Botanical Actions of Herbal Medicines

botanical Actions of Herbal Medicines


Botanical Actions of Herbal Preparations

This specific genre of herbal medicines are also called blood purifiers, depurulents, alteratives or adaptogens.

Herbs with this action elicit an alteration for the better in the course of an illness. Alteratives are blood purifiers that are used to treat conditions arising from or causing toxicity. There herbs improve the condition of the blood, accelerate elimination, improve digestion, and increase the appetite. They also cleanse the liver, cleanse the skin, regulate the organs and support the immune system. Herbs in this category include barberry, blue flag, burdock, chaparral, echinacea, figwort, oregon grape root, plantain, pokeroot, prickly ash, queen's root, red clover, sarsaparilla, sassafras, thuja, wild indigo, yellow dock.
These herbs are best used in combination according to the specific need.

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See our Blood Cleanser Tonic


These herbs relieve pain usually by reducing nerve excitability. Such herbs are closely related to antispasmodics and sedatives. Commonly used herbs in this class include: catnip, chamomile, dongquai, hops, jamaican dogwood, mistletoe, skullcap, valerian, white bryony, wild yam.

See our PainLessJoints, NerveShield and Lotion, Shingles, Lumbago, FrozenShoulder, Gout Tonic, SciaticaLess

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These include vermicides which kill intestinal worms, and vermifuges which aid in expelling worms. Included are herbs: cape or black aloe, butternut, black walnut, elecampane, garlic, hyssop, tansy, wormwood.

See our WormLess, LiverDetox, (Total) Detox, Laxatives

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These herbs inhibit the growth or kill bacteria. They include: bearberry (uva ursi), bitter orange, echinacea, eucalyptus, garlic, goldenseal, horseradish, mullein, myrrh, peruvian bark, propolis.

See our Bronchitis Tonic, Cystitis, Helicobacter, HerbShield, LGS, SpotLess

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These herbs are used internally or externally to prevent breakdown of organic tissues or inhibit growth of microorganism. Among these are: barberry, calendula, echinacea, eucalyptus, garlic, goldenseal, myrrh, st johns wort, wild yam. Leg ulcers, bed sores and external poultice, lice infections, skin diseases, spots and acne, cystitis, intestitial cystitis, mouth and gum infections, lymphatic involvement.

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These herbs stop or prevent muscular spasm. They are used for muscle cramps, asthma, and other disorders with muscle irritability, spasm or contraction. Commonly used herbs in this class are: black cohosh, blue cohosh, chamomile, cramp bark, lobelia, mistletoe, passion flower, scullcap, valerian, wild yam. Asthma and breathlessness, parkinson's disease, nerve spasms and palsy, palpitations.

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These herbs act upon the albumin of the tissue to which they are applied, causing hardening and contraction, leaving the area more dense and firm. They prevent bacterial infection, stop discharges, diarrhoea, or haemorrhages. Most astringents contain tannin as a primary ingedient. Herbs used are: avens, bayberry, bistort, blackberry, calendula, cranesbill, myrrh, tormentil, oak bark, witch hazel. Anti-diarrhoea medicine, heavy periods (menorrhagia), bladder incontinence, ointments.

Carminatives (Aromatics)

These herbs, usually having an agreeable taste or aromatic fragrance, relieve flatulence and flatulent pain, and soothe the stomach. Many herbs fit into this category, such as: angelica, anise, lemon balm, caraway, cinnamon, cloves, cumen, dill, fennel, ginger, peppermint. Excess wind and flatulence, slippery elm and marshmallow powder, IBS, bitters, leaky gut syndrome.


These herbs cause copious bowel evacuation. They also usually stimulate bile secretion. Cathartics are used to expel worms after an anthelmintic herb has been used and whenever a complete bowel evacuation is desired. Their use in chronic constipation is not therapeutic and only causes further constipation as its secondary effect. Most often used are: black root, butternut, may apple, flax, rhubarb, senna. Severe constipation.


These herbs soothe, soften, reduce irritation, and protect the mucous membranes. The effect may be mechanical or medicinal, depending on the herb. Chickweed, coltsfoot, comfrey, irish moss, marshmallow, slippery elm. Stomach and gastric ulcers, IBS, slippery elm, candida infection.


