Some Herbal Medicine Terminology

Blüte der Ringelblume    dandelion

Calendula officinalis and Taraxacum officinale

Herbal Terminology

Alterative Herbs – These are herbs that gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. They alter the body’s processes of metabolism enabling the body to deal with a variety of functions better, from nutrition to elimination.

Many alternative herbs improve the body’s ability to eliminate waste products through the liver, kidneys, lungs and skin. Others stimulate digestion or have antimicrobial properties. Alteratives enable the body move towards health where there are indications of systemic disintegration.

Although there are many herbs with alterative actions, this may not be their primary function. However, they can be used to support the body through a range of health conditions. It is useful to include alterative herbs where there is a problem of chronic inflammation or degenerative disease present.

Alterative herbs are often particularly useful for a specific system of the body, for instance: respiratory system, gastrointestinal system, urinary system, circulation, skin reproductive system, musculoskeletal system and nervous system.

Alteratives are especially indicated where there are problems with skin conditions, arthritis and autoimmune conditions.

Examples of Alteratives 

Zantholoxylum americanum (Prickly ash) – Circulatory stimulant.

Urica dioica (Stinging nettle) – Urinary system

Nettle, Common (Urtica dioica) Fosse Meadows Sharnford SP48249111 (taken 8.9.2010)

Arctium lappa (Burdock) – Urinary system, Liver and Skin

Rumex crispus (Yellow dock) – Liver and Skin

Inula helenium (Elecampine) – Respiratory system

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion) – Liver

Trefolium pratense (Red clover) – Skin

Iris versicolor (Blue flag) – GIT and Urinary system

Galium aparine (cleavers) – Cleansing effect/Urinary/Skin



A herb that helps to stimulate appetite and assists the body with digestion.

Some herbs that have this action:

Gentiana lutea (Gentian)

Fumaria officinalis (Fumitory)

Taraxacum officinale (Dandelion)

Matricaria recutita (Chamomile)

Angelica archangelica (Angelica)

Glechoma hederacea (Ground Ivy)

g_hederaceaInula helenium (Elecampine)



These are herbs that suppress a cough

Herbs with this action include:

Inula helenium (Elecampine)

Thymus vulgaris (Thyme)

5680227659_a12e7a050b_bTussilago farfara (Coltsfoot) Coltsfoot009

Prunus serotina (Wild cherry bark) – one of its constituents are cyanogenic glycosides – these are hydrolysed in the body to glucose, benzaldehyde and hyanocynic acid. The latter is also know as prussic acid.

Prussic acid is quickly excreted through the lungs where it sedates the sensory nerves which provokes the cough reflex.


Herbs with this action help prevent stones forming in the urinary system. They can also help remove stones by dissolving them or removing them by flushing through the kidneys and bladder by increasing urine flow.

Herbs with this action include:

Eupatorium purpureum (Gravel root)
Betula alba (Silver birch)

Apium graveolens (Celery)
Hydrangea arborescens (Hydrangea)


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