Herbalists rely on many words to help us simplify our communication with each other and the people with whom we share plants. We want you to have the power of communication too, so we’ve compiled a small glossary that helps to demystify some of the more herbal-minded language on our site. We’d love to know if there are other herby words you have questions about and if you have words in your practice or heritage that communicate the same ideas held within the words represented here. Please make suggestions in the comments, we’d love to keep adding to this knowledge-share glossary!
are plants that help the body respond to stressful external influences by helping the body support itself. These plants help us adapt. They assist us and make us stronger as we respond and adjust to new and often stressful conditions like a big life transition, the effects of living in an inequitable and unjust society, or recovering from illness for example.
calm muscle spasms or cramps. They often help to calm the nervous system as well as move blood through the body to help release tension.
inspire and arouse sexual desire by nourishing the cardiovascular, nervous, and reproductive systems.
are high in volatile oils that evaporate upon contact with air imparting a strong and pleasant odor. They engage with the digestive and nervous systems to disperse stuck emotional and physical states.
is the ability of a substance to be absorbed and used by the body. Nutrients and minerals are only useful if the body absorbs them. Many healing herbs help the body properly absorb and make the best use of the food and drink we enjoy everyday.
herbs are high in polysaccharides that produce a thick and sticky consistency. This mucalige is soothing to irritated tissues in and on your body, especially mucus membranes that cover the surface of internal organs and cavities like inside your nose. They cool and soothe and protect mucus membranes that are hot and irritated.
refers to microorganisms in a particular environment like your gut microbiome for example.
help the nervous system specifically by supporting balanced cycles of activity and rest. Ranging from mildly calming to more strongly relaxing herbs nervines nourish and help you to slow down so your over worked nervous system can find opportunities for rest and rejuvenation.
is a topical ointment made from herb infused oil and usually beeswax. Once mixed, the salve solidifies making it easily transportable within a screw top tin or - when made with less beeswax - a squeezable tube. Salves carry the healing properties of plants to help the body heal minor bumps, bruises, scrapes, burns, and aches.
is a widely enjoyed preparation usually made from herbs and spices. Aerial parts of plants are the most common ingredients: leaves, flowers, and even fruit. Making tea is a quick and delicious way to experience the power of individual plants or experiment with new combinations. The act of making and sharing tea is also a communal ritual uniting people with plants and each other.
is a liquid extract of herbs. They might be a single plant or concentrated blend of herbs preserved in a stable solution. (We like to use cane alcohol or vegetable glycerin). Think tea, but easily transportable and with a longer shelf life.