These herbs increase perspiration and rid the body of waste material through the sweat glands. They are best given as hot infusions repeated frequently. Useful herbs in this class are: lemon balm, blue vervain, boneset (eupatorium perfoliatum), catnip, chamomile, ginger, peppermint, pleurisy root, spearment, yarrow. Colds and flu, low immune system,


These herbs increase the flow of urine: bearberry (uva ursi), broom tops, buchu, couch grass, dandelion leaf, hydrangea, juniper, parsley piert, pellitory of the wall, wild carrot, corn silk. WaterMore, and anti-diuretics: WaterLess, IncoLess for incontinence.


Herbs that induce vomiting: ipecacuanha, lobelia, mustard seed.


These herbs promote menstrual flow: black cohosh, false unicorn root, mugwort, penny royal, pulsatilla, rue, squaw vine, tansy. Email Alan Hopking


Mild purgatives encourage gentle bowel movements: black aloe, cascara, flax seed, licorice, psyllium, rhubarb, senna. See our ColonCleanse Powder, Gentle and Strong and Extra Strong Laxatives, Course Dry :Laxative Mixture


These herbs can calm nervous tension, nourish the nervous system and favour sleep. Many are also antispasmodics. Wood betony, catnip, chamomile, vervain, hops, passion flower, pulsatilla, skullcap, valerian. See our NerveShield, WorryLess and SleepMore


Herbs that excite and arouse nervous sensibility, and stimulate vital forces to action; they increase and strengthen the pulse and restore weakened circulation. Included are: cayenne, ginger, horse radish, prickly ash. EnergyMore, BrainMore, MentalPepTalk


Herbs that stimulate or control the secretion of gastric juices include: avens, columbo, sweet flag, peppermint. BittersMore, HeartBurn, WindLess

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Herbs that give vigor and strengthen the entire system or a particular set of organs or actions. Review all the Herbactive Tonics
No two people are the same and no two people with the same disease are alike and the causes of their imbalance are unique, therefore ideally they should be given a unique prescription. But many people have 'simple' conditions (not complex) and therefore can be treated with holistic herbal tonics such as the Herbactive ABC Tonics, that take into account many facets that have led to this condition. Even a number of tonics can be taken at the same time for 'simple' conditions. e.g. IBS tonic, ForgetLess Tonic, SleepMore could all be taken during the day.

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Our herbal tonic medicines are carefully prepared on a personal and individual basis for your healing by medical herbalist Alan Hopking MA MNIMH FINEH.

Only whole herbs are used in our herbal medicines. Nothing else is added. If you have symptoms which you consider might be helped with herbal medicine please contact herbal practitioner Alan Hopking for a friendly confidential professional consultation. See terms and fees.

Once you have received your herbal prescription you can contact Alan Hopking at any time for more free advice (preferably by email). When you have completed your bottle of herbal medicine and if you want a repeat prescription you are requested to phone or email so that your progress can be assessed and adjustments made if necessary so that there is no break in your treatment. To order or re-order, click here.

MRCHM - see Alan Hopking's statement about renouncing his association with membership of this organisation

HERBACTIVE Centre of Herbal Medicine, England, UK. Freephone 0800 0834436

General advice to consumers on the use of herbal remedies from the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency

From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency ( Department of Health, UK

• Remember that herbal remedies are medicines. As with any other medicine they are likely to have an effect on the body and should be used with care. • Herbal remedies may sometimes interact with other medicines. This makes it particularly important to tell your doctor or pharmacist if you are taking a herbal remedy with other medicines such as prescribed medicines (those provided through your doctor or dentist). • Treat with caution any suggestion that a herbal remedy is '100% safe' or is 'safe because it is natural'. Many plants, trees, fungi and algae can be poisonous to humans. It is worth remembering that many pharmaceuticals have been developed or derived from these sources because of the powerful compounds they contain. Any medicine, including herbal remedies, which have an effect on the body should be used with care. • Treat with caution any herbalist or other person who supplies herbal remedies if they are unwilling or unable to provide written information, in English, listing the ingredients of the herbal remedy they are providing. • If you are due to have a surgical operation you should always remember to tell your doctor about any herbal remedy that you are taking. • Anyone who has previously experienced any liver complaint, or any other serious health complaint is advised not to take any herbal remedy without speaking to their doctor first.


