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An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 4 – Antiseptics

Here is the fourth lesson following on from An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 3 – Anodynes.

LESSON Four Antiseptics

Antiseptics are agents used for destroying, or inhibiting pathogenic or putrefactive bacteria.


Botanical name: Berberis vulgaris.

Parts used: Bark of Stem, Bark of Root, Berries.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Antiseptic, tonic purgative, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, increases the flow of bile, suppresses nausea and vomiting, it is a digestive tonic.

The berries are cooling and refreshing and useful in acute diseases. The berries contain citric and malic acid, and possess astringent and anti-scorbutic properties. They are useful in inflammatory fever, especially typhus. A simple syrup may be made from the berries and used as an astringent gargle for sore throat and sore mouth. The bark may also be used in the above named conditions.

The bark of stem or root may be used in the following conditions: as a bitter tonic for the stomach and as an excellent remedy for dyspepsia. It regulates the digestive powers and can be used in most digestive problems, especially where there is liver involvement. For general debility with biliousness and for all cases of jaundice it is an excellent remedy. Wherever there is gall bladder problems, upsetting the digestion and tingeing the skin yellow, use Barberry.

It often relieves the pain of gall-stones. As a corrector of secretions of the liver it is without equal. Its influence on the liver is such that the bile flows more freely. For functional derangement of the liver it is an excellent remedy.

Given in large doses, it acts as a mild purgative and removes constipation. It is used for both diarrhoea and dysentery.

It possesses febrifuge powers and is used for malaria and other intermittent fevers and it can be of use in cases of lost appetite, spleen affections and scurvy.

A lotion may be made and used for treating cutaneous eruptions especially where there is liver involvment. It expels morbid matter from the stomach and bowels. It may be used in dealing with cases of drug or alcohol abuse, especially if the liver is involved.

Dose: Powdered bark: A quarter of a teaspoon several times a day.

Fluid extract: From two to four mils, three times a day.

Caution: This remedy should be avoided in pregnancy.


Botanical name: Eucalyptus globulus, and certain other species.

Common names: Blue Gum Tree, Stringy bark tree.

Parts used: The leaves and the oil from the trees. The medicinal oil contains euc-

alyptol, another name for cineol.

Therapeutic Action and Uses: Antiseptic, aromatic, antispasmodic, deoderant, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, stimulant, tonic.

Eucalyptus has a marked effect upon catarrhal conditions. In view of this, it is a very important remedy in influenza and other ailments affecting the mucous membranes of the body. It is also a valuable diaphoretic and has proven a very fine remedy in exhausting night sweats.

It is a powerful antiseptic and is destructive to the lower forms of life. It is effective for treating ulcers that are discharging offensive material. Other forms of putrid sores respond to its influence. It may be added to the bath water for its antiseptic properties. The oil may be applied locally to burns to prevent infection. It has been used in the past, apparently with success, in cases of gangrene. It is useful for parasitic skin affections.

In veterinary practice, it is administered to horses in influenza, to dogs in distemper and to most animals in septicaemia.

Dose: Oil: The medicinal Eucalyptus oil is probably the most powerful antiseptic of its class. Especially when it is old, as ozone is formed within it on exposure to air. It has decided disinfectant action, destroying the lower forms of life. The doseof the oil is from one half to three minims.* It is of great value as an inhalent for asthma, sore throat, etc..

As a local application for ulcers and sores, one ounce of the oil is added to one pint of lukewarm water. For local injections, one half ounce to the pint of water is used.

Compound Resin Ointment: BPC resin twenty parts, oil of Eucalyptus fifteen parts, hard paraffin ten parts, soft paraffin fifty-five parts.

Fluid Extract: (From leaves). From two to four mils. It is very useful in Scarlet fever, typhoid and intermittent fever. The dose of ten drops is useful with other suitable remedies in oedema.

Tincture: From leaves). Twenty drops, three times a day in cystitis.

Aminim is equal to a drop.


Botanical name: Hydrastis canadensis.

Common names: Yellow root, Orange root, Yellow Puccoon, Ground Raspberry, Wild curcuma, Turmuric root, Indian dye, Eye root balm, indian paint, Jaundice root, Warnera.

