Skip to content

Glossary of actions


Abortifacient: Induces the premature expulsion (abortion) of a foetus, which makes the uterus contract. It is also known as ‘Ecbolic’.
Absorbefacient: Causes absorption.

Adaptogen: Helps restore the balance within the body and helps the body deal with ongoing environmental, emotional and physical stresses encountered on a daily basis. They assist those to adapt to stress by supporting the adrenal glands, the endocrine system and the body as a whole. They generally have gentle actions and can be used long term.

Adaptogenic: See Adaptogen.

Adjuvant: Substance or a drug added to aid the operation of the main ingredient. They work in synergy.

Adrenal / AdrenalineStimulant: Stimulates the flow of adrenaline.

Agonist: Drug which acts as a receptor site, normally stimulated by a natural substance which mimics its effects.

Allergen: Induces an allergic reaction.

Alterative: Cleans the blood and corrects impure blood conditions. Alteratives perform the following functions: they cleanse and purify the blood (as do detoxifiers and blood purifiers); they assist the natural eliminatory response by stimulating the liver, lungs, lymphatic system, kidneys, bowels and sweat glands; they promote excretion from injuries or toxic matter like mucous, faeces, urine, menstrual blood and toxins; they gradually restore the proper function of the body and increase health and vitality. These are herbs that are generally rich in sulphur, iron and chlorine. See also Detoxifier and Blood Purifier.

Anabolic: Promotes tissue growth.

Anaesthetic: Deadens sensations and reduces pain, used for surgical anaesthesia.

Analgesic: Relieves pain without causing unconsciousness.

Anaphrodisiac: Diminishes sexual desire.

Anaphylactic: Intense allergic reaction to a foreign substance.

Analeptic: Substance that stimulates the central nervous system.

Anodyne: Reduces the intensity of pain and quietens disturbed feeling, reducing the sensitivity of the nerves. Anodynes also improve blood and nerve supply.

Antacid: Reduces acid in the body especially acid that is produced by the stomach.

Antagonistic:Acting in opposition; mutually opposing.

Anthelmintic: Destroys and expels worms, parasites, fungi and yeast from the intestines. See also Vermicide and Vermifuge.

Antiaging: Treats the symptoms of aging.

Antiabortifacient: Prevent abortion.

Antiallergenic: Reduces symptoms of allergy.

Antianaemic: Combats anaemia.

Antiandrogen: Inhibits the action of male androgens (sex hormones).

Antiarrhythmic: Combats irregular heartbeats.

Antiarthritic: Combats arthritis.

Antibacterial: Destroys or stops the growth of bacteria.

Antibilious: Combats nausea, abdominal discomfort, constipation and gas which are caused by an excessive secretion of bile. They help to remove excess bile.

Antibiotic: Chemical substance produced by microorganisms which may destroy or inhibit the growth or multiplication of a living organism, the growth of germs, bacteria and harmful microbes; usually used in reference to bacteria or other microorganisms.

Anticarcinogen: Any substance which is antagonistic (opposing) to the action of a carcinogen.

Anticatarrhal: Helps remove excess catarrh for the body.

Anticholesterol: Assists with the balancing of cholesterol levels in the body.

Anticoagulant: Discourages blood platelets from sticking together and forming clots.

Anticongestive: Treats congestion.

Anticonvulsant: Reduces or relieves convulsions or cramps.

Antidepressant: Helps alleviate depression.

Antidiabetic: Treats diabetes.

Antidiarrheal: Stops diarrhoea.

Antidote: Substance used to combat the effect of poisons.

Antiemetic: Reduces the incidence and severity of vomiting and can alleviate nausea.

Antiepileptic: Combats convulsions, seizures or epilepsy.

Antifungal: Inhibits the growth or multiplication of fungi, or kills them outright.

Antigen: Substance or an organism which may be recognised by the body as being foreign, for example, a part of a virus or bacteria.

Antigonadotropic: Agent preventing growth or function of the testes or ovaries.

Antihemorrhagic: Stops bleeding and haemorrhaging.

