Since this is a learning blog, a glossary might be handy. The terms are in alphabetical order, and I will add to the list as I use new vocabulary terms in my postings. If you encounter any terms in my blog posts that I’ve left out below, please let me know in a comment and I’ll remedy it as soon as possible. Thanks!

A

Abscess
The result of the body’s defense against foreign material, an abscess is an enclosed pocket of pus
Adaptogen
A natural substance that works through the adrenal glands to make adjustments in the body to combat stress and increase resistance to stress, and which usually produces no side effects
Adhesion
A fibrous band of scar tissue that binds together structures that would normally be separate
Alexiteric
Used as a preventative to contagion, infection, and/or poison
Alkaloid
A bitter-tasting organic ring compound that contains at least one Nitrogen, known to have either medicinal and/or poisonous effect on humans, found most often in plants and some fungi
Alterative
Also called tonic, a substance that gradually and gently nourishes and improves the system
Amenorrhea
Absence of monthly period (menses)
Amphoteric
From the chemistry term that describes a substance that can act as either an acid or a base; in herbalism, amphoteric describes an herb that can make adjustments in either direction: increasing or decreasing, raising or lowering, etc. depending on what is needed – essentially it has a normalizing effect
Anaphrodisiac
A substance that lowers sexual desire
Anorexia
Condition marked by a lack or loss of appetite
Anorexia nervosa
An eating disorder wherein the individual refuses to maintain a normal minimum body weight, often obsessively dieting and exercising or binging and purging, often resulting in extremely low body weight and a number of other physiological symptoms
Anthraquinone
Highly-colorful derivatives of the anthracene compound, commonly used in dyes and found in plants such as aloe, cascara sagrada, senna, and rhubarb, and have cathartic action
Antibacterial
A substance that destroys, suppresses, or prevents the growth or reproduction of bacteria
Antibiotic
A substance that has the ability to inhibit the growth of or destroy bacteria and certain other microorganisms
Antioxidant
A substance that protects the body’s cells from the damaging effects of oxidation
Antiseptic
A substances that prevents infection by inhibiting the growth of microorganisms
Antispasmodic
Relieves or prevents muscle spasms, especially of smooth muscle
Antitumor
Prevents or inhibits the growth of tumors
Aperient
A mild laxative
Aphrodisiac
A substance that increases sexual desire
Astringent
Drying; a substance that contracts the cell walls of tissues to stop unwanted discharge of fluids

B

Bitters
Usually a tincture of bitter herbs and roots used as a tonic to promote appetite and aid digestion

C

Carbuncle
Often the result of pus-forming bacteria, a deep skin abscess made up of a cluster of boils
Cardiotonic
A substance that has a tonic effect on the heart
Carminative
An herb that helps in the expulsion of gas from the stomach or intestines, relieving flatulence and/or pain
Cathartic
A substance that stimulates a purging of the bowels
Celiac disease
A disease of the digestive system wherein the body reacts abnormally to gluten (found in wheat, barley, rye, etc.), resulting in damage to the small intestine and which interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food; classified as an autoimmune disorder.
Chemopreventive
A substance that is used in prevention of cancer
Chronic
An ailment or condition that is of long duration, constant, or recurring
Cirrhosis
A disease of the liver characterized by the death of liver cells and an increase in connective tissue
Constipation
A condition, acute or chronic, in which bowel movements occur less often than usual and/or consist of hard, dry stools that are painful or difficult to pass
Coumarin
A vanilla-scented constituent found in some plants, often used in perfumes and flavorings, also used in formulas to reduce blood clotting
Crohn’s disease
An inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) which results in swelling and dysfunction of the intestinal tract

D

Demulcent
A soothing and mucilaginous herb used to ease irritation and inflammation
Diaphoretic
A substance that induces sweating
Diarrhea
The frequent evacuation of watery/soft stools
Diuretic
A substance that increases the amount of urine excreted from the body
Dysentery
An infection of the intestines that causes sharp pain and diarrhea
Dysmenorrhea
Severe pains during a woman’s monthly period (menses)

E

Eczema
An inflammation of the skin, characterized by dry scales and excretion of fluid, accompanied by often intense burning or itching
Edema
A condition in which there is an abnormally large fluid volume in the circulatory system or in tissues between the body’s cells (interstitial spaces) resulting in swelling
Emmenagogue
A substance that induces, increases, or hastens menstrual flow
Emollient
An herb that softens and soothes the skin and/or mucous membranes
Endometriosis
A condition, usually involving pain and/or dysmenorrhea, that is characterized by the presence of uterine lining in other pelvic organs, especially the ovaries
Epstein-Barr virus
A strain of herpes virus that causes infectious mononucleosis
Estrogen
A female sex hormone that is responsible for preparing the uterus for fertilization
Expectorant
A substance that aids in the removal of mucus from the lungs (as by coughing)

F

Fibroid
Composed of fibrous tissue; often describes a benign tumor of the uterus
Flavonoid
Also called bioflavonoid, any of a large group of water-soluble plant pigments that are beneficial to health, having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral actions, as well as being tonic to the small blood vessels and connective tissue, and being studied for use as possible cancer treatments.