Part used: Rhizome and root.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Antiseptic, detergent, astringent, tonic. Promotes healing of the gut wall and mucous membrane, it is a digestive stimulant and increases the flow of bile.

Golden seal has been referred to as the ‘king of tonics’ to the mucous membranes. It is a stimulating tonic. Its primary influence is upon debilitated conditions of the mucous membranes, its realm of influence extends to all parts of the body wherever it is required.

Used in combination with almost any other remedy where a tonic effect is required. It can, by combination, be made to effect the bowel, stomach, respiratory organs, urinary tract and genitalia. This is achieved by adding this remedy to another that has especial influence on the organ or part, to be influenced. For example, combined with Leptandra (Black root) it will be found to influence the liver and intestines; in combination with Parsley piert, gravel root or couch grass it will influence the kidneys and urinary organs; combined with aletris, squaw vine or black cohosh, it will influence the female genitalia, etc.

Golden seal is one of the few remedies which will tone and sustain the venous circulation. Its special function with the liver is its tonic affect on the portal circulation; hence, its action on the right side, or venous side of the heart. With hepatics Golden seal influences both the secretory and excretory functions of the liver.

In eruptive diseases, such as smallpox, measles, where there is much itching and burning of the skin, and in scarlatina, to prevent the scales spreading, wash with the following mixture: one ounce of the fluid extract of golden seal and nine ounces of linseed oil. Shake well together, it will bring relief. A decoction of golden seal used as a wash in smallpox will allay itching, relieve the nervous system, and to tone the new cuticle under the pustules as to greatly lessen the danger of pitting.

Golden seal will give good service in erysipelas, eruptive sores, and may be used daily in infusion for ulceration.

It is a tonic, having especial action upon diseased mucous tissues, and is particularly beneficial during recovery from exhausting diseases. It is used for remittent, intermittent and typhoid fevers. As an infusion it has great influence in preventing and curing night sweats.

It is a very useful application for ophthalmia. Used as a lotion for treating eye infections and for generally cleaning the eyes. Useful for catarrh of the nose, and for that condition it should be used powdered as a snuff. Use as a wash for sore mouth and throat.

It is extremely useful in disordered states of the digestive organs, given internally for stomach inflamation, peptic ulcers, gastritis, dyspepsia, chronic affections of the nervous lining of the stomach. It is valuable for the mucous membrane, digestion, loss of appetite, weakness or if debilitated, take golden seal in frequent doses. Use for sickness and vomiting.

It is useful for female complaints and witch hazel may be added as required. The infusion is a most efficient vaginal douche in leucorrhoea, and can be used daily in other vaginal infections. It may be used for the vomiting of prenancy (morning sickness) although, it should not be used for this purpose if it can be avoided.

United with Geranium, it has a fine effect in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Chronic inflammation of the colon and rectum are helped greatly by injection of the infusion or decoction. It can be used in haemorrhoids with great benefit. Hydrastin, which is one of the alkaloids, has an astringent action. As a tonic, it is of extreme value in cases of habitual constipation, given as a powder with any aromatic.

Dose: Powdered root A pinch.

Fluid Extract: One to four mils.

Caution: It should if possible, be avoided in pregnancy and is conta-indicated in persons with high blood pressure, because it can cause the muscles of the womb and the blood vessels to contract. Alternative herbs should be sought.


Botanical name: Commiphora myrrha, Balsamodendron molmol.

Common names: Mirra, Merr, Didthin.

Parts used: Gum resin from the stem. The gum makes a good mucilage and the insoluble residue, left after the manufacture of the tincture, can be used in this manner.

Therapeutic Properties and Uses: Antiseptic, astringent, tonic, stimulant, expectorant, anti-inflammatory, vulnerary.

The gum is a direct emmenagogue, a tonic in dyspepsia, and expectorant in the absence of feverish symptoms, a stimulant to the mucous tissues, a stomach carminative, it excites the appetite and flow of gastric juice and it makes an antiseptic astringent wash.

The tincture of myrrh is an excellent wash for sore, spongy and inflamed gums. It is used for aphthous sore throat of children, and combined with other remedies, it can be used in the treatment of diseases of the mouth with confidence. Stomatitis, gingivitis and other conditions of the mouth respond well to its action. Myrrh is a common ingredient in toothpastes and tooth powders, due to its actions outlined above. Combined with borax it makes an excellent mouth gargle. A little of the tincture taken internally will aid in the prevention of bad breath (halitosis). For ulcerated throat, any of the above may be used in its treatment.

