Medicinal Actions within a Plant

I’m sure you are excited for another lesson in Herbology definitions!

Below I have listed the most common medicinal actions and what they mean in simple words.   These terms are from “The Herbal Handbook” by David Hoffman, a book I use daily and highly recommend to any Herbologist.  An online source, which is extremely accurate, is Annie’s Remedy.  There she has a menu called “Herb Properties” where you can find these.

The medicinal action of a plant (sometimes referred to as its constituents, qualities, or properties) is the plant’s basic functions-medicinally. This means, how the plant will affect the body. I use these terms in many of my plant descriptions and also in my product details.

Constituents are more accurately defined as chemicals within actions of medicinal plants and will be described more in detail in another section.

Medicinal Actions

Adaptogen– an herb that works best as a preventative form of treating the body to prevent burn-out (illness, nervous break down, etc.)

Alterative– (also sometimes called depurative) herbs that alter the body’s waste removal process, thus cleansing to body and eventually restoring it to normal function (think juicing cleanse)

Anti-catarrhal– herbs that remove discharge or build up, usually in the sinus region.

Anti-depressent– herbalists tend to use the term nervine tonic so refer to that definition.

Anti-emetic– herbs that relieve the feeling of nausea. These herbs usually work in two ways; working to settle digestion and they aid in digestion soothing nausea.

Anti-Inflammatory– now here we will get a little deep. Inflammation is a normal and very healthy response to a problem in the body. Think of it as bubble wrap around an injury so the injury can heal without further damage. It is counterproductive and dangerous to stop or prevent the body from reacting by inflaming. Anti-inflammatory herbs do not actually stop that process; they encourage blood cleansing, which in turn helps to speed recovery of the injury, lowering the inflammation.

Anti-lithic– herbs that help remove urinary and kidney gravel (stones) and prevent more from forming.

Anti-microbial– this is what Herbologists call anti-biotic. Anti-microbial herbs destroy and fend off pathogens (antibiotics literally mean “anti-life”, therefore are not used in the traditional sense- in herbology).

Anti-spasmodic– herbs that relax muscles or prevent them from cramping. Many nervines fall into this category because if the mind is relaxed often the body is as well. There are specific herbs for each part of the body, that work best for certain organs.

Aperient– herbs that are a subtle laxative that relaxe only the bowl, encouraging natural movement.

Aromatic– in Herbology this is often a secondary action. Aromatics are oil-based aromas that are generally pleasant. Essential Oils use their odor’s benefits as a primary function.

Astringent– (often used as tannins interchangeably, but in fact astringent herbs have tannins in them.)  Astringent herbs make a barrier on the top of exposed skin or other tissue, which reduces inflammation and pain and irritation from a form of numbing.

Bitter-  What IS a bitter?!!?! A very common term used in herbal medicine and a current trend. Bitters work best as a preventative medicine because of their ability to help digestion (thus improving all body functions). The “bitter principle” in bitters produces saliva, also triggering the central nervous system to tell the gut to make more of the digestive hormone-gastrin. This gastrin helps increase the appetite, stimulate liver & gallbladder, helps repair damaged stomach and intestine lining, and helps the pancreas regulate blood sugar through its hormones.

Cardiac Tonic– herbs that provide a normalizing action to the heart.

Carminative- oil rich herbs that mend the stomach and digestive tract, relieve gas and cramping, and promote healthy digestion.

Cholagogue- herbs which useful function pertain to the releasing of bile into the liver to promote digestion, often as a laxative.

Demulcent– a common word in herbal medicine referring to herbs that protect and calm INTERNAL tissue due to the mucilage present in the demulcent (lol) . A herb that protects and calms EXTERNAL tissue is called emollient.

Diaphoretic- herbs that produce sweat to release toxins through the body’s biggest organ-the skin.

Diuretic- herbs that increase urine as a ways of eliminating toxins allowing them to pass through your body (these herbs usually also help soothe urinary tract)

Emetic- herbs that cause vomiting through stimulating nervous system or stomach.

Emmenagogue-  herbs that are broadly defined as normalizing for the female reproductive system, particularly by stimulating menstrual flow.

Emollient- herbs that, through mucilage or oils, protect, soothe, and soften  external tissues (skin).

Expectorant- herbs that expel mucus from the lungs.  There are two different kinds:

               Stimulating expectorant– irritates the respiratory tissue to cause expulsion.

               Relaxing expectorants– soothe tissue to loosen mucus then expels it (productive cough).

Febrifuge- herbs that reduce fevers by various chemical makeups.

Hepatic- herbs that aid the liver in various ways.

Hypnotic- herbs that induce a healing sleep.