G

Galactagogue
A substance that promotes the secretion or increases the flow of breast milk; also called a lactagogue
Gastroenteritis
The inflammation of the lining mucous membrane of the stomach and intestines
Glaucoma
An eye disease characterized by damage to the optic nerve as a result of pressure within the eye, resulting in vision loss
Glycosides
Organic compounds that yield a sugar and one or more non-sugar substances on hydrolysis
Gout
An acute recurring chronic disease caused by excess of uric acid in the blood, causing stagnation, inflammation, and painful swelling in the joints, most commonly in the area of the feet and hands, and especially the big toe

H

Hemophilia
A genetic disorder (most often found in men) in which excessive bleeding can occur due to an inability for the blood to clot
Hepatic
An herb that is specific to the liver in its medicinal action
Hepatitis
A disease caused by infectious or toxic agents resulting in inflammation of the liver, characterized by jaundice, fever, liver enlargement, and abdominal pain
Herpes
Any of a number of diseases caused by the herpes virus, characterized by eruptions of blisters on the skin or mucous membranes
Hypertensive
A substance that is able to raise blood pressure
Hyperthyroidism
A condition that results from overactivity of the thyroid gland, often resulting in an enlargement of the thyroid, an increased metabolic rate, rapid heartbeat, and/or high blood pressure
Hypotensive
A substance that is able to lower blood pressure

I

J

K

L

Laxative
A substance that promotes evacuation of the bowels, often by increasing fecal volume and/or by lubricant effect
Leukemia
A cancer of the bone marrow that prevents the manufacturing of white and red blood cells and platelets, resulting in anemia, increased risk of infection, and an inability for the blood to clot properly

M

Mastalgia
Pain in the breast; also called mastodynia or mammalgia
Mastitis
An acute inflammation of the breasts
Measles
An infectius disease, also known as rubeola, commonly found in children and characterized by fever, nasal congestion and discharge, and red spots that start at the forehead and extend down the limbs of the body
Menstruum
A solvent used in extracting compounds from plants; typical menstruums include water, alcohol, and oil
Mononucleosis
An infectious disease caused by the Epstein-Barr virus, commonly found in young people in which there is an abnormal increase of mononuclear white blood cells in the blood, and characterized by fever, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes, and fatigue

N

Nervine
An herb that is soothing to the nerves and the nervous system

O

Osteoporosis
A disorder most commonly found in the elderly that results from a lack of calcium and other minerals that results in porous, brittle bones, sometimes causing pain, decreased height, and skeletal deformity
Ovarian cyst
A tumor of the ovary, usually benign

P

Pelvis inflammatory disease (PID)
Any infection of the lower female reproductive tract (vagina and cervix) that spreads to the upper female reproductive tract (uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries)
Polyp
Usually benign, a growth or protrusion from a mucous membrane which can cause obstruction
Prolapse
Used to describe when an organ, such as the uterus, falls or slips down out of place
Psoriasis
A common chronic (and often hereditary) inflammatory skin disease, characterized by reddish patches covered with silvery scales
Purgative
A substance that stimulates purging/evacuation of the bowels

Q

R

Rheumatism
A vague term used to describe any of several conditions involving pain, stiffness, inflammation or tenderness of the joints, nerves, bones, tendons, and/or muscles

S

Saponins
Plants constituents with a “soapy” character, foaming in watery solutions, with adaptogenic, anti-inflammatory, mucilaginous properties
Sciatica
A painful inflammation along the sciatic nerve – extending from the hip and down the back of the thigh
Scrofula
A form of tuberculosis that specifically targets the lymphatic glands, especially those in the neck
Steroid
Any member of a group of compounds found in both plants and animals that exhibit powerful metabolic effects
Stimulant
A substance that quickens vital processes or activity
Stomachic
A substance that stimulates the appetite and/or assists in digestion
Stye
Inflammation of the gland at the base of an eyelash

T

Tannins
Organic compounds that produce an astringent effect
Tincture
An method of extracting medicine from plant material using a menstruum of liquor, usually brandy, vodka, or grain alcohol
Tonic
An herb that invigorates and strengthens

U

Umami
The Japanese word for the fifth taste, which tends to be meaty or savory, and imparts a sense of satisfaction upon eating

V

Volatile oils
The oil of a plant that is often scented and evaporates rapidly
Vulnerary
An herb used in the healing and treating of wounds

W

X

Y

Z