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An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 5 – The Properties of Herbs – Pt 1

Here is the fifth lesson following on from An Elementary Herbal Course – Lesson 4 – Antiseptics.

LESSON Five The Properties of Herbs – Pt 1

I found this list amongst my papers and include it here in case a Survival situation occurs before I have time to complete the Elementary Course.

This list will give you an overall idea of the complexities and the multiple uses of Herbs. There are many more herbs that could be added to this listing. Some of these herbs will not appear within these twenty lessons. However, you may look them up in Herbal Medicine books.

I will also mention that herbs can be very confusing until you have worked with them for some time. Some herb books will say that a certain herb will have certain characteristics and another book will seem to say they that they have others. Some are actually in opposition. WHY is this? Many herbs have qualities that seem to contradict themselves. Herbs such as Lobelia, Valerian and Peppermint for example. These herbs act as both stimulant and sedative. Kelp acts on the thyroid gland in two ways it normalises the gland. It is used for an underactive thyroid or an overactive thyroid. These actions, in many cases, depend on the dosage used. We will be examining these herbs throughout the complete five year course.


These Lessons are the result of 48 years as a professional Herbalist and you are not expected to absorb all this material in the Five years. Learn as much as you can of this first twenty lessons which is the Elementary Course. There are no examinations to worry about, as you will be assesed during the time it takes you to do the course. You can learn this material at your own pace.


There are a number of different Herbal systems, and one of them places Herbal medicine into three main categories according to the ACTIONS they produce in the body.


DETOXFICATION: These herbs are used when the body has accumulated poisons and they need to be flushed out of the system. Herbs have specific properties that influence different parts of the body, so they are selected accordingly. e.g. Laxatives clean the bowels, Alteratives clean the the blood, lymph, etc..

BUILDING AND TONING: These herbs strengthen the body, thus improving the function of the internal organs. They strengthen the system’s resistance to disease. You use these types of herb to assist a patient to recover from injury, acute ailments, childbirth, etc.. They are also used in times of emotional instability, impotence, anaemia, etc..

SYMPTOM RELIEVING: These herbs counteract or relieve specific symptoms. If you are treating an infection, then you will use an antibiotic. If you are treating spasms, then you will use an antispasmodic. Symptom relieving herbs are good provided you know the cause of the ailment.

Here are the lists of the THREE CLASSIFICATIONS and some of the corresponding properties. This list is only a guideline. Some herbs have properties that fall into all three categories, but here, we are basically getting a feel for the PRIMARY PROPERTIES first. Herbal medicine is not purely a linear science.

It requires INDIVIDUAL observation in treatments and MEDICAL INTUITION, which we will focus upon in later lessons. No two people are exactly alike and neither is their illness. It is foolish to think that the exact same dosage can be prescribed for every person. Each body reacts differently to herbs. It is your job as a herbalist, to find the best remedies for each patient and you will have to monitor them and sometimes do a little experimenting. Do not let the word experiment frighten you, because that is all part of your learning and is all part of the healing sciences. It always has been. We will discuss dosage later, but you should be aware that body weight, frailty, age, nervous tensions all play a role in prescribing proper dosages.


Alteratives Aphrodisiacs Anodynes

Anthelmintics Astringents Antacids

Anticatarrhals Cardiacs Antibiotics

Aperiants Diaphoretics Antiemetics

Cathartics Emmenagogues Antipyretics

Cholegogues Galactagogues Antispasmodics

Deobstruents Hepatics Aromatics

Discutients Nervines Carminatives

Diuretics Nutritives Condiments

Emetics Oxytocics Demulcents

Expectorants Stomachics Diaphoretics

Laxatives Tonics Emetics

Lithontriptics Vulneraries Emmenogogues

Lymphatics Emollients

Parasiticides Febrifuges

Purgatives Haemostatics








We are repeating many of the following terms from Lesson one. We will not be using all of these terms in the first twenty lessons.

ABORTIFACIENTS: Herbs that induce or cause the premature expulsion of a foetus. DO NOT TRY TO ABORT A FOETUS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES. I have listed these herbs for your awareness. NOTE; These herbs have other healing qualities that are of great importance, remember not to use any of them to treat a pregnant woman.

Angelica, Blessed Thistle (Large doses), Blue Cohosh (except the last month of pregnancy), Buckthorn, Juniper, Mayapple, Mistletoe, Pennyroyal, Ragwort, Shepherd’s Purse, Tansy.