It has been given for chronic catarrh, asthma and other pectoral affections, in which the secretion of mucus is abundant, but not freely expectorated. It has proven of value in lung affections associated with colds and catarrhal congestions. It is employed for chronic bronchitis, pneumonia and bronchorhoea. This remedy should only be given in the absence of febrile excitement or acute inflammation.

For the complaints of ladies, it is valued for chlorosis (green sickness) and amenorrhoea. When used in the treatment of amenorrhoea it is frequently combined with aloes and yellow dock. It stimulates menstruation, painful and absent periods. It is normally combined with other tonics. Leucorrhoea too, is often treated with this remedy. The gum is a slow mild, stimulating and antiseptic tonic, with a tendency towards the uterus, therefor, it is employed, as mentioned before, as an emmenagogue and for leucorrhoea, in debilitated states of the system; and again, as previously mentioned for the lungs, etc., in the absence of febrile excitement or/and acute inflammation. The infusion is sometimes taken, but the fluid extract or tincture, have proven to be the mildest.

The powdered gum, may be used as an antiseptic application for sores and ulcers and it has been used as an application to the umbilical cord of the infant, after the cord has been removed. The tincture too, may be used for this condition.

When taken in a hot infusion, Myrrh stimulates the circulation and assists the flow of blood towards the capilaries. It will give the sense of a pleasant warmth to the stomach.

Myrrh has a tendency to prevent septic conditions, purify the blood, and it has been claimed, to increase the number of white corpuscles.

It has been used internally as a vermifuge.

Dosage: Powdered Myrrh: Two to five grams, it should be suspended in water or taken in pill form.

Fluid Extract: For fermentation in indigestion and nausea, etc.. From two to five drops.

Tincture: From a half to one dram.

As a purgative and emmenagogue: Tincture of Aloes and Myrrh, a half a dram.

Antiseptic Formula: Four ounces of powdered Myrrh, two drams of powdered Capsicum in one ounce of simple syrup. Dose: two to three drops in water.

For a rubefacient effect: A plaster may be made with 40 drams of Camphor, Myrrh and Balsam of Peru. Rub them all together, and then combine with 800 grams of melted plaster, the whole being stirred until cooling causes it to thicken.

For a mouthwash or gargle: Ten to fifteen drops of tincture of Myrrh to be mixed in a half cupful of warm water.

An antiseptic diffusive tonic for the circulation and nervous system is made in this way: Mix 100 grams of each of fluid extract of Myrrh, Ladies Slipper with twenty drams of fluid extract of Prickly Ash. Stir the mixture of fluid extracts into 100 drams of Syrup of Ginger. The dose of this is half a dram (half a teaspoonful) four times a day.

6 comments to An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 4 – Antiseptics

  • Skean Dhude


    An excellent series. Thank you.

  • mike

    Excellent as usual kenneth.

  • Paul

    OK, but what about listing things common thing available in the UK shops and hedgerows and fields.

    tyme, lavender, carrots, and vinegar are all antiseptics

    Honey, garlic, sage, onions, horse radish berries, are all anti bacterial.

  • Lightspeed

    Excellent article Kenenth,

    Can you recommend any books with medicinal plant identification guides? Other than Eucalyptys, I have no idea what these other plnts look like.

  • Kenneth Eames

    Paul, As you say there are many other herbs with Antiseptic properties but if I included all Antiseptics it would end up with a book. I therefore do four or five remedies in a lesson. Eventually many more will be mentioned. I would love to be able to take you through a thorough training in herb medicine but it would take five years. You would still be learning after that. I am still learning and in June this year, I will have been a Practicing Herbalist for Fifty years. I will try to do better, by adding additional information, such as Pharmacy,etc.. Kenneth Eames.

  • Kenneth Eames

    Lightspeed, I will endeavour to make a list of suitable books for all who are interested. Unfortunately very few herbal books have many pictures of plants. Go to where the late Michael Moore has a wonderful section of herbs. Kenneth Eames.

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