Herbal Terminology

Herbal Terminology & Herb Actions

Herbalism is the oldest known method of systematic healing using plants and many of today’s herbs are known to have been used therapeutically for thousands of years. The word ‘Herb’ refers to a plant of which the leaves, flowers, stems or roots are used for food, flavouring, scent, dyeing, healing remedies and preventative medicines.

Herbs have also long been employed as air fresheners, perfumes, cosmetics, disinfectants, insect and animal repellents and attractors. The distinction between an herb and a spice is this: herbs are the fresh and dried leaves generally of temperate plants, often green in colour. Spices are the flowers, fruit, seeds, bark and roots typically of tropical plants, which range in colour from brown to black to red.

In the 17th century there was a great influx of herbs into Europe from the New World as a result of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests and a number of herbals (books) were published, written by doctors for doctors and apothecaries. This signalled a breakthrough in healing, with authors focusing upon the botanical properties and characteristics of the plants.

When Nicholas Culpeper, an astrologer, herbalist, physician and botanist, published the ‘Compleat Herball’ in 1653, he listed all the known herbal remedies of the time, wishing to create a book that would help ordinary people to make their own herbal remedies – his book has been in print continuously ever since.

Herb Actions and Properties – A

Herb Actions and Properties – B, C & D

Herb Actions and Properties – E, F, G & H

Herb Actions and Properties – I, L, M, O & P

Herb Actions and Properties – R, S, T & V

A contraindication is a specific situation in which a drug, procedure, or surgery should not be used because it may be harmful to the person. 
There are two types of contraindications:
Relative contraindication means that caution should be used when two drugs or procedures are used together. (It is acceptable to do so if the benefits outweigh the risk).
Absolute contraindication means that event or substance could cause a life-threatening situation. A procedure or medicine that falls under this category must be avoided.
Some treatments may cause unwanted or dangerous reactions in people with allergies, high blood pressure, or pregnancy. For example, isotretinoin, a drug used to treat acne is absolutely contraindicated in pregnancy due to the risk of birth defects. Certain decongestants are contraindicated in people with high blood pressure and should be avoided.
Many medicines should not be used together by the same person. For instance, a person who takes warfarin to thin the blood should not take aspirin, which is a blood thinner. This is an example of a relative contraindication.
Taber's Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary, 23rd ed. F.A. Davis Company; 2017. www.tabers.com/tabersonline/. 

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