ACRID: A herb having a hot bitter taste or causing heat and irritation when applied to the skin.

Blue Flag, Celandine, Fig stems, Wild Turnip,Nettle.

ADJUVANT: A herb added to a mixture to aid the principle ingredient. These herbs have their own properties, but they act as a carrier and a buffer for the primary herb. e.g.When I use Senna as a laxative and stool softener, I add approximately fifteen per cent of Ginger. The Ginger aids in the effectiveness of the Senna by arresting the cramps that would normally be associated with the Senna by itself. Cayenne is another herb, added to many herbal blends as it assists the primary herbs effectiveness.

Anise, Chamomile, Ginger, Licorice, Cayenne.

ALTERATIVES: These herbs promote blood purification, act on the spleen, liver, kidneys and bowels. These herbs can be used gradually over a long period of time, allowing a slow detoxification. This will improve the entire glandular function as well as promoting good digestion and assimilation. Infections, arthritis, skin diseases (most) are caused by impure blood. Bear in mind that a proper healthy diet must be strictly adhered to in all alterative therapy.

Alfalfa, Barberry, Bayberry, Black Cohosh, Blessed Thistle, Burdock, Cayenne, Chaparral, Chickweed, Cleavers, Comfrey, Dandelion, Devil’s Claw, Echinacea, Elder, Eyebright, Garlic, Ginseng, Golden Seal, Gotu Kola, Kelp, Licorice Root, Marshmallow, Nettles, Oregon Grape Root, Pipsissewa, Plantain, Poke root, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Red Clover, Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, St. John’s Wort, Uva Ursi, Wood Betony, Yellow Dock.

ANODYNE AND ANALGESIC: These are herbs that soothe and relieve pain. They lessen the exciteability of the nerves and nerve centres. They are closely allied to the antispasmodics. Most of these herbs can be used externally as fomentations and internally as teas, tinctures, powders, etc..

Chamomile, Cloves, Echinacea, Ginger, Hops, Juniper, Lady’s Slipper, Lobelia, Mullein, Passion Flower, Skullcap, Valerian, Vervain,Wild Yam, Wood Betony.

ANTHELMINTICS: Herbs that have the capacity to destroy intestinal worms and parasites. There are two catagories. Fasting is very effective when using anthelmintics.

VERMICIDES. These herbs destroy worms without necessarilly expelling them from the body. Therefore, they should be combined with laxative herbs.

Black Walnut, Garlic, Sage, Tansy, Thyme, Wormwood.

VERMIFUGES: These herbs expel worms from the body. They rapidly evacuate the upper intestines and the bowels.

Cascara Sagrada, Gentian, Senna.

ANTACIDS: These herbs will correct an acid condition in the stomach, blood and bowels.

Comfrey leaves, Comfrey root, Flax seed, Mullein, Red Raspberry, Slippery Elm, Wood Betony.

ANTIABORTIVES: Herbs used to counteract abortive tendencies.

Cramp Bark, Red Raspberry.

ANTIASTHMATICS: Herbs used to relieve asthma.

Agrimony, Angelica, Ephedra, Hyssop, Lungwort, Mullain, Myrrh, Prickly Ash Bark, Skunk cabbage.

ANTIBIOTIC: Antibiotic herbs inhibit the growth of and destroy viruses and bacteria. These herbs naturally help promote the bodies immune systum. This is a very important group and we will study them in depth in a future lesson.

Chaarral, Echinacea, Garlic, Golden seal, Hops, Juniper berries, Myrrh, Rosemary, Thyme.

ANTICATARRHALS: These herbs eliminate mucous conditions. While they rid the body of catarrh (excessive mucous) they also aid in healing. It would be useful to aid the body in elimination when using these herbs by adding a laxative or diuretic.

Angelica, Anise, Bayberry, Bistort, Cayenne, Coltsfoot, Comfrey, Cranesbill, Elecampane, Figs, Flax seed, Garlic, Ginger, Horseradish, Irish Moss, Lobelia, Lungwort, Marshmallow, Raisins, Wild Cherry, Yerba Santa.

ANTICOAGULANT: An herb that prevents clotting in a liquid such as blood. Will help in breaking up blood clots.

Yellow Melilot, White Melilot.

ANTIEMETIC: These herbs counteract nausea and prevent vomiting.

Anise, Cinnamon, Cloves, Ginger, Golden Seal, Lobelia, Peach leaves, Peppermint,

Red Clover, Spearmint, Sweet Basil.

