> Roots & Flowers: Actions of Herbs

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Actions of Herbs

Ever wonder what an "alterative" herb is? Or what constitues a "tonic"? Here's a list of herbal actions categories and the herbs that fall into each category...
Adaptogen Herbs
Substances which put the body into a state of non-specific heightened resistance in order to better resist stress and adapt to extraordinary challenges.
Aswagandha, Siberian Ginseng, Ginkgo, Gotu Kola, Ho-Shou-Wu, Licorice, Reishi, Schizandra, Shiitake, Suma.

Alterative Herbs
An herb that will gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. Sometimes referred to as blood purifiers.
Alfalfa, Black Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Boneset, Burdock ,Chaparral Leaf, Chickweed, Cleavers, Cornsilk, Dong Quai, Echinacea, Garlic, Gentian Root, Golden Seal, Gotu Kola, Ho-Shou-Wu, Irish Moss, Kelp, Licorice, Mandrake, Nettles, Oregon Grape, Pau d'Arco, Prickly Ash, Red Clover, Red Raspberry, Rhubarb, St. John’s Wort, , Sarsaparilla, White Willow, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Yerba Santa, Yucca.

Analgesic Herbs
Analgesics or Anodynes are herbs that reduce pain.
Blue Vervain, Catnip, Chamomile, Dong Quai, Feverfew, Ginger, Jamaican Dogwood, Hops, Kava Kava, Lobelia, Passion Flower, Pau d’arco, Reishi, Safflower, Scullcap, St. John’s Wort, Valerian, White Willow.

Anthelmintic Herbs
Herbs that work against parasitic worms which may be present in the digestive system.
Black Walnut, Chaparral Leaf, Garlic, Mugwort, Sheep Sorrel, Wormwood.

Antibacterial Herbs
Herbs with properties that can inhibit bacterial growth.
Blessed Thistle, Cloves, Echinacea, Garlic, Kelp, Licorice, Myrrh, Pau d'Arco, Reishi, St. John’s Wort, Scullcap, Yucca.

Antibilious Herbs
Herbs that help the body to remove excess bile.
Barberry, Dandelion, Golden Seal, Mandrake, Vervain, Wild Yam, Wormwood.

Anticatarrhal Herbs
Herbs that help the body reduce excess mucous and phlegm.
Boneset, Echinacea, Elder, Garcinia, Garlic, Golden Seal, Hyssop, Marshmallow, Oregon Grape, Sage, Saw Palmetto, Uva Ursi, Wild Yam, Yarrow.

Antiemetic Herbs
Herbs that reduce the feeling of nausea and can help to relieve or prevent vomiting.
Barberry, Cloves, Elecampane, Fennel, Ginger, Oregon Grape, Red Raspberry, Wild Yam.

Anti-galactagogue Herbs
Herbs that prevent or decrease the secretion of milk .
Black Walnut, Sage.

Anti-inflammatory Herbs
These herbs help the body to combat inflammations.
Aswagandha, Blue Vervain, Butcher’s Broom, Calendula, Cat's Claw, Chamomile, Chaparral Leaf, Cleavers, Devil's Claw, Eyebright, Fennel, Feverfew, Gentian Root, Guggul, Horehound, Hyssop, Licorice, Reishi, St. John’s Wort, White Willow, Witch Hazel, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yucca.

Antilithic Herbs
Herbs that prevent the formation or help remove stones or gravel in the urinary system.
Gravel Root, Hydrangea, Stone Root, Uva Ursi.

Antimicrobial Herbs
Herbs that can help the body destroy or resist pathogenic micro-organisms.
Calendula, Cat's Claw, Cloves, Echinacea, Eucalyptus, Feverfew, Juniper, Licorice, Myrrh, Olive Leaf, Pau d’arco, Red Clover, Rose Hips, St. John's Wort, Uva Ursi, Wormwood.

Antineoplastic Herbs
Having the specific action of inhibiting and combating tumor development.
Chaparral Leaf, Cleavers, Red Clover, Reishi, St. John’s Wort, Shiitake.

Antiseptic Herbs
Herbs that can be applied to the skin to prevent and resist bacterial growth.
Bilberry, Black Walnut, Chamomile, Chaparral Leaf, Cloves, Echinacea, Elecampane, Eyebright, Gentian Root, Golden Seal, Horseradish, Myrrh, Oregon Grape, Parsley, Queen of the Meadow, Red Clover, Sage, Sarsaparilla, Schizandra, Thyme, Uva Ursi, White Oak Bark, White Willow, Witch Hazel, Wormwood, Yarrow.

