Copyright © 1990 - 2016 by Robert Dale Rogers. All rights reserved.
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From the Next Generation Herbalist Program
PREVIEW REFERENCE to
HERBAL ACTIONS AND PROPERTIES "A"
In order for herbalists to converse and think about plant energetics, it is important to have a common groundwork of definitions.
The term adaptogen was coined, by Soviet scientists, in 1964. They first described activity that increased body resistance and vitality, but had a normalizing effect on body tissues. That is, adaptogenic herbs help increase capacity to resist disease caused by stress, not by blocking the stress response, but by smoothing out the highs and
lows of endocrine function. Adaptogens help clients adjust or adapt to changing environment and ability to cope with today’s physiological stress.
Examples include Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), Reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum), Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea), Maral Root (Leuzea/Rhaponticum carthamoides), Ashwaganda (Withania somnifera), Schizandra (Schisandra chinensis), as well as Panax and American Ginseng (Panax spp.). I include Wild Sarsaparilla and Devil’s Club in this grouping.
Alteratives are herbs that help the body eliminate waste, and improve overall health by promoting good digestive function and proper immune response. In older texts, the term was often associated with “blood cleansing”, which does no justice to physiology. Alteratives do not alter anything, in spite of the name! They are herbs often suggested during infection, or to resolve long-standing, low-grade infections.
Alteratives help normalize a pathological condition, by adjusting both hyper and hypoactive systems.
Although difficult to explain, the effect is obvious upon observing the eliminating organ systems. Urine will smell stronger and appear darker, the bowels will become looser and more odoriferous.
Perspiration may increase but more importantly, may be stronger in odour, while the lungs expel phlegm and mucous in excessive amounts.
Alteratives generally are most useful in chronic degenerative and inflammatory conditions. Care must be taken with alteratives, as the promotion and elimination of toxic wastes can cause discomfort and irritation if done too rapidly. In the case of clients with liver damage, the use of alteratives is preceded by use of hepatoprotective herbs, such as Gentian, Licorice Root, Schisandra or Ginger.
Examples of alteratives are Red Clover (Trifolium pratense), Burdock (Arctium lappa), Garlic (Allium sativum), and Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica). Alteratives have affinity for particular organ systems and will be covered individually.
Anodynes are herbs that help relieve pain, either topical or internally. Some examples are Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa), Ginger (Zingiber officinalis), Peppermint (Mentha piperita), Jamaican Dogwood (Piscidia erythrina) and Feverfew (Chrysanthemum parthenium).
An antacid herb helps neutralize excess acid in the stomach and intestinal tract. They may be demulcent and help protect and coat the stomach lining, or modify acid production.
One of nature’s best examples is Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria). Dandelion root, fennel seed, slippery elm, and Irish moss also fit this category.
Anthelmintic herbs kill parasites and worms. Individual herbs appear to work better for specific conditions, ranging from the mild, safe effect of Pineapple Weed for pinworms in children, to the powerful Pomegranate root bark for tapeworms. Other effective plants are various Artemisia spp., including Sweet Wormwood, Wormseed, and Wormwood, as well as Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), Elecampane (Inula helenium), Butternut and Walnut (Juglans spp.). The term Vermifuge (see below), refers to agents that remove worms from the body, but do not necessarily kill them.
Anti-catarrhal herbs help remove excessive mucous from the body, whether it be in the gastro-intestinal tract, the respiratory system or the bladder. This normally involves reducing the amount of mucous secretion, or thinning mucous and thereby helping remove it more easily. Also see Expectorant.
Generally speaking, an anti-catarrhal herb is combined with a diaphoretic, diuretic or laxative to help elimination from other body systems. Examples include cayenne, ginger, sage, mullein, yerba santa, gota kola, and comfrey.
Anti-coagulant herbs help prevent clotting in any fluid, but mainly refer to the blood. Many of the herbs mentioned contain coumarin compounds, such as Sweet Clover (Melilotus spp.), Bedstraw (Galium spp.) and Red Clover.
Anti-depressant herbs are covered under nervines. St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum) is probably the best-known example. But as the herbal student will see, this herb has much more to offer than relief from mild to moderate depression. Much more.
Inflammation is the body’s response to infection and other acute illness, and should not be suppressed unless life threatening. In fact, inflammation is perhaps the most important tool available to the body, to help restore homeostasis, and balance.
Again, anti-inflammatory herbs have body system affinity, and operate
in different manners, depending upon their composition.
A wide range of plants contain salicin, including Poplar, Willow and Birch barks, as well as Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) herb. Other plants such as Licorice root contain saponins that are utilized by the body to produce or extend steroid molecular activity, while Calendula, Chamomile and Plantain reduce digestive and skin inflammation.