ANTIHYDROTIC: A herb that reduces or suppresses perspiration.


ANTILITHIC OR LITHONTRIPTIC: These herbs act to dissolve and discharge urinary and gall bladder stones and gravel.

Barberry, Buchu, Cascara sagrada, Chaparral, Corn silk, Dandelion, Devil’s claw, Gravel root, Horsetail, Hydrangea root, Juniper berries, Marshmallow, Oregon Grape root, Parsley, Uva ursi.

ANTIPYRETIC OR REFRIGERANT: A herb that reduces or prevents fever. A coolant.

Alfalfa, Boneset, Camphor, Chickweed, Cleavers, Cranberries, Elder flowers, Gotu Kola, Lemon Balm, Lemons, Licorice, Limes, Oranges, Skullcap, Valerian.

ANTISCORBUTIC: Aherb with a good source of Vitamin C for curing and preventing scurvy.

Barberry berries, Blackberry, Black currant, Burdock root, Blueberries, Chickweed, Dandelion, Cranberries, Juniper berries, Rosehips, Hibiscus, Poke root, Nettle, Wood Betony, Yellow Dock.

ANTISEPTIC: A herb that prevents the growth of putrefactive and pathogenic bacteria.

Anise oil, Barberry, Beth root, Bistort, Black Walnut, Buchu, Chaparrel, Echinacea, Garlic, Golden seal, Juniper berries, Myrrh, Nettles, Oregon Grape root, Plantain, Rosemary, Saw Palmetto, Thyme, White Oak bark, White Willow, Wormwood.

ANTISPASMODIC: Herbs to be used for muscular spasms, cramps and convulsions.

Black Cohosh, Black Haw, Blue Cohosh, Calendula, Cascara sagrada, Cayenne, Cramp bark, Fennel, Garlic, Hawthorn berries, Ladies Slipper, Lemon Balm, Lobelia, Motherwort, Mistletoe, Mugwort, Mullein, Oat, Passion flower, Peppermint, Pleurisy root, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Rue, Sage, Skullcap, Skunk Cabbage, Spearmint, Thyme, Valerian, Vervain, Wild Yam.

APERIENT: Herbs that promote a mild laxative effect and soften the stools.

Agar-Agar, Figs, Flaxseed, Licorice root, Olive oil, Prunes, Raisins, Rose Hips, Senna.

APHRODISIAC: Herbs that correct impotence and increase the sexual drive.

Cloves, Damiana, False Unicorn, Fennel, Fenugreek, Ginseng, Sarsaparilla root, Saw Palmetto.

AROMATICS: Aromatics are herbs with a fragrant smell and an agreeable pungent taste. They have a stimulating effect on the gastrointestinal mucous membrane because of their essential oils. They aid in digestion and expel gas from the stomach and bowels. They are used to cover the taste of bitter herbs. Where there is stomach inflammation, these herbs should be avoided.

Anise seed, Barberry, Buchu, Cinnamon, Cloves, Coriander seed, Fennel, Ginger, Juniper berries, Nutmeg, Peppermint, Rosemary, Sage, Sassafras, Spearmint, St. John’s Wort, Wood Betony, Wormwood.

ASTRINGENT: These herbs increase the tone and firmness of the tissues. They reduce secretions and discharges from the nose, throat, intestines, vagina and draining sores.

Bayberry, Beth root, Bistort, Blackberry, Black Walnut, Bugleweed, Calendula, Cayenne, Cleavers, Comfrey root, Crampbark, Cranesbill, Dandelion, Elecampane, Eyebright, Fenugreek, Gravel root, Hawthorn berries, Horsetail, Juniper berries, Mullein, Pipsissawa, Plantain, Prickly Ash, Raspberry, Rhubarb, Rose Hips, Rosemary, Sage, Shepherd’s Purse, Slippery Elm, Squaw Vine, St. John’s Wort, Stone root, Uva Ursi, Vervain, Wild Cherry bark, Witch Hazel, White Oak bark, Yarrow, Yellow Dock, Yerba Santa.

CARDIACS: Herbs that increase the power of the heart.

Black Cohosh, Hawthorn berries, Motherwort, Bugleweed.

CARMINATIVES: These are herbs that contain volatile oils that stimulate the expulsion of gas from the gastrointestinal tract. Carminatives also increase the tone of the musculature and stimulate the peristalsis.