Pregnant/Breast-feeding mothers

Few conventional medicines have been established as safe to take during pregnancy and it is generally recognised that no medicine should be taken unless the benefit to the mother outweighs any possible risk to the foetus. This rule should also be applied to herbal medicinal products. However, herbal products are often promoted to the public as being “natural” and completely “safe” alternatives to conventional medicines. Some herbal ingredients that specifically should be avoided or used with caution during pregnancy. As with conventional medicines, no herbal products should be taken during pregnancy unless the benefit outweighs the potential risk.

Volatile Oils

Many herbs are traditionally reputed to be abortifacient and for some this reputation can be attributed to their volatile oil component.(6) A number of volatile oils are irritant to the genito-urinary tract if ingested and may induce uterine contractions. Herbs that contain irritant volatile oils include ground ivy, juniper, parsley, pennyroyal, sage, tansy and yarrow. Some of these oils contain the terpenoid constituent, thujone, which is known to be abortifacient. Pennyroyal oil also contains the hepatotoxic terpenoid constituent, pulegone. A case of liver failure in a woman who ingested pennyroyal oil as an abortifacient has been documented.


A stimulant or spasmolytic action on uterine muscle has been documented for some herbal ingredients including blue cohosh, burdock, fenugreek, golden seal, hawthorn, jamaica dogwood, motherwort, nettle, raspberry, and vervain. Herbal Teas Increased awareness of the harmful effects associated with excessive tea and coffee consumption has prompted many individuals to switch to herbal teas. Whilst some herbal teas may offer pleasant alternatives to tea and coffee, some contain pharmacologically active herbal ingredients, which may have unpredictable effects depending on the quantity of tea consumed and strength of the brew. Some herbal teas contain laxative herbal ingredients such as senna, frangula, and cascara. In general stimulant laxative preparations are not recommended during pregnancy and the use of unstandardised laxative preparations is particularly unsuitable. A case of hepatotoxicity in a newborn baby has been documented in which the mother consumed a herbal tea during pregnancy as an expectorant. Following analysis the herbal tea was reported to contain pyrrolizidine alkaloids which are known to be hepatotoxic.

Breast-feeding mothers

A drug substance taken by a breast-feeding mother presents a hazard if it is transferred to the breast milk in pharmacologically or toxicologically significant amounts. Limited information is available regarding the safety of conventional medicines taken during breast-feeding. Much less information exists for herbal ingredients, and generally the use of herbal remedies is not recommended during lactation.

Paediatric Use

Herbal remedies have traditionally been used to treat both adults and children. Herbal remedies may offer a milder alternative to some conventional medicines, although the suitability of a herbal remedy needs to be considered with respect to quality, safety and efficacy. Herbal remedies should be used with caution in children and medical advice should be sought if in doubt. Chamomile is a popular remedy used to treat teething pains in babies. However, chamomile is known to contain allergenic sesquiterpene lactones and should therefore be used with caution. The administration of herbal teas to children needs to be considered carefully and professional advice may be needed.

Perioperative use

The need for patients to discontinue herbal medicinal products prior to surgery has recently been proposed. The authors considered eight commonly used herbal medicinal products (echinacea, ephedra, garlic, ginkgo, ginseng, kava, St John’s Wort, valerian). On the evidence available they concluded that the potential existed for direct pharmacological effects, pharmacodynamic interactions and pharmacokinetic interactions. The need for physicians to have a clear understanding of the herbal medicinal products being used by patients and to take a detailed history was highlighted. The American Society of Anaesthesiologists (ASA) has advised patients to tell their doctor if they are taking herbal products before surgery and has reported that a number of anaesthesiologists have reported significant changes in heart rate or blood pressure in some patients who have been taking herbal medicinal products including St John’s Wort, ginkgo and ginseng. MCA is currently investigating a serious adverse reaction associated with the use of ginkgo prior to surgery. In this case, the patient who was undergoing hip replacement experienced uncontrolled bleeding thought to be related to the use of ginkgo.

From the website of the Medicines Healthcare products Regulatory Agency ( Department of Health, UK


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