It is widely accepted in both the natural and biomedical models of health, that chronic inflammation a major contributing factor in chronic disease. It matters little which organ system is affected.
Anti-microbial herbs assist in active or secondary control of bacteria, viruses and fungi. These herbs are therefore active participants in microbial destruction, or assist the immune system by stimulating
its function. These herbs may be used internally or externally. Some examples include Garlic, Juniper berry, Elecampane, Osha, Usnea, Goldenseal and Thyme.
Anti-oxidants help prevent oxidation that contributes to premature aging, and auto immune damage to tissue. Some of the better known anti-oxidants are Green Tea, Calendula, proanthocyanidins from Pine bark and Grapeseed, Rosemary, Turmeric, Bilberry, Pomegranate,
Gingko, Fleeceflower (Polygonum cuspidatum), Roseroot (Rhodiola rosea) Goldenrod and Schisandra.
Anti-rheumatic herbs help relieve or prevent inflammation, and degeneration of the connective tissue, such as muscles, tendons, and bursa. There is a restriction of movement, accompanied by pain and stiffness. Examples include Pipsissewa (Chimaphila umbellata), Devil’s Claw (Harpagophytum procumbens) and Celery seed (Apium graveolens).
Antiseptic herbs prevent or destroy sepsis or infectious destructive conditions of tissue, and will be covered under that category. Examples include goldenseal, calendula and myrrh.
These are herbs that help relax, prevent or reduce muscular spasms via the autonomic nervous system, but are not necessarily sedatives or nervines. Carminative herbs (see below) are usually anti-spasmodic in action towards the digestive system, and relaxing expectorants (see below), often act as anti-spasmodics for the respiratory system.
An example of an anti-spasmodic nervine is Valerian
(Valeriana officinalis). Other anti-spasmodics are Black Cohosh, Kava Kava, Skullcap and Raspberry leaf.
Aperients gently stimulate digestion, and may possess very mild laxative action. Examples include Chamomile, Licorice root, and a variety of kitchen spices.
Aphrodisiacs increase sexual excitement and libido. Some examples include Damiana (Turnera aphrodisiaca), Catuaba, Muira Pauma, Astragalus, Panax Ginseng, Puncture Vine, Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium breviconum), Maca (Lepidium meyenii), and Yohimbe.
Astringent herbs generally work via the action of tannins or gallotannins on tissue. The name tannin is associated with the production of leather from animal hides, due to precipitation and drawing together of protein, gelatin, and salts.
The greatest advantage of astringents is the drawing together of tissue, as in wound healing, and the repair of digestive system conditions caused by inflammation, infection and/or irritation.
Astringent herbs are used, internally and externally, to balance fluids. If one looks at the example of a water blister formed from a burn, the astringent poultice will stop fluid loss into the blister, as well as create resorption back into underlying tissue, creating a healthier environment.
Astringents are therefore used for diarrhea, and edema of swollen ankles or water retention related to pre-menstruation.
Black tea, for example, is a good astringent, and an example can be felt in the mouth upon ingestion. Yarrow is an example of an astringent that is useful for cardiovascular, respiratory, digestive, urinary, and skin conditions, usually combined with other herbs.
Astringents precipitate herbs high in alkaloids, so many tannin rich tinctures contain up to 10% vegetable glycerine to prevent this action.
Examples include white oak bark, yellow dock, witch hazel, myrrh, stoneroot, uva ursi, and horsetail.
LISTING OF THE TOPICS "B" to "V" COvered in full in the modules
GATHERING MEDICINAL HERBS
ORGANIC HERB FARMS
PARTS OF PLANTS USED FOR MEDICINE PLANT
ADMINISTERING HERBAL THERAPY
PREPARING AND STORING
HAND AND FOOT BATHS/ SITZ BATHS/ HERBAL BATHS
FRESH PLANT TINCTURE
FREEZE DRIED EXTRACTS
OINTMENTS, SALVES, LOTIONS, AND CREAMS
SUPPOSITORIES, BOLUSES, VAGINAL PACKS
HERBAL CONSTITUENTS PHYTOCHEMISTRY
Stephen Harrod Buhner
GUMS, OLEORESINS, BALSAMS
WHY THE HERBAL SERIES IS PRESENTED AS IT IS.
HYDROSOLS (FLORAL WATERS)
BECOMING AN HERBALIST A PERSONAL JOURNEY
SCENTS OF WOND ER
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
FLOWER ESSENCE RESOURCES