Angelica, Anise, Caraway, Cardamon, Catnip, Cayenne, Celery, Chamomile, Coriander, Cumin, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Juniper, Myrrh, Parsley, Pennyroyal, Peppermint, Pleurisy root, Rosemary, Sarsaparilla, Sassafras, Spearmint, Thyme, Valerian.


Before we take up the Herbal Preparations, there are a few items that you should be aware of. When the recipes call for water, do not use chlorinated water from the tap, but use unpolluted spring water or distilled water. Many Herbalists prefer distilled water (aqua dest), as it is called hungry water, as it absorbs the medicinal properties readily.

The containers in which you create your potions,etc., should be of glass, ceramic, stainless steal or enameled steel. Never use aluminium, plastic or iron. These can have an effect on your preperation. They will probably taint your remedy and in many cases make it unpalatable. The Oriental Herbalists prepare their concoctions in earthenware utensils.

When you are using fresh herbs you should use double the quantity of dried. This is due to the fact that fresh herbs have a great deal of water in them. When you use fresh herbs instead of dried in a formula, you need to bruise them in a mortar. Place the herbs in a mortar and with the pestle crush them and with a circular, grinding motion, you crush and bruise the plant. You do this with a small amount of the herb at a time. This method will crush the cell walls in the plant so that your liquid will absorb the medicinal properties.

Once you have made your preperation, be sure to label it immediately. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT. Your label should record the date made and what the preperation is. You should keep a Pharmacy Book in which you record all of your preperation details. Record date, herb tincture detail, Formulae of compounds etc..

When you prepare your products you need to measure out accurately your ingredients. For this, you will need measuring devices, such as measuring jugs for fluids and scales for measurement by weight. Remember to record accurately exactly what you have done in your Herbal Pharmacy Book. During this course you will be given some formulae and follow these exactly. Later you will be able to build a formula yourself. This information will be given to you in a later lesson.

When making Herbal Preperations do ensure that your work area is absolutely SPOTLESS. CLEAN all your equipment immediately before use and wash your hands. Packs of sterile gloves can be purchased and donned before making your formulae, etc.. Do not manufacture medicines when you are ill, unless it is for your own ailment.

Most of your Herbal preperations will be made with dried herbs. Herbs dried carefully in the correct manner, will retain their potency for at least a year and oftentimes, if kept cool and dark, will retain potency for two years.

Herbs can be administered INTERNALLY and EXTERNALLY. The Internal method is via the mouth and Externally the herb is applied to a particular portion of the body.


CAPSULES: Herb capsules are easy to make. All you have to do is put the finely ground herb into a soluble hard gelatin capsule. The capsules come in various sizes that range from ‘OOO’ to ‘5’ and these are used for humans and smaller animals. There are larger capsules but these are only used in veterinary medicine for very large animals. I generally use ‘OO’ and ‘O’ sizes. The ‘OO’ capsule, averages for most herbs, from 500 mg. To 600 mg. The ‘O’ size capsule is around 350 mg. The amount varies according to the density of the herb being filled and, of course, whether it is root or leaf. Roots are more dense than leaf, thus adding more weight.

You should not hold the capsules in your hand for too long for they dissolve at body temperature. Capsules are a very quick way to dispense medicines and it is easy to make up a large batch and store them. Capsules must be kept dry or they will absorb moisture and stick together. Small manual capsule machines can be bought and some of them even put the caps on for you.

Strict vegetarians will not take the normal capsules but there are vegetable gelatin capsules that can be bought. These are about three times as costly as the ordinary ones. However, children find it hard to swallow capsules so small doses of a herb can be wrapped in starch paper and swallowed. Pills can be made very simply with herbs moistened with syrup or rolled in honet and swallowed.

PILLS: Making pills is quite easy, you know that there are no fillers in them and the pills can be made into any suitable size. You take your herb powder and pour out the amount required and add fifteen per cent of Slippery Elm Powder or Comfrey root. To this you add a small quantity of water. Allow to set for a short while before rolling small pills into a ball the size of a pea or smaller. Lay them out on a tray in a warm room until dry. When they are hard you can fix them onto a number of needles. Pierce the needles into them but do not go right through. Make up a thick jelly may be orange, lemon raspberry or any other fruit flavour. Before it sets dip the pills on the end of the needles into the jelly, withdraw and spin to cast off the excess jelly. Dry, and then place in a glass jar until needed. You can however, put the dried pills into a bottle without coating them.

ELECTUARY: This is powdered herb that is mixed with honey. Should you not have honey, you can use jam or treacle. You mix your herb or herbs with one of these to form a paste.

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