset, basil, gota kola, skullcap, chickweed, seaweeds.
antiseptics – substances that can be applied to the skin to prevent growth of bacteria; includes astringents. Examples: goldenseal, calendula, chaparral, myrrh, oils of thyme, garlic, pine, juniper berries, sage.
antispasmodics – prevent or relax muscles spasms; may be applied internally or externally for relief. Used in most herbal formulas to relax the body and allow it to use its full energy for healing. Examples: dong quai, black cohosh, skullcap, valerian, kava kava, raspberry leaves, rue.
aphrodisiacs – used to improve sexual potency and power; examples: damiana, false unicorn, ginseng, angelica, astragalus, kava kava, burdock.