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Herbal Aromatherapy™ Words to Know

There are a lot of words that you learn when you start studying herbs and essential oils and, at first, sorting out what each of them means can feel a little bit daunting. I’ve put together a list of a lot of the words you’ll need to know here for you so you can reference it as needed when you’re studying.


herbal aromatherapy words to know

Adaptogenic: brings balance, helps the body to normalize function

Alterative: blood cleanser

Analgesic / anodyne: relieves pain

Anthelmintic: causes expulsion of intestinal worms

Anti-anxiety: calms anxiety

Antibacterial: inhibits or destroys bacteria

Anticatarrhal: calms inflammation of the mucous membrane associated with excess mucus

Anti-emetic: relieves nausea and vomiting

Anti-inflammatory: relieves inflammation and associated discomfort

Antilithic: helps prevent and/or dissolve stones (gall, kidney, etc.)

Antimicrobial: inhibits/destroys the spread or growth of microorganisms

Antipyretic: reduces fever

Antirheumatic: relieves pain associated with rheumatic conditions

Antiseptic: destroys / inhibits spread of bacteria

Antispasmodic: relaxes muscles and muscle spasms

Antitussive: relieves coughing

Antiviral: inhibits/prevents the spread of viruses

Astringent: causes a drying/tightening of the tissues

Carminative: relieves gas / indigestion

CNS sedative: calms the central nervous system

CNS stimulant: stimulates the central nervous system

Cholagogue: stimulates bile flow

Circulatory Stimulant: increases circulation (locally or throughout the body, depending on how it’s used)

Compress: a topical application of an herbal formula, usually applied to the body via a cloth soaked in the formula (most of the time, a strong tea)

Contraindication: a warning indicating that the botanical should not be used in such cases

Cooling: reduces heat in the body/mind

Decoction: a water extraction of a root or woody herb

Decongestant: helps relieve congestion in the upper respiratory tract

Demulcent: soothing, especially to mucous membranes; mucilaginous

Diaphoretic: causes sweating

Diffuse: to disperse aromatic substances into the air, usually via an aromatherapy diffuser, cotton ball or tissue

Diffusive: disperses energy

Distillation: a process used to separate a plant’s essential oils from the plant material

Diuretic: increases urination

Emmenagogue: promotes menstruation

Emollient: softens and soothes the skin

Expectorant: causes mucus / phlegm to be discharged from the respiratory tract

Febrifuge: reduces fever

Galactagogue: increases milk production

Grounding: brings one back down to earth, promotes feelings of calm, clarity and safety

Glycerite: an herbal extract using glycerin as a base

Hemostatic: stops bleeding

Hepatic: assists the liver

Homeostasis: a state of balance in the body, with everything working together as it should

Hypotensive: lowers blood pressure

Laxative: relieves constipation; promotes excretion

Mucilaginous: contains mucilage and is therefore soothing, softening and moistening

Nervine: calms and strengthens the nervous system

Oxymel: a vinegar extraction of an herb combined with honey

Poultice: a topical application of herbs, sometimes covered with a dry, warm cloth

Purgative: causes the bowels to empty

Relaxant: causes relaxation

Rubefacient: increases circulation to an area (topical application)

Salve: an herbal preparation made with a carrier oil infused with herbs, then melted together with beeswax to form a semi-hard product for topical application

Sedative: calming

Shrub: an herbal extract of vinegar and honey

Sialagogue: induces salivation

Stomachic: supports digestion

Suppository: a clinical application of botanical ingredients meant for rectal or vaginal insertion

Tincture: an herbal extract, usually made with alcohol, but sometimes made with vinegar or glycerin

Tisane: herbal tea

Tonic: strengthens and tones the body, bodily system, or organ with which it has an affiliation

Uplifting: lifts the spirits, dispels sadness, hopelessness and grief; instills hopefulness and lightness of mind

Vasodilator: causes vasodilation of blood vessels

Vermifuge: expels parasites and worms from the intestines

Volatile oils: aromatic compounds (essential oils)

Vulnerary: wound healing

Warming: brings heat, enhances circulation and function


I hope this resource was helpful for you!

Much love,