Laxative- herbs that contain a constituent called anthraquinone glycosides that stimulate contractions of the bowl to promote movement within 8-12 hours (may cause cramping).

Nervine- herbs that have an effect on the nervous system. This includes nervine relaxants, nervine tonics, and nervine stimulants.

          Nervine relaxant- relaxing action on the mind and body helping to relieve anxiety symptoms

          Nervine tonic- aid the body and mind, help with coping, generally also relaxing.

          Nervine stimulant- stimulant to the body’s nervous system.

Pectoral- beneficial herb to the lungs.

Rubefacient- herbs that bring blood to the surface when applied to a wound or injury to encourage cleansing or mock-inflammation.

Sedative- herbs that calm the nervous system and relaxes the body through various plant constituents.

Stimulant- herbs that quicken and encourage nervous system.

Tonic- herbs that enhance body systems (tons of sub-categories).

Vermifuge–  herbs also known as anthelmintic or anti-parasitic, meaning to expel worms through the digestive tract. Yum.

Vulnerary- herbs that are healing to wounds or ulcers, external and internal.

There are many herbs that fall into many of these categories, each.  Mostly they have a main medicinal action (main use for them).  Hope this helped!!

Until next time!!


Classifications of Plant Origin

Classifications of Plant Origin

In this post, I will talk about some of the different definitions or classifications of the medicinal plants I work with and you will see these terms used throughout my website.  I will use the simplest definitions I can, but ones that are still technically accurate. I would encourage you to refer back to this page as often as you need to become familiar with this terminology.

Florida has an enormous array of native and introduced plants, flourishing here because the five-hundred mile-long state spans 4 different growing zones, and has a warm climate, long growing season, abundant rainfall and vast habitat diversity.  You will be surprised just how many medicinal remedies are growing throughout Florida and right in your own yard! (I cringe every time the lawn guys come)! Unfortunately, many medicinal plants won’t grow in Florida because they require higher elevations or freezing temperatures, but I try to do the best with what Mother Nature provides for us here in The Sunshine State.

Due to these varied factors and more than 400 years of human habitation, plants found growing in Florida today have a wide range of origins. In order to correctly grow, use and manage these thousands of plant species, it is sometimes important to know how these plants are defined or classified. The following definitions are for the terms most commonly used by herbologists and horticulturalists when referring to medicinal plants.


Definitions for words commonly used in plant medicine

  • Florida “native” plants:  plant species that were growing in Florida PRIOR to European contact (after 1700 A.D.).  Another word you will sometimes see being used interchangeably with native is “indigenous”, which means belonging to a particular place (in this case, Florida). An example of a medicinal native species is our Cardinal Flower (Lobelia cardinalis).
  • “Exotic” plant species: those plant species that are not native to Florida, and that have become established here after 1700. An example of a medicinal exotic species isGotu Kola (Centellaasiatica).
  • “Invasive” plants:  The definition as it pertains to plants is “to spread widely and often uncontrollably”; another word sometimes used for this is a “weed”. There are two types of invasive plants:  invasive native species and invasive exotic or non-native species.

– Examples of “invasive native species” is the Cattail (Typha) or the native Primrose Willow (Ludwigia) which have flourished excessively in certain wetland ecosystems, choking out other natives.

– “Invasive exotic species” are plants that are not native to Florida but have made their way into the state through various means, then proceeded to “invade” the landscape.  Some examples of invasive exotics are Caesar’s Weed (Urena lobata) and Mimosa Tree (Albizia julibrissin) – however, these two species, although invasive and exotic, are both highly medicinal.

  • A “noxious” plant (often referred to as a noxious weed) is a plant that is harmful to the environment, wildlife, livestock or humans.  A noxious plant designation is usually made by the county or state agencies like the Florida Department of Agriculture, who also regulate the use and management of these species. Because noxious plants are inherently harmful, few if any are used for medicinal purposes.  Kudzu (Pueraria montana), however, is one of these exceptions recently gaining a lot of attention as a holistic treatment for addiction.
  • A “wild” plant species is more of a horticultural term, and it refers to species that are un-altered by humans (e.g., not bred or hybridized). Most medicinal plants are wild, but there are those that have been overbred and genetically altered. For example, Calendula officinalis is NOT wild (this species has been bred for flower gardens), but it is still medicinal. Calendula arvensis is a wild species and it is also medicinal. So just because a species isn’t wild doesn’t mean it isn’t medicinal.
  • “Florida-Introduced” are plant species that are not native to Florida but grow well here, so they are technically exotic, but are generally not invasive or harmful – they are simply categorized as “introduced”. Most of the common herbs that you grow in your garden and use in the kitchen fall into this category. For example, many species of Echinacea are not native to Florida but can be easily grown here, and they are not noxious or invasive – in fact they are prized for their medicinal purposes. Naturally, there are many herbs that cannot grow in Florida, therefore they cannot be classified as Florida-Introduced, for example, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) requires high altitude, rocky soil, and freezing temperatures, cannot be classified in this section (I cannot grow this, I have tried many times, therefore I will not use it in my products).

