The Actions Of Herbs

There have been lots of pharmaceutical studies to evaluate the active elements present in herbs to discover the reason as well as the manner in which they work. A relatively outmoded method is to classify the herbs by exploring the types of health conditions that they can aid in curing. Identifying the actions of the herbs and the manner in which they may be employed together forms the basis of a comprehensive approach.

For example, in a number of instances, the action of herbs is owing to certain chemical or a blend of chemicals present in them – the sedative herb valerian is a perfect example of this. Alternately, the action may also be owing to a multifaceted synergetic interaction between the different elements of the herbs. Nevertheless, the best way to comprehend the actions of the herbs is to consider them as characteristics all together, and to interpret the chemical basis of an herb in the form of a support while prescribing remedies.

In order to comprehend this methodology, we need to consider a few cases in point. For example, the aromatic herb peppermint possesses anti-catarrhal, anti-microbial, diaphoretic (a medication that induces perspiration), carminative (expelling gas from the stomach/ bowel), emmenagogue (a medicine that promotes menstrual discharge), nervine, febrifuge (a medicine that reduces fever) and stimulant properties. In addition, the herb boneset also possesses anti-catarrhal, febrifuge and diaphoretic properties. However, different from peppermint, boneset is a bitter herb possessing emetic, diuretic and tonic attributes. Therefore, if you require an anti-catarrhal herb which also possesses diuretic properties, you should use boneset for your condition. On the other hand, if you require an anti-catarrhal herb, you should use peppermint. Moreover, these two herbs may be used in combination to provide a more extensive result.

It is obvious that both these herbs have a very important role in treating an assortment of health conditions. Peppermint and boneset are not only useful for specific conditions, but also have a wide range of actions that actually make these two herbs all-inclusive remedies, which they really are. Each of these herbs also has its individual wide range of actions and, hence, it is important that you exercise caution while blending these herbs to deal with an assortment of related health conditions as well as to cure the reason and also the symptoms of these conditions.

A list of herbs and their respective actions is given below. The list has been prepared by putting the actions of the herbs together indicating the most effective representative in every category. However, it needs to be mentioned that the list has been prepared in an alphabetical order and not essentially in the order of their value.


Herbs possessing alternative attributes work to restore the normal functioning of the body gradually and, at the same time, improve the health as well as vivacity. Once, these herbs were called “blood cleansers”.

BladderwrackBloodrootBlue FlagBogbeanBurdockCleaversEchinaceaFigwortFringetreeFumitoryGarlicGuaiacumGoldensealMountain GrapeNettlesPasque FlowerPoke RootQueen’s DelightRed CloverSarsaparillaSassafrasWild IndigoYellow Dock.

Analgesic, Anodyne

Analgesic herbs are those which help in alleviating pain and are applied topically on the affected part of the body or taken internally, subject to the condition that is being treated.

Figwort – HopsJamaican Dogwood
Lady’s SlipperPassion Flower – Poppy – SkullcapSt. John’s WortValerian.


Herbs that are known as anthelmintics work to eliminate or force out worms from our digestive system. It is very unfortunate that ever since the introduction of the new Medicine Act, several of the most useful anthelmintics are not available anymore, because they have the potential to be toxic when used in excessive dosage. Hence, those herbs are not included in this list.

Aloes – Garlic – PomegranateTansyThujaWormwoodRue.


Herbs that are antibilious assist the body in getting rid of surplus bile and, thereby, they can be of help in treating conditions like jaundice and those related to the bile.

BalmonyBarberryDandelion – Fringetree – Goldenseal – MugwortVervainWild Yam – Wormwood.


Herbs possessing anti-catarrhal properties aid the body in getting rid of excessive accumulation of catarrhal build-up (mucus membrane inflammation occurring together with extreme secretions), irrespective of whether it occurs in the sinus region or any other part of the body.

BearberryBonesetCayenneColtsfootCranesbill – American Echinacea – ElderElecampaneEyebright – Garlic – Goldenseal – GoldenrodHyssopIceland MossIrish MossMarshmallowMullein – Peppermint – SageThyme – Wild Indigo – Yarrow.


The anti-emetic herbs possess the aptitude to lessen the nauseated feeling and, at the same time, aid in providing relief from vomiting or putting off vomiting.

Balm – Black Horehound – Cayenne – Cloves – DillFennelLavenderMeadowsweetPeach Leaves.


Herbs possessing anti-inflammatory attributes are those that aid the body in fighting inflammations. All other herbs that are listed in the demulcent, emollient and vulnerary categories also act in this way quite frequently, particularly when they are applied topically on the affected body part.

Black Willow – Bogbean – ChamomileDevil’s ClawMarigold – St. John’s Wort – White PoplarWitch Hazel.


Herbs that are listed under anti-lithic work to put off the development of gravel or stones in the urinary system and may also aid the body in getting rid of them.

BearberryBuchuCorn SilkCouchgrassGravel RootHydrangeaPellitory of the WallParsley – Sea Holly – Stone Root – Wild Carrot.


Herbs possessing anti-microbial properties are able to assist the body in destroying disease-bearing microorganisms or protecting the body from their invasion.

AniseedBalsam of PeruBearberryCaraway Oil – Cayenne – CloveCoriander – Echinacea – ElecampaneEucalyptus – Garlic – GentianJuniperMarigoldMarjoramMyrrhOlive – Peppermint – PlantainRosemary – Rue – Sage – SouthernwoodThyme – Wild Indigo – Wormwood.


Anti-spasmodic herbs are those that have the aptitude to put off or alleviate cramps or spasms in the body.

Black HawBlack Cohosh – Chamomile – Cramp Bark – Eucalyptus – Lady’s Slipper – Lime Blossom – LobeliaMistletoeMotherwort – Pasque Flower – Skullcap – Skunk CabbageThyme – Valerian – VervainWild LettuceWild Yam.


Herbs that are known as aperients work as extremely mild purgatives.

See ‘Laxatives’.


All herbs that are aromatic possess a potent and mostly pleasing smell, having the ability to invigorate the digestive system. Aromatic herbs are used to append the perfume as well as flavour of other medications.

Aniseed –Chinese Angelica – Balm – Basil – Caraway – Cardamon – Celery – Chamomile – Cinnamon – Cloves – Coriander – Dill – FennelHyssopGingerMeadowsweetPennyroyal – Peppermint – Rosemary – Valerian – Wood Betony.


Astringent herbs work to tighten the tissues by means of triggering proteins and, hence, they are able to lessen the secretions as well as discharges. Astringent herbs enclose tannins.

AgrimonyAvensBayberryBearberry – Beth Root – Bistort – Black Catechu – Bugleweed – Cranesbill – ElecampaneEyebrightGoldenrodGround Ivy – Kola – LungwortMeadowsweetMouse Ear – Mullein – Oak Bark – Periwinkle – Pilewort – Plantain – Ragwort – Raspberry – Sage – Rhubarb Root – RosemarySlippery ElmSt.John’s WortTormentilWild CherryWitch HazelYarrow.


Bitter herbs are those that have a bitter flavour and work in the form of invigorating tonics for our digestive system by means of a reflex through the taste buds.

BarberryBonesetChamomileCentauryGentian – Goldenseal – Hops – Rue – Southernwood – Tansy – Horehound – Wormwood.

Cardiac Tonic

Herbs that act as cardiac tonics have an effect on the heart. These herbs have a specific functioning and it ought to be searched in the herbal division.

Broom – Bugleweed – Cayenne – HawthornLily of the ValleyMotherwort – Night Blooming Cereus.


Herbs possessing carminative properties usually contain high amount of unstable oils and their actions stimulate the peristalsis of our digestive system and, at the same time, help the stomach to loosen up. In this way, carminative herbs encourage the digestive process and aid in removing the gas formed in the digestive tract.

Chinese Angelica – Aniseed – Balm – Caraway – Cardamon – Cayenne – CinnamonChamomile – Coriander – Dill – FennelGalangal – Garlic – GingerHyssopJuniperMustard – Peppermint – Sage – Thyme – Valerian.


Herbs that are known as cholagogues work to promote the secretion and release of bile from the gall-bladder, which may result in a notable benefit in case of problems related to the gall-bladder. These herbs also possess purgative properties and have an effect on the digestive system, as the volume of bile present in the duodenum enhances when an individual takes these herbs. It may be noted here that bile is produced by the body and is a natural purgative.

Balmony – BarberryBlack Root – Blue Flag – BoldoDandelion – Fringetree – Fumitory – Gentian – Goldenseal – Mountain Grape – Wahoo Wild Yam.


Herbs with demulcent properties have high mucilage content and have the aptitude to calm as well as shield the aggravated or inflamed tissues inside the body.

Coltsfoot – ComfreyCorn SilkCouchgrassFlaxseed – Irish Moss – LungwortLicoriceMallowMarshmallow – Mullein – Oatmeal – ParsleySlippery Elm.


Diaphoretic herbs can help the skin to get rid of toxic substances and, at the same time, induce sweating.

Chinese Angelica – Bayberry – Black CohoshBoneset – Buchu – Cayenne – ChamomileElderFennel – Garlic – GingerGoldenrod – Guaiacum – Lime Blossom – Peppermint – Pleurisy RootPrickly Ash – Thuja – ThymeHorehoundYarrow.


Herbs possessing diuretic properties work to increase the production as well as elimination of urine.

AgrimonyBearberry – Blue Flag – Boldo – BonesetBorage – Broom – Buchu – Bugleweed – Burdock – Celery Seed – Cleavers – Corn SilkCouchgrassDandelion – Elder – Gravel Root – Hawthorn Berries – Juniper – Kola – Lily of the Valley – Lime Blossom – Night Blooming Cereus – Parsley – Pellitory of the Wall – Pumpkin SeedSaw Palmetto – Sea Holly – Stone Root – Wild Carrot – Yarrow.


Emetic herbs induce vomiting. Most of the herbs listed under this category result in vomiting only when they are used in high dose. The dosing of each of these herbs may be looked up in the herbal description.

Balm – Bloodroot – BonesetCatnip – Elder Flowers – Ipecacuanha – Lobelia – Senega – Squill.


Herbs possessing emmenagogue properties encourage as well as regularize the menstrual flow. In fact, the term emmenagogue is frequently used in the perspective of medications that work in the form of tonics for the reproductive system in females.

Beth Root – Black Cohosh – Black Haw – Blessed ThistleBlue Cohosh – Carline Thistle – ChamomileChaste Tree – Cramp Bark – False Unicorn RootFenugreekGentianGinger – Goldenseal – Juniper Berry – Lime – MarigoldMotherwort – Mugwort – Parsley – Pasque Flower – Pennyroyal – Peppermint – RaspberryRosemary – Rue – Sage – Shepherd’s PurseSouthernwood – Squaw Vine – St. John’s Wort – Tansy – Thyme – True Unicorn Root – Valerian – Vervain – Wormwood – Yarrow.


Emollient herbs are applied topically to the skin with a view to make it softer, calm it or defend it from any harm. These herbs work in the same way as the demulcents work inside the body.

Balm of Gilead – Borage – Chickweed – Coltsfoot – Comfrey – ElecampaneFenugreekFlaxseed – Licorice – Mallow – Marshmallow – Mullein – PlantainQuince Seed – Rose PetalsSlippery Elm.


Herbs possessing expectorant properties help the body in getting rid of surplus mucus from the respiratory system.

Aniseed – Balm of Gilead – Balsam of Peru – Balsam of Tolu – Bloodroot – Coltsfoot – Comfrey – Elder Flower – Elecampane – Garlic – Goldenseal – GrindeliaHyssop – Iceland Moss – Irish Moss – Licorice – Lobelia – LungwortMarshmallow – Mouse Ear – Mullein – Pleurisy Root – Senega – Skunk Cabbage – Squill – Thuja – ThymeVervainHorehoundWild Cherry.

Febrifuge – Anti-Pyretic

Herbs called febrifuges assist the body in lowering fevers.

Chinese Angelica – Balm – Blessed Thistle – Boneset – Borage – Cayenne – Elder Flower – EucalyptusHyssop – Lobelia – Marigold – Pennyroyal – Peppermint – Peruvian Bark – Plantain – Pleurisy Root – Prickly AshRaspberry – Sage – ThymeVervain.


Galactogogue herbs have the aptitude to assist mothers who are breast-feeding to enhance the flow of their milk.

Aniseed – Blessed Thistle – Centaury – FennelGoat’s RueRaspberryVervain.


As the name suggests, hepatic herbs help the liver. Using hepatic herbs regularizes as well as fortifies the liver. At the same time, these herbs help to augment the release of bile from the liver.

Agrimony – Aloes – Balm – Balmony – Barberry – Black Root – Blue Flag – Boldo – Bogbean – Cascara Sagrada – Celery – Centaury – Cleavers – DandelionElecampaneFennel – Fringetree – Fumitory – Gentian – Goldenseal – HorseradishHyssop – Mountain Grape – MotherwortPrickly Ash – Wahoo – Wild Indigo – Wild Yam – Wormwood – Yarrow – Yellow Dock.


Hypnotic herbs facilitate bringing on sleep. However, the action of these herbs should not be mistaken to be causing a hypnotic spell.

Hops – Jamaican Dogwood – Mistletoe – Passion Flower – Skullcap – Valerian – Wild Lettuce.


Herbs possessing laxative or purgative properties work to stimulate the emptying of the bowels.

Balmony – BarberryBuckthorn – Burdock – Cascara Sagrada – Cleavers – DandelionFlaxseed – Fringetree – Mountain Grape – Pellitory of the Wall – Rhubarb Root – Senna – Wahoo – Yellow Dock.


Herbs having mucilaginous attributes enclose gelatinous elements and they frequently work like emollients and demulcents.

Comfrey – FenugreekFlaxseed – Iceland Moss – Irish Moss – Mallow – Marshmallow – Quince Seed – Slippery Elm.


Herbs called nervines have a positive action on the nervous system and they help to harmonize as well as fortify it. A number of nervine herbs also work in the form of stimulants, while some others act as relaxants.

Balm – Black Cohosh – Black Haw – Blue Cohosh – Bugleweed – Chamomile – Cramp Bark – DamianaGinseng – Hops – Kola – Lady’s Slipper – LavenderLemon Balm – Lime – Lobelia – MistletoeMotherwortOats – Pasque Flower – Passion Flower – Peppermint – Red Clover – Rosemary – Skullcap – Tansy – Thyme – Valerian – VervainWild Lettuce – Wormwood.


Oxytocic herbs work to encourage the uterus to contract and they may, therefore, be useful during childbirth.

Beth Root – Blue Cohosh – Goldenseal – Rue – Squaw Vine.


Herbs that possess pectoral properties have a common curative as well as strengthening outcome on our respiratory system.

Aniseed – Chinese Angelica – Balm of Gilead – Balsam of Peru – Balsam of Tolu – Bloodroot – Coltsfoot – Comfrey – ElderElecampane – Garlic – Goldenseal – HorehoundHyssop – Iceland Moss – Irish Moss – Licorice – LungwortMarshmallow – Mouse Ear – Mullein – Pleurisy Root – Senega – Skunk CabbageVervain.


Rubefacient herbs are applied topically to the skin and their application generally results in a mild irritation, while stimulating the widening of the capillaries just beneath the skin. This action of these herbs helps to improve the skin’s blood circulation. When these herbs are applied to the skin, it helps to pull blood from more profound areas of the body to the skin. This, in turn, frequently helps to alleviate internal pains.