Antispasmodic Herbs
Antispasmodics can prevent or ease spasms and cramps in the body.
Black Cohosh,, Blue Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Boneset, Calamus, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Dill, Dong Quai, Fennel, Garlic, Hope, Hyssop, Lady’s Slipper, Licorice, Lobelia, Motherwort, Mullein, Oat Straw, Passion Flower, Pennyroyal, Pleurisy Root, Red Clover, St. John’s Root, Scullcap, Thyme, Valerian, Wild Yam.

Aphrodisiac Herbs
Herbs used to stimulate sexual potency and passion.
Angelica, Astragalus, Damiana, False Unicorn, Ginseng, Kava Kava, Muira Puama, Schizandra, Suma, Yohimbe.

Aromatic Herbs
Herbs that have a strong and often pleasant odor and can stimulate the digestive juices.
Angelica, Anise Seed, Catnip, Celery Seed, Chamomile, Cloves, Fennel, Feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Ho-Shou-Wu, Juniper, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Sarsaparilla, Thyme, Valerian, Yerba Santa.

Astringent Herbs
Astringents contract tissue and can reduce secretions and discharges.
Agrimony, Bayberry, Bilberry, Blessed Thistle, Blue Vervain, Butcher’s Broom, Calendula, Cleavers, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cordyceps, Cramp bark ,Cyani Flowers, Eyebright, Garcinia, Hops, Golden Seal, Hops, Male Fern, Muira Puama, Myrrh, Nettle, Periwinkle, Queen of the Meadow, Saw Palmetto, Schizandra, Slippery Elm, Squawvine, St. John's Wort, Stone Root, Suma, Uva Ursi, White Oak Bark, Wild Cherry Bark, Witch Hazel, Wood Betony, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Yucca.

Bitter Herbs
Herbs that taste bitter act as stimulating tonics for the digestive system.
Barberry, Blessed Thistle, Burdock, Catnip, Chamomile, Chaparral Leaf, Coltsfoot, Dong Quai, Elecampane, Eyebright, Feverfew, Gentian Root, Golden Seal, Hops, Ho-Shou-Wu, Hydrangea, Schizandra, Wormwood, Yellow Dock.

Cardiac Tonic Herbs
Cardiac tonics are herbs that act beneficially on the heart.
Cayenne , Cat's Claw, Guggul, Hawthorn, Hops, Kelp, Motherwort, Myrrh, Reishi, Siberian Ginseng.

Carminative Herbs
Carminatives are rich in volatile oils and expel gas from the stomach and bowels.
Angelica, Catnip, Chamomile, Cloves, Dill, Elecampane, Fennel, Feverfew, Garlic, Ginger, Hops, Hyssop, Juniper, Motherwort, Pennyroyal, Pleurisy Root, Prickly Ash, Queen of the Meadow, Thyme, Valerian, Wild Yam, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yerba Santa.

Cathartic Herbs
In large doses cathartics purge the bowels and stimulate glandular secretions.
Barberry, Cascara Sagrada, Hydrangea, Mandrake, Rhubarb, Senna, Yellow Dock.

Cholagogue Herbs
Herbs that stimulate the release and secretion of bile from the gall bladder. They also have a laxative effect on the digestive system.
Barberry, Calendula, Dandelion, Gentian Root, Golden Seal, Mandrake, Milk Thistle, Oregon Grape, Wild Yam, Yellow Dock.

Demulcent Herbs
Herbs that are usually rich in mucilage and can soothe and protect damaged or inflamed tissue.
Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cornsilk, Fenugreek ,Garcinia, Irish Moss, Kelp, Licorice, Marshmallow, Milk Thistle, Mullein, Oat Straw, Psyllium, Pumpkin Seeds, Slippery Elm, Suma.

Depurative Herbs
Depuratives are herbs that remove impurities and cleanse the blood.
Black Walnut, Blessed Thistle, Burdock, Dandelion, Elderberry, Garlic, Gotu Kola, Oregon Grape, Pau d'Arco, Red Clover, Sarsaparilla, Watercress, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.

