What’re: Astringent Herbs

An herb or compound that contracts skin tissue, blood vessels, and other tissues, preventing the secretion of body fluids such as blood or mucus.

Astringents are typically used locally, as a topical application, to treat external wounds or to prevent bleeding from the throat or nose.

Astringent Herbs:

  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
  • Jasmine (Jasminum sambac)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)

This video shows you how to make your own herbal astringent.

What’re: Anxiolytic Herbs

An herb or compound that alleviates stress

Anxiolytic Herbs

  • Hops (Humulus lupulu)
  • Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)

In this video, Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar discusses herbs the alleviate stress, anxiety and depression.

What’re: Antispasmodic Herbs

An herb that prevents or relieves involuntary muscle spasms or cramps by strengthening the nervous system

See also: Nervines

Antispasmodic Herbs

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Gotu kola (Centella asiatica)
  • Guggul (Commiphora Mukul)
  • Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Mustard (Brassica nigra)
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)

In this video, Pharmacologist Joe Graedon of The People’s Pharmacy, discusses a few antispasmodic remedies for legs cramps.

What’re: Anticatarrhal Herbs

Anticatarrhal herbs helps to eliminate mucus from the body, prevent it from forming and alleviate inflammation of the mucus membrane. The term “catarrh” comes from the Greek word: “katarrhein,” which translates to “to flow down.”

Anti-catarrhal Herbs

  • Coltsfoot (Tussilago Farfara)
  • Elder flower (Sambucus nigra)
  • Elecampane (Inula Helenium)
  • Eyebright (Euphrasia officinale L.)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Goldenrod (Solidago virgaurea)
  • Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)

In this video, Herbalist David Hoffmann discusses the herbal action of anti-cattarhal herbs

What’re: Anthelmintic

An herb or compound that expels parasitic worms (helminths) such as tapeworms from the body. They act by stunning or killing the worms without causing significant harm to the body. The term “anthelmintic” is derived from the Greek anti, meaning “against,” and helmins, a term that denotes a worm, usually of the parasitic persuasion. There are two types of anthelmintic herbs: a vermifuge, which stuns and a vermicide, which kills.

Anthelmintic Herbs

  • Ajwan (Trachyspermum ammi)
  • Black Walnut Hulls (Juglans nigra)
  • Cayenne (Capsicum annuum)
  • Garlic (Allium sativum)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Papaya (Carica papaya)
  • Pau d’arco (Tabebuia spp.)
  • Pumpkin seed (Cucurbita maxima)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)

Parasites have killed more humans than all the wars in history.

— National Geographic

This video gives a brief overview of anthelmintic herbs, including cayenne, garlic, goldenseal, papaya and pineapple.

What’re: Antacid Herbs

An antacid herb neutralizes acids in the stomach and intestinal tract. It also helps the stomach lining recuperate and to better tolerate the gastric acid. Gastric acid is necessary for good digestion.

Antacid Herbs:

  • Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria)
  • Hops (Humulus lupulu)
  • Marshmallow (Althea officinalis)

The video below shows you four herbal teas that you can brew and take as natural antacid remedies.

What’re: Anabolic Herbs

An anabolic herb helps build muscle mass and strengthens muscle tone. It also increases energy and stamina

Anabolic Herbs:

  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax Ornata)
  • Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)

What’re: Analgesic Herbs

An herb or compound that alleviates or eliminates pain without causing loss of consciousness.

Some analgesic herbs are most effective against specific types of pain.

Analgesic Herbs:

  • Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
  • Clove (Syzygium aromaticum)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
  • Echinacea(Echinacea purpurea)
  • Feverfew (Tanacetum parthenium L.)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Passionflower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Wintergreen (Gaultheria procumbens)

The video playlist below has several analgesic herbal remedies from the traditional Indian Ayurvedic medicine.

What’re: Antioxidant Herbs

An antioxidant herb or compound mops up harmful free radicals, which are highly-reactive compounds that cause body damage at the cellular level. Free radicals cause this damage through a process called oxidation – the very same process that causes rust on metal. Antioxidants stop the “rusting” inside your body that results from oxidation.

Antioxidant Herbs

  • Beet Root (Beta vulgaris)
  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Dill (Anethum graveolens)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Green Tea (Camellia sinensis)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Free Radicals – the Bad Guys

Free radicals are unstable molecules that created through the process of oxidation. When oxidation goes unchecked in the body, free radicals go on the rampage, disrupting normal body activity and causing cell tissue damage. This, in turn, contributes to harmful health conditions such as cancer and heart disease, inflammation and diabetes, neural disorders and even aging..

Antioxidants – the Good Guys

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, preventing their harmful effects in the body. This video provides an excellent explanation of how antioxidants work, and their incredible capacity to prevent chronic diseases by neutralizing free radicals in the human body.

What’re: Adaptogenic Herbs

Adaptogenic herbs help you adapt to stress or a changing environment. An adaptogen works by helping the body adapt to environmental and internal stress, usually by strengthening the immune system, glandular system and/or nervous system. It serves as a general tonic for all systems Adaptogens are stress adapting herbs that help the body cope with internal stresses such as anxiety and external stresses such as toxins in the environment.