Antihidrotic: Hidrosis excess perspiration due to drugs or disease.

Antihistamine: Neutralises the effects of histamine in an allergic response. They treat allergic conditions.

Antihistaminic: See Antihistamine.

Antihydrolic: Reduces or suppresses perspiration.

Antihyaluronidase: Inhibits the ability of viruses to enter and take over the cells.

Antihypertensive: Treats high blood pressure.

Antihypothyroid: Thyroid stimulant.

Antiinfective: Helps to resist infection, strengthens the body via its own defences rather than attacking a specific organism.

Antiinflammatory: Reduces or neutralises inflammation.

Antilithic: Aids in preventing the formation of stones and dissolving of stones in the kidneys and bladder.

Antiitch: Relieves itching.

Antimicrobial: Inhibits the growth or multiplication of microorganisms, or kills them.

Antimucous: Reduces mucous.

Antimutagen: Neutralises mutagens, as ‘carcinogens’, factors like cigarette smoke, pollution and free radicals that can initiate cell changes, which lead to cancer. These help in suppressing the progression of cancer. Antioxidants function as antimutagens.

Antineoplastic: Substance that has anticancer properties. It will deter the growth of different or abnormal tissue such as tumours.

Antineuralgic: Prevents or relieves neuralgia or neuralgic pain.

Antiopathy: System of medicine using agents to suppress disease symptoms. Many modern drugs fall into this category.
Antioxidant: Prevents damage caused by free radicals, they prevent the oxidation and breakdown of tissues.

Antiparasitic: Destructive to parasites.

Antiperiodic: Prevents the recurrence of disease whose nature, it is to return periodically.

Antiphlogistic: Reduces inflammation and fever similar to an antiinflammatory.

Antiplethoric: Blood thinning actions.

Antiproliferant: Opposite to proliferant; does not multiply.

Anti-protozoan: Kills protozoa or stops them multiplying.

Antipruritic: Relieves sensations of itching or prevents its occurrence.

Antiputrescent: Any agent that prevents and combats decay or putrefaction.

Antipyretic: Reduces fever by reducing production of heat at its centres, destroys fever toxins and induces sweating to increase the loss of heat, drawing out the heat. See also Febrifuge and Refrigerant.

Antirheumatic: Relieves or cures the symptoms of rheumatism.

Antiseborrhoeic: Treats the discharge from the sebaceous glands.

Antisclerotic: Treats the hardening of tissues.

Antiscorbutic: Effective against scurvy.

Antiseborrheic:Helps control the products of sebum, the oily secretion from sweat glands.

Antiseptic: Helps control or prevent infections; they prevent sepsis, decay, and putrefaction and are an agent that kills germs and microbes. Antiseptics reduce the likelihood of abnormal population imbalances and reduce the ability of pathogens to replicate.

Antispasmodic: Prevents or relieves spasms or cramps, thus relieving pain.

Antisudorific: Reduces sweating.

Antisyphilitic: Improves or cures syphilis.

Antithrombotic: Prevents blood clots.

Antithyrotropic: Inhibits thyroid hormones.

Antitoxic: Antidote or treatment that counteracts the effects of poisons.

Antitumour: Prevents or is effective against tumours or cancers.

Antitussive: Prevents or relieves coughs.

Antiulcer: Treats ulcers.

Antivenom: Acts against poisonous matter from animals, reptiles and insects.

Antiviral: Inhibits growth or multiplication of viruses or kills them.

Antizymotic: Destroys disease-producing organisms.

Anxiolytic: Treats the symptoms of anxiety.

Aperient: Causes a gentle bowel movement (mild laxative).

Aperitif: Stimulates the appetite.

Aphrodisiac: Increases or stimulates sexual desire.

Appetiser: Stimulates appetite.

Aromatic: Emits a fragrant smell and produces a pungent taste. These can be used to make other medicines more palatable.

Astringent: Causes tissue to contract, have a firming and healing action of the mucous membranes or exposed tissues. They arrest bleeding; tone and restore venous circulation; stop the excessