by erin stewart -1458

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,

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Erin Stewart is an herbalist, NAHA certified aromatherapist, organic gardener and urban homesteader. She grows over 150 kinds of aromatic and medicinal plants for her own apothecary and distills essential oils and hydrosols in her PNW garden. Erin is the founder of Floranella and of AromaCulture’s herbalism + aromatherapy magazine.

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4 thoughts on “Herbal Aromatherapy™ Words to Know”

  1. What is a hydrosol? Sorry I have read several different definitions and not quite sure which is correct! Thanks for this. Super helpful.

    1. Erin Stewart

      A hydrosol is an aromatic water produced when you distill plant material. Steam travels through the still up through the plant material and picks up its aromatic compounds and a collection of constituents, then travels through the condenser and cools back down into a liquid that is basically impregnated with the plant’s essence.

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