Adaptogenic Herbs:

  • Ashwagandha (Withania Somnifera)
  • Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Licorice root (Glycyrrhiza glabra)
  • Maca (Lepidium myeenii)
  • Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Oats (Avena sativa)
  • Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum)
  • Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea)
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax Ornata)
Dr. Robyn Klein writes that, three herbal properties: adaptogenic, alterative and tonic – have no equivalent in modern medicine, most likely because the underlying strategies of conventional medicine are different from those in herbal medicine. While modern medicine focuses on inhibition and suppression, herbal medicine emphasizes the body’s own natural processes. Adaptogenic herbs support the body’s capacity to adapt to stress. Alterative herbs promote the body’s normal secretory and eliminative processes. And tonic herbs are used to strengthen (tone) the body.
In this video, herbalist David Hoffmann discusses adaptogenic herbs, including ginseng, rhodiola, oats, reishi and shiitake.

“An adaptogen is a botanical that greatly improves your body’s ability to adapt to stress, whether it’s a hectic schedule, heat or cold, noise, high altitudes or any number of other stressors. This elite class of herbs impart strength, energy, stamina, endurance, and improve mental clarity.”

— Chris Kilham (Oprah & Friends)


  1. Mary Koithan, PhD, RN-C, CNS-BC, Associate Professor
  2. Kathryn Niemeyer, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, Doctoral student, T-32 predoctoral fellow
  3. Roberts AT, Jonge-Levitan L, Parker CC, Greenway FL. The effect of an herbal supplement containing black tea and caffeine on metabolic parameters in humans. Alternative Med Rev. 2005;10(4):321–325.
  4. Hoffmann D. Medical herbalism. Healing Arts Press; Rochester, VT: 2003. pp. 483–521.
  5. Ganora L. Herbal constituent. Herbalchem Press; Louisville, CO: 2009. p. 65.p. 102.

What’re: Alterative Herbs

An alterative is an herb or compound that gradually acts to restore the proper functioning of the body, helping to increase health and vitality. It works by changing (“altering”) your body’s processes of metabolism, improving its ability to eliminate waste through the kidneys, lungs, liver, kidneys and skin. Alterative herbs have traditionally been referred to as a “blood cleansers.”

Each system in your body has herbs that that are particularly well-suited to it. Alterative herbs have a particular affinity toward the respiratory, circulatory, urinary, digestive, reproductive, nervous system, and musculoskeletal systems.

Alterative Herbs:

  • Aloe (Aloe vera)
  • Bayberry (Myrica cerifera)
  • Black Pepper (Piper nigrum)
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Cinnamon (Cinnamomum Zeylanicum)
  • Echinacea (E. purpurea)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng
  • Myrrh (Commiphora myrrha)
  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • Safflower (Carthamus tinctorius L.)
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax aspera L.)
  • Yellow Dock Root (Rumex crispus L.)

A main focus of traditional herbalism is to support and improve the body’s health through the elimination of wastes. This is done through a process called catabolism: breakdown and elimination of wastes from the body. Waste is eliminated through the skin, lungs, kidneys liver and the large intestine. Blocked or diminished elimination allows wastes to build up, weakening the fitness of the body and its defensive abilities. In fact, congestion is considered one of the most important enemies to your health. Faulty catabolism can also lead to deficient construction of healthy tissue. Alterative herbs are used to improve circulation and encourage the secretory and eliminative functions, thus supporting fitness and construction of healthy tissue. Alteratives are not forceful, but, rather, they gently nourish and support the body’s eliminative functions. Alterative herbs are selected based on their affinity to a particular tissue or organ system. The bitter taste of dandelion root, for example, stimulates the production of bile in the liver, which, in turn, supports digestion and the elimination of wastes (Source).

Herbalist Hoffman on Alterative Herbs

Adaptogenic, Alterative or Tonic?

Dr. Robyn Klein writes that, three herbal properties: alterative, adaptogenic and tonic – have no equivalent in modern medicine, most likely because the underlying strategies of conventional medicine are different from those in herbal medicine.

While modern medicine focuses on inhibition and suppression, herbal medicine emphasizes the body’s own natural processes.

Alterative herbs promote the body’s normal secretory and eliminative processes. Adaptogenic herbs support the body’s capacity to adapt to stress. And tonic herbs are used to strengthen (tone) the body.

What’re: Adjuvant Herbs

An herb or compound that acts to increase the effectiveness of other medicinal herbs. The term is derived from derived from the Latin word adjuvare, which means to help.

An adjuvant herb is added to a formula of other herbs so as to aid in the distribution of the healing benefits to the targeted location in the body. It also acts to enhance the effect of the other principle herbal ingredients in the remedy.

Adjuvant Herbs

  • Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Polygala (Polygala tenuifolia)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)

Herbs may also be used as adjuvant to conventional medicine. Several clinical studies report the beneficial effects of using medicinal herbs as adjuvants for conventional cancer therapy. When these herbs are used in combination with chemo- or radio-therapy, they help enhance survival, immune modulation, and the quality of life (QOL) of cancer patients.


In the video below, Dr. K. F. Cheng discusses how medicinal herbs can be used as adjuvants to conventional cancer therapy, to improve the efficacy of the therapy and reduce side effects and complications.


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  2. Herbs—Packed with Powerful Antioxidants—Oregano Ranks Highest
  3. David Hoffman (2013), Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies
  4. Rosemary Gladstar (2014), Herbs for Common Ailments: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Home Health Care
  5. Robyn A. Klein: Linking Plant Medicine to Traditional Knowledge