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Herbal Properties Guide

The remarkable aspect of herbs is their combination of several different healing properties.  Thus, each herb will have a combination of specific effects on particular systems of the body, and also some very general effects.  By carefully matching the herbal properties with the symptoms being treated, it is possible to confront the entire scope of the disease at once, achieving a cure quickly and with the minimum possible dosage.  Also, by referencing the herbal properties, it becomes easier to substitute one herb for another. 


Also known as blood purifiers, these agents gradually and favorably alter the condition of the body.  They are used in treating toxicity of the blood, infections, arthritis, cancer and skin eruptions. 

Some Alteratives include: Red Clover, Echinacea, Dandelion Root, Alfalfa, Marshmallow Root, Black Walnut BarkBurdock, Calendula Flower, Ginseng, Licorice, Raspberry Leaf, Wheatgrass Powder,White Willow Bark, and Nettle Leaf.


Herbs that are taken to relieve pain.  Some Analgesics include: Echinacea, Chamomile, Ginger, Lemongrass, Noni Fruit, Skullcap, Turmeric, White Willow Bark, and Valerian.


Herbs that neutralize excess acids in the stomach and intestines.  Many also have demulcent properties to protect the stomach lining. Some Antacids are Dandelion Root, Slippery Elm Bark, and Kelp.


Herbs that help to inhibit abortive tendencies. The herbs will not interfere with the natural process of miscarriage when the fetus is damaged or improperly secured. Antiabortives include: Kelp.


Herbs that relieve the symptoms of asthma.  Some, like Lobelia, are strong Antispasmodics that dilate the bronchioles.  Others, like Yerba Santa help break up the mucus.  Some herbs like Mullein may be smoked for quick relief, which may also be taken as tea.  Other Antiasthmatics include Açai Berry Juice, Ginseng, Rooibos African Red Tea, and Wild Cherry Bark.


Substances that inhibit the growth of, or destroy, bacteria, viruses or amoebas.  While many herbal antibiotics have direct germ killing effects, they have as a primary action, the stimulation of the body's own immune response.  Excessive use of antibiotics will eventually destroy the beneficial bacteria of the intestines.  In fighting stubborn infections it is a good idea to maintain favorable intestinal flora by eating miso, tamari, or fresh yogurt.  Important antibiotic herbs include Echinacea and Olive Leaf.


Herbs that eliminate or counteract the formation of mucus.  A treatment for catarrh should also include the use of herbs that aid elimination through sweat (diaphoretics), urine (diuretics), and feces (laxatives).  Anticatarrhal herbs include: Cayenne Pepper, Ginkgo Biloba, Sage, Cinnamon, Mullein, Wild Cherry Bark, and Yerba Santa.


Cooling herbs used to reduce or prevent fevers.  Cooling may refer to neutralizing harmful acids in the blood (excess heat) as well as reducing body temperature.  Antipyretics include: Alfalfa, Skullcap, Dulse, Rosemary, White Willow Bark, and Kelp.


Herbs that can be applied to the skin to prevent the growth of bacteria.  This includes the Astringents.  Some Antiseptics include: CalendulaAstragalus, Chamomile, Hibiscus Flower, Nettle LeafOlive LeafRosehipsRosemaryTurmeric, White Willow Bark, Yerba Santa, and Sage.


Herbs that prevent or relax muscle spasms.  They may be applied either internally or externally for relief.  Antispasmodics are included in most herb formulas to relax the body and allow it to use its full energy for healing.  Some Antispasmodics include: Astragalus, Cayenne PepperChamomileEleutherococcus,  Skullcap, Hibiscus Flower, Hops, LavenderLemon BalmLicoriceMullein LeafNettle LeafValerian, Passionflower, Peppermint, Red Clover, Rosehips, Sage, Spearmint Leaf, Yerba Santa, and Raspberry Leaf.


Substances used to improve sexual potency and power.  Aphrodisiacs include:  Astragalus, Burdock, Ginseng, and Maca Root.


Herbs that have a constricting or binding effect.  They are commonly used to check hemorrhages and secretions, and to treat swollen tonsils and hemorrhoids.  The main herbal Astringents contain tannins, which are found in most plants, especially in tree barks.  Important Astringents include: Aloe VeraApple FiberBeet RootCalendulaCayenne PepperCinnamonDandelion Root, Eyebright, FenugreekHawthorn Berry, Hibiscus Flower, Mullein LeafOlive LeafPeppermint, Raspberry Leaf, RosehipsRosemary, Sage, St. John's Wort, White Willow Bark, Wild Cherry Bark, and Yucca Root.


Herbs and spices taken to relieve gas and griping (severe pains in the bowels).  Examples of Carminatives include: Astragalus, Cayenne PepperChamomile, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, GinsengLavenderLemon BalmLemongrassPeppermint,  Sage, Valerian, Wild Cherry Bark, and Yerba Santa.


Substances used to promote the flow and discharge of bile into the small intestine.  These will also be laxatives, as the bile will stimulate elimination.  Some Cholagogues are: Aloe VeraDandelion RootLicorice, Red Clover, Wormwood, and Yerba mate.