Diaphoretic Herbs
These herbs will aid the skin in the elimination of toxins through perspiration.
Angelica, Blessed Thistle, Black Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Boneset, Butcher’s Broom, Calendula, Catnip, Chamomile, Elecampane, , Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Passion Flower, Peppermint, Pleurisy Root, Prickly Ash, Sage, Sarsaparilla, White Willow, Yarrow.

Diuretic Herbs
Herbs that increase the flow of urine and help in the removal of toxins from the system.
Alfalfa, Astragalus, Bilberry, Blue Vervain ,Buchu, Burdock, Butcher’s Broom, Cleavers, Cornsilk, Cyani Flowers, Dandelion, Dill, Dong Quai, Elecampane, False Unicorn, Fennel, Golden Seal, Gotu Kola, Gravel Root, Hawthorn, Juniper, Marshmallow, Nettle, Parsley, Parthenium, Pleurisy Root, Prickly Ash, Red Clover, Safflower, Sarsaparilla, Saw Palmetto, Squawvine, Uva Ursi, White Willow, Yarrow.

Emetic Herbs
Emetics are herbs that cause vomiting when taken in specific doses.
Calamus, Elecampane, False Unicorn (in large doses), Lobelia, Mandrake, Poke root.

Emmenagogue Herbs
Herbs that stimulate and normalize the menstrual flow.
Black Cohosh, Blessed Thistle, Blue Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Butcher’s Broom, Calendula, Catnip, Chamomile, Cramp Bark, Dong Quai, False Unicorn, Fennel, Fenugreek, Feverfew, Ginger, Golden Seal, Hope, Lobelia, Motherwort, Myrrh, Pennyroyal, Prickly Ash, Squawvine, St. John's Wort, Valerian, Vitex, Wormwood, Yarrow .

Emollient Herbs
Herbs that are applied to the skin to soften, soothe, or protect it.
Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Fenugreek, Flaxseed, Irish Moss, Kelp, Marshmallow, Mullein, Slippery Elm.

Expectorant Herbs
Herbs that assist the body in expelling excess mucous from the respiratory system.
Anise Seed, Blue Vervain, Calamus, Chaparral Leaf, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cordyceps, Elecampane, Fennel, Fenugreek, Garlic, Golden Seal, Horehound, Hyssop, Licorice, Ma Huang, Marshmallow, Mullein, Myrrh, Nettle, Pleurisy Root, Red Clover, Reishi, Schizandra, Slippery Elm, Thyme, Wild Cherry Bark, Yerba Santa.

Febrifuge Herbs
The febrifuges help the body to bring down fevers.
Angelica, Blessed Thistle, Boneset, Calendula, Cayenne, Gotu Kola, Lobelia, Peppermint, Prickly Ash, Rose Hips, Sage, Scullcap, White Willow, Wormwood.

Galactogogue Herbs
Herbs that help breast-feeding mothers increase the flow of mothers milk.
Blessed Thistle, Blue Vervain, Dill, Fennel, Fenugreek, Horsetail, Marshmallow, Milk Thistle, Nettle , Vervain.

Hepatic Herbs
Hepatics strengthen and tone the liver as well as stimulate the flow of bile.
Barberry, Cascara Sagrada, Celery Seed, Cleavers, Dandelion, Fennel, Golden Seal, Mandrake, Milk Thistle, Motherwort, Oregon Grape, Prickly Ash, Wild Yam, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow Dock.

Hypnotic Herbs
Hypnotic herbs will help induce sleep.
Hops, Passion Flower, Lady’s Slipper, Scullcap, Valerian.

Hypotensive Herbs
Remedies that reduce elevated blood pressure.
Astragalus, Cat's Claw, Hawthorn, Hops, Reishi, Valerian, Yarrow.

Laxative Herbs
Herbs that promote the evacuation of the bowels.
Barberry, Boneset, Burdock, Butcher’s Broom, Cascara Sagrada, Cleavers, Dandelion, Golden Seal, Licorice, Oregon Grape, Senna, Rhubarb, Yellow Dock.

Mucilage Herbs
Mucilaginous herbs contain gelatinous constituents and will often be demulcent.
Fenugreek, Flax Seed, Irish Moss, Kelp, Marshmallow, Parthenium, Psyllium, Slippery Elm.

Nervine Herbs
Herbs that strengthen and tone the nervous system, easing anxiety and stress.
Black Cohosh, Blue Cohosh, Blue Vervain, Catnip, Chamomile, Cramp bark, Damiana, Feverfew, Ginkgo, Ginseng, Hops, Jamaican Dogwood, Lady’s Slipper, Motherwort, Oat Straw, Passion Flower, Periwinkle, Red Clover, Scullcap, Valerian, Wild Cherry Bark, Wormwood.

Oxytocic Herbs
Herbs that stimulate the contraction of the urerus.
Blue Cohosh, Dong Quai, Golden Seal, Red Raspberry, Squaw Vine.

Parasiticide Herbs
Herbs that can kill parasites in the digestive tract and on the skin.
Black Walnut, Blue Vervain, Chaparral Leaf, Cloves, Elecampane, Feverfew, Gentian Root, Pumpkin Seeds, Wormwood.

Pectoral Herbs
Herbs that have a general strengthening and healing effect on the respiratory system.
Angelica, Chickweed, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Elecampane, Golden Seal, Licorice, Marshmallow, Mullein, Slippery Elm.

Purgative Herbs
Can produce very strong laxative effects and watery evacuations.
Aloe Vera, Cascara Sagrada, Rhubarb, Senna, Yellow Dock.

Rubefacient Herbs
Herbs that simulate circulation locally when applied to the skin.
Capsicum, Cloves, Fennel, Ginger, Horseradish, Nettle, Peppermint, Prickly Ash.

Sedative Herbs
Herbs that can strongly quiet the nervous system.
Black Cohosh, Bugleweed, Catnip, Celery Seed, Chamomile, Cramp Bark, Hops, Kava Kava, Lady’s Slipper, Lobelia, Motherwort, Passion Flower, Periwinkle, Red Clover, Saw Palmetto, Scullcap, St. John's Wort, Valerian, Wild Yam.

Sialagogue Herbs
Herbs that stimulate the secretion of saliva from the salivary glands. Cayenne , Gentian Root, Ginger, Horseradish, Licorice, Prickly Ash, Rhubarb.

Stimulant Herbs
Herbs that quicken and enliven the physiological function of the body.
Angelica, Bayberry, Calamus, Calendula, Catnip, Cayenne, Cloves, Dandelion, Elecampane, False Unicorn, Fennel, Feverfew, Ginger, Ginkgo, Ma Huang, Muira Puama, Myrrh, Prickly Ash, Sarsaparilla, Schizandra, Valerian, Wild Yam, Wormwood, Yarrow.

Stomachic Herbs
Herbs that promote digestion and strengthen the stomach.
Catnip, Chamomile, Chickweed, Cloves, Elecampane, Fennel, Gentian Root, Ginger, Golden Seal, Papaya, Peppermint, Red Raspberry, Rhubarb, Wood Betony, Yerba Santa.

Tonic Herbs
The tonic herbs strengthen and tone either specific organs or the whole body through nutritional stimulation.
Alfalfa, Angelica, Ashwagandha, Astragalus, Black Cohosh, Black Walnut, Boneset, Burdock, Calendula, Catnip, Cat's Claw, Cayenne, Chamomile, Cleavers, Coltsfoot, Cordyceps, Cyani Flowers, Damiana, Dandelion, Echinacea, Elecampane, Fenugreek, Garlic, Gentian Root, Ginger, Siberian Ginseng, Golden Seal, Gotu Kola, Hawthorn, Hops, Ho-Shou-Wu, Hydrangea, Licorice, Male Fern, Milk Thistle, Motherwort, Muira Puama, Myrrh, Nettle, Oregon Grape, Poke root, Prickly Ash, Red Clover, Red Raspberry, Sarsaparilla, Saw Palmetto, Schizandra, Sheep Sorrel, Skullcap, Squawvine, Spirulina, Suma, Uva Ursi, Watercress, Wild Yam, Wormwood, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Yohimbe.

Vulnerary Herbs
Herbs that help promote healing of external wounds and cuts.
Aloe Vera, Calendula, Chickweed, Comfrey, Elder Flower, Golden Seal, Horsetail, Hyssop, Male Fern, Marshmallow, Mullein, Myrrh, Plantain, Rhubarb, Sage, St. John’s Wort, Slippery Elm, Wood Betony.

Mountain Rose Herbs. A herbs, health and harmony c


  1. Great list, Annica! I bookmarked this so I can reference.
    Have a great day.

  2. Thanks for posting this. I was looking for a list like this recently.