This is by no means a full list of how to classify or define plant types, but this is how I will define MY plants that I use and write about.  For more information view Florida Native Plant Society and the Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants of UF, two of my favorite sites!!

About Laura

I was raised in the Florida Keys, growing up in Marathon’s Crane Point Hammock.  My family moved to  California’s Catalina Island for a few years, living in a small town with miles of untouched land behind it.   We soon moved to St. Lucie County, when I was in middle school, after my father started a Mitigation Banking business.  I eventually decided to plant my roots here after many adult years of trying to make Keys life work.

Both of my parents are tree-huggers; my mother a Botanist and potter and my father, an Environmentalist.  When I tell people this, they normally say “OOOooohhhhh” like that explains it all!  I grew up around plants and have been very close to nature my entire life, most of the time I lived in the middle of it.  That was the main reason I finally decided to plant my roots (literally and metaphorically) in Saint Lucie County.  We still own and operate a preserve   which houses a myriad of Florida native plants, many I hand planted when I was younger.  Living among Florida’s plants for most of my life, I picked how the Seminole and Miccosukee Tribes used them as medicine.

Now my son, JW, has the privilege of growing up in the Florida woods, and is the reason why euFLoria healing was formed.  He helps in every step of making plant medicine, including the trial run (aka- the guinea pig).  Along with JW’s help, the rest of my family and friends stand as the customer voices (critics).  I would have never thought that I would turn a passionate hobby into a career (and sometimes I despise that decision), and I give gratitude to Mother Earth on a daily basis.

Besides being a “work from home” mommy who is trying to raise a crazy boy, I also work on the ranch as a native seed specialist.  I am also an activist against GMO’s, big pharma, pesticides, and fluoride in our city’s water.  I enjoy finding new Paleo recipes, teaching children about Florida, and raising Monarch butterflies.  I am your typical present day hippie.  If you ever have any questions, please contact me!!!



About euFLoria healing LLC

euFLoria healing was started out of necessity when the medical system failed my son.  He was 2 years old and had just been prescribed his 5th round of steroids that year for his allergies.  I knew the impacts of steroids on his little body and I was terrified.  I researched his condition and found it to be alarmingly common with his generation.  He had a condition called “leaky gut syndrome” caused by generations pumping themselves with horrible pharmaceuticals, poisonous and nutrition empty food, and absorbing environmental toxins.  There were multiple mommy bloggers out there that were going through the same things I was, and had found a solution.  It would take a lot of work, but we had to go “all natural” and heal him from the inside out, relying on just some simple diet changes.  Or so I thought.  JW’s “leaky gut syndrome” was so severe that the Paleo diet was not enough.  We needed to boost his immune system, moisturize  the outside of his skin, and a whole list of other things.  I found what I was looking for in Whole Plant Medicine, which came back to me like riding a bike.  We dove head first into his healing regimen.     There were a lot of times when I wanted to give up and we were both crying helplessly on the floor due to lack of immediate results, but I was determined not give his body to the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

After many days spent harvesting in the hot Florida sun, countless hours learning from other Herbologists, all nighters reading huge reference books like I was back in college, and much trial and error- I started to see progress.  Friends saw the amazing healing of my sons eczema covered skin, the decrease in his asthma, and his positive behavior change-  and asked me for help with themselves and their children.  It was upsetting to see so many my local children suffering with severe allergies and infections- all because of the damage that has been done!  Polluted air, pesticide laden and GMO food, toxic water, vaccines, and over medicating is just the start to this list!  We all knew we were damaging our environment, but now it was directly affecting our children.

I began to help anyone who would listen.  I gave them websites of mommy bloggers who I had followed, shared my experience, and handed them baggies of fresh medicinal herbs from my garden.  I started to have people come to my house because they were a friend of a friend, and their child needed help.  When I meditated for guidance on how I could be of service to all of these people are desperate like I was, I was told to “grow”.  My favorite childhood book (and now my son’s favorite movie) came to mind.  The Lorax….  “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better.  It’s not.”

I now share my plant medicine so that you may find the peace and healing that I have found growing in Florida. All of my materials are (of course) organic and Non-GMO, including my ethically wild-harvested and homegrown plants.  I source my raw materials from small businesses located in Florida.  If I would not give it to my son, I do not sell it.

May your wounds be mended and your spirit blessed by nature’s love. Namaste.