Soothing substances, usually mucilage, taken internally to protect damaged or inflamed tissues.  Usually a Demulcent herb will be used along with diuretics to protect the kidney and urinary tract, especially when kidney stones and gravel are present.  Important Demulcents include: Apple Fiber, Burdock, Cinnamon, Dulse, FenugreekGinsengKelpMarshmallow RootMilk ThistleMullein Leaf, Slippery Elm Bark, Licorice, and Oat Straw.


Herbs used to induce sweating. To administer Diaphoretics effectively, the stomach and bowels should be emptied by fasting and using an enema.  However, laxatives should not be used before using these herbs.  Sweating teas should be hot; when given cold, they act as diuretics.  Some Diaphoretics include: BurdockCalendulaCayenne PepperChamomile, Elder Berries, Ginger, Lemon BalmPeppermintRosemary, and Spearmint Leaf.


Herbs that increase the flow of urine.  They are used to treat water retention, obesity, lymphatic swellings, nerve inflammations such as lumbago and sciatica, infections of the urinary tract, skin eruptions, and kidney stones.  Whenever a Diuretic is given, a lesser amount of Demulcent herb is also given to buffer the effect of the diuretic on the kidneys (especially when the Diuretic contains irritating properties) and to protect the tissues from the movement of kidney stones.  Some Diuretics include: Alfalfa, Astragalus, Beet Root, Elder Berries, Hibiscus Flower, MarshmallowNettle Leaf, Burdock, Dandelion, Hops, Oat Straw, Red Clover, Yerba mate, and Hawthorn Berry.


Herbs that promote menstruation, usually causing it to occur earlier, and sometimes with increased flow.  These have been used in the past to induce abortions, so extreme caution is advised.  All of these, when taken in sufficient quantity to cause abortion, have other strong effects on the body.  None of these should be taken when a woman wants to be pregnant.  These are now commonly used to help regulate the menstrual cycle.  Herbs with strong Emmenagogue properties include: Pennyroyal, Juniper Berries, and Black Cohosh. Herbs with some emmenagogue properties include: Aloe VeraCalendulaChamomileLemon Balm, and Nettle Leaf.


Substances that are softening, soothing, and protective to the skin.  These include Aloe VeraFenugreekKelpMarshmallow Root, and Slippery Elm Bark.


Herbs that assist in expelling mucus from the lungs and throat.  Expectorants include: Eyebright, FenugreekGinsengLemongrassLicoriceMulleinNettle Leaf, Red Clover, Slippery Elm Bark, Wild Cherry Bark, Yucca Root and Yerba Santa.


Substances that increase the secretion of milk.  Anise Seed, Cumin, Dandelion Root, and Fennel.


Substances that arrest hemorrhaging.  These include astringents and herbs that affect the coagulation of blood. Cayenne PepperMulleinNettle Leaf, and Raspberry Leaf.


Herbs that promote bowel movements.  A strong laxative that causes increased intestinal peristalsis is called a purgative in many texts. Some laxatives include: Aloe VeraBlack Walnut Bark, Elder Berries, Licorice, Yerba mate, and Yucca Root.


Herbs that help to dissolve and eliminate urinary and biliary stones and gravel.  For kidney and bladder stones, use Parsley, Dandelion Root and Nettle Leaf. For the gallbladder, use Wild Cherry Bark and Cascara Sagrada.


Herbs that calm nervous tension and nourish the nervous system.  Herbs with nervine properties include: Chamomile, Hops, Passionflower, Rooibos African Red Tea, Rosemary, Skullcap, and Valerian.


Herbs that destroy parasites in the digestive tract or on the skin.  Parasiticides include: Chamomile, Cinnamon, ClovesBlack Walnut BarkNettle Leaf, and Wormwood.


Substances that increase the flow of blood at the surface of the skin and produce redness where they are applied.  Their function is to draw inflammation and congestion from deeper areas.  They are useful for the treatment of arthritis, rheumatism, and other joint problems and for sprains.  Rubefacients include: Cayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Olive Leaf, and Wheatgrass Powder.


Herbs that strongly quiet the nervous system.  These will include antispasmodics and nervines.  Useful Sedatives include: Valerian, Hops, Chamomile, Passionflower, St. John's WortWild Cherry Bark and Skullcap.


Substances that stimulate the flow of saliva and thus aid in the digestion of starches.  Some Sialagogues are Beet Root, Echinacea, Ginger, LicoriceRooibos African Red Tea, and Yerba Santa.


Herbs that increase the energy of the body, drive the circulation, break up obstruction and warm the body.  Stimulants include:  Bee Pollen, ClovesCayenne Pepper, Cinnamon, Echinacea, EleutherococcusGinseng, Ginger, Ginkgo BilobaRosemary, Sage, Peppermint, Raspberry Leaf, Valerian, Yerba Santa,and Astragalus.

Stomachics - see Tonics


Herbs that promote the functions of the systems of the body.  Most Tonics have general effects on the whole body, but also have a marked effect on a specific system. Some tonic herbs include: Açai Berry Juice, AlfalfaApple Fiber, Burdock, Cayenne PepperDandelion RootFenugreekGinsengHawthorn Berry, Hops, Milk Thistle, and Yerba mate.


Herbs that encourage the healing of wounds by promoting cell growth and repair.  Some Vulneraries are: Aloe Vera, Cayenne Pepper, CalendulaFenugreekGinsengMullein LeafRosemaryMarshmallow Root, and Slippery Elm Bark.