Cayenne – Cloves – Garlic – GingerHorseradish – Mustard – Nettle – Peppermint – Rosemary – Rue.


Herbs having sedative or tranquilizing properties work to soothe the nervous system as well as lessen the strain and anxiety all over the body. Therefore, these herbs may possibly have an influence on the body tissues that have been aggravated due to problems related to the nervous system.

Black Cohosh – Black Haw – Bladderwrack – Blue Cohosh – Bloodroot – Boldo – Bugleweed – ChamomileCowslip – Cramp Bark – Hops – Jamaican Dogwood – Lady’s slipper – Lobelia – Motherwort – Pasque Flower – Passion Flower – Red Clover – Red PoppySaw Palmetto – Skullcap – St. John’s Wort – Valerian – Wild CherryWild LettuceWild Yam.


Herbs that are called sialagogues are those that promote the saliva secretion from the salivary glands.

Bloodroot – Blue Flag – Cayenne – Centaury – GentianGingerPrickly Ash – Senega.


Like hypnotics, soporific herbs help to bring on or promote sleep.

Compare ‘Hypnotics’.


Herbs having stimulant properties hasten as well as enliven the body’s physiological functioning.

Chinese Angelica – Balm of Gilead – Balmony – Bayberry – Benzoin – Bladderwrack – Caraway – Cardamom – Cayenne – Cinnamon – DandelionEucalyptus – Galangal – Garlic – GentianGinseng – Gravel Root – Ground Ivy – HorehoundHorseradishJuniperMarigold – Mustard – Pennyroyal – Peppermint – Prickly AshRosemary – Rue – Sage – Southernwood – Tansy – Wild Yam – Wormwood – Yarrow.


All herbs categorized as styptics lessen or put an end to external hemorrhage owing to their astringent properties.

See ‘Astringents’.


As the name indicates, tonic herbs work to fortify as well as make particular organs more vigorous. In addition, they also have a positive (similar) action on the entire body.

Agrimony – Chinese Angelica – Aniseed – Balm – Balmony – Bayberry – Bearberry – Beth Root – Bistort – Black Cohosh – Black Haw – Black Root – Bogbean – Boldo – Boneset – Buchu – Buckthorn – Bugleweed – Burdock – Calumba – Carline Thistle – Cayenne – Centaury – Chamomile – Cleavers – Coltsfoot – Comfrey – Condurango – Couchgrass – Cranesbill – DamianaDandelion – Echinacea – ElecampaneEyebrightFalse UniCorn Root – Fringetree – Fumitory – Garlic – GentianGinseng – Goldenseal – Gravel Root – Grindelia – Ground Ivy – Hawthorn – Horse Chestnut – Hydrangea – Hyssop – Iceland Moss – Lady’s Slipper – Licorice – Lime – MarigoldMistletoeMotherwort – Mountain Grape – Mugwort – Mustard – Myrrh – Nettle – OatsParsley – Periwinkle – Poke Root – Raspberry – Red Clover – Rue – Sarsaparilla – Skullcap – Squaw Vine – Tamarind – Tansy – ThymeVervain – Virginia Snake Root – Wild Yam – Wood Betony – Wormwood – Yarrow – Yellow Dock.


Herbs that are classified as vulneraries are applied topically to help the body to cure cuts as well as wounds.

Aloes – Arnica – Bistort – Black Willow – Burdock – Chickweed – Cleavers – Comfrey – Cranesbill – Daisy – ElderElecampaneFenugreekFlaxseed – Garlic – Goldenseal – HorsetailHyssop – Irish Moss – MarigoldMarshmallow – Mullein – MyrrhPlantain – Poke Root – Shepherd’s PurseSlippery Elm – St. John’s Wort – ThymeWitch Hazel – Wood Betony – Yarrow.


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