Here is Part 2 of an expanded glossary of herbal actions. You can find Part 1 here.
herb or drug that eases discomfort caused by gas or flatulence
Commonly Used Carminative Herbs
- lemon balm
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Use these with digestive discomfort. Other uses include the relief of apparent cardiac symptoms (chest pain that’s mistaken for acid reflux or heartburn) and general metabolism support.
The complexes of volatile oils (terpenes) have local anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic effects on mucus linings.
an herb or drug that stimulates the flow of bile in the liver
Common Cholagogue Herbs
These are specific for the liver, but the secretion of bile helps the entire digestive process. These can be used to aid in the digestion of fat-soluble substances (such as many vitamins). These herbs can help clear skin problems, since they help the body cleanse itself of waste and toxins.
See this article here.
an herb or drug that soothes and protects inflamed internal tissue
Common Demulcent Herbs
Different herbs that fall in this category can be used for different issues. For instance, cornsilk helps with inflamed tissue due to a UTI. Others are soothing to an irritated respiratory tract (comfray) or digestive inflammation perhaps due to GERD (licorice).
Pharmacological mechanisms are still debated.
an herb or drug that helps the body increase the rate of urine production, and so rid the body of excess fluids
Common Diuretic Herbs
Hoffman suggests the use of diuretics medicinally for a wide range of issues that result in excess fluid accumulation (some kinds of arthritis, digestive issues). I’ve used them simply when I feel a bit bloated, particularly a nice cup of dandelion tea.
Some increase kidney blood flow, and others reduce water reabsorption in the nephrons of the kidney.
herb or drug that helps treat conditions of the female reproductive system, particularly that stimulate menstrual flow.
- cohosh (black and blue)
This category encompasses several different sub-actions on the female reproductive system. Some herbs are uterine tonics (toning and strengthening the tissues of the uterus), others directly stimulate menstruation. Still others are hormone normalizing, or uterine astringents (reducing blood loss), demulcents, nervines, and antispasmodics. Depending on
Depending on the sub-action, the mechanism is still entirely unknown.
an herb or drug that facilitates the remove of bronchial secretions (helps you cough up phlegm)
Common Expectorant Herbs
Self-explanatory. Theses are good for any infections of the respiratory tract that produce excess phlegm.
There are two types of expectorants: stimulating and relaxing. The former type irritates the bronchioles to stimulate coughing, and helps to liquify various phlegms. Some of these (ipecac) can induce vomiting, so be sure to look carefully into which herbs you choose to use. Relaxing expectorants soothe bronchial spasms and loosen phlegm, producing a thinner goo that’s easier to cough up.
an herb or drug aids the liver
Common Hepatic Herbs
- milk thistle
Some hepatics are strong enough to treat diseases of the liver. For this sort of use, I recommend consulting an actual text and understanding the body system and disease before blindly applying these. For most people reading this, I assume you’re wanting to keep an already healthy liver in good shape.
As with many herbal remedies, there is no Science(TM) approved mechanism of action. All we have is a long history of their uses and successes.
an herb or drug that induces deep sleep
Common Hypnotic Herbs
These aren’t “sleeping pills” in the pharmaceutical sense. Some do act directly on the central nervous system, while others have more general muscle relaxant properties that can ease mental tension. I personally have suffered from nightmares in the past, and have found passionflower, skullcap, and valerian to aid greatly in the reduction of nightmares. I’ll make a tea from them in the evening. They won’t eliminate issues completely (for instance, I’ll still have an occasional nightmare just because or sometimes directly due to stress), but I can personally attest that these herbs do work.
Some contain volatile oils that stimulate muscle relaxation, and others contain alkaloids that act directly on the central nervous system.
Herb or drug that reduces blood pressure
Common Hypotensive Herbs
Hopefully the primary use is obvious. As a secondary use, lowering blood pressure can help with stress reduction as well, which is why you see some herbs listed here that are also hypnotics.
There is quite a bit of medical detail involved here. I recommend reading pp. 171-175 of Hoffman’s text for further explanation.
an herb or drug with a beneficial effect on the nervous system
Common Nervine Herbs
- St. John’s wort
- lemon balm
UsesIn general, nervines are used to help the body process and relieve stress and to strength the nervous system.
There are several sub-actions in this category, including
- tonics (condition and strengthen)
The specific mechanisms of actions are still debated, and depend on the sub-action as well.
herb or drug that quickens physiological activity of the body. This can include laxatives, circulatory stimulants, and even bitters.
Common Stimulant Herbs
- coca tree (the source of cocaine)
For the standard stimulants (coffee), no explanation is needed. (Obviously, I’m not advocating for the use of the coca tree or any of its derivatives.) Other stimulants can aid in digestion (ginger, garlic) or circulatory stimulants (yarrow).