Herbal Glossary

Herbalism is the practice of using plants through a variety of preparations such as teas, extractions, infusions, powders, tinctures, syrups, essential oils, etc., for supporting the healing of the body, mind, & spirit in a variety of applications often used in conjunction with one another, and even beside Western allopathic medicine and other healing practices. Here I have compiled a glossary of terms as a reference to help you not only better understand my listings and other information found on my website, but to build your own herbal glossary and expand your herbal knowledge base in general.

Action: a way of categorizing herbs based on the effect that they have on the body. Herbal actions help define the medicinal properties of a plant and the physiological response(s) the body is expected to have in response to consuming or using the herb. Some examples of an herbal action are: diuretic, expectorant, nervine.

Affinity: a natural attraction. In the context of herbalism when we say an herb has an affinity for a certain tissue type or organ system, we mean that the herb may have a particularly strong tendency to go to work on that organ system or tissue type. Example: hepatic, stomachic.

Aromatherapy: the therapeutic use of aroma, usually through the application of essential oils derived from plant materials through the process of distillation, to enhance a person’s well-being. May be inhaled or applied to the skin through massage or application of body products.

Balm: a topical ointment to soothe or heal the skin. Usually a combination of an infused oil and a wax (often beeswax) to produce a solid that will still melt and spread with body heat. Balms tend to have a higher wax ratio than salves and are therefore more firm.

Compress: a pad of material placed against a part of the body for therapeutic purposes, usually to reduce inflammation at the site where it’s being placed. A compress may be a cloth soaked in a decoction of herbs or an oil, or it may be the crushed up fresh plant itself then held against the body with a bandage to keep it in place.

Constituents: the substances contained within plants which have a physiological or possibly medicinal effect on the body. Constituents are what we are being extracted using solvents from the plants via our different methods such as tincturing or making tea.

Contraindication/Contraindicated: a condition or circumstance that suggests a therapy, technique, or remedy would not be advised due to the potential for adverse effects.

Decoction: the action of extracting plant constituents through boiling, usually for a period of 10 minutes or more. A strong tea. Commonly used with roots and barks.

Energetics: the way in which a plant works to shift the ecology of the body. While there is also a side to herbal energetics that includes the effects of a plant on a person’s mind or spirit, we first look at energetics as the conditions or qualities of the herbal preparation and their physiological effects on the tissue, as well as the qualities of the tissue itself, such as hot/cold, dry/moist (damp), and tense/relaxed.

Glycerite: a non-alcoholic herbal preparation made by using food-grade vegetable glycerine as the solvent in an extraction (as opposed to alcohol.)

Hydrosol: a water-based preparation obtained through the process of steam distillation of plants in the production of essential oils. May be used on its own or as an ingredient in topical herbal preparations. Contains trace amounts of volatile oils suspended in the water that could not be fully separated to make the pure essential oil.

Infusion: a water-based preparation where plant material has been left to steep in just boiled water with the heat turned off. A tea.

Infused Herbal Body Oil: a topical herbal preparation made by using an oil as the solvent in an extraction. The oils are often food grade, such as olive, grapeseed, coconut, or sesame oil, and of high quality (not canola or mixed vegetable oil). You may also opt to use an oil such as jojoba or castor oil. Animal fats such as tallow or lard may also be infused with plants, although they are not a liquid oil.

Menstruum: the liquid portion of an herbal extraction, ie, water, alcohol, glycerine, oil, or a combination of these liquids (alcohol and water, glycerine and water.)

Oxymel: an herbal preparation made using both a vinegar extraction and honey.

Salve: a topical ointment to soothe or heal the skin. Usually a combination of an infused oil and a wax (often beeswax) to produce a solid that will still melt and spread with body heat. Salves tend to have a higher oil ratio than balms and are therefore softer.

Solvent: a substance with the ability to dissolve other substances to form a solution. Examples include: water, alcohol, fat/oil, glycerine.

Tea/Tisane: a medicinal drink made as an infusion of water with plants.

Tincture: an herbal preparation made by dissolving a plant into alcohol (and some water.)

Trophorestorative: a substance that has a nourishing and replenishing action on a specific organ system or tissue type, working to restore vitality to that system or tissue

Vulnerary: capable of and used to heal wounds.

I will continue to add additional definitions to this herbal glossary to serve as a handy reference while you’re visiting my site. I will link back to this herbal glossary whenever I can within products listings as well, in the interest of facilitating informed shopping decisions in the absence of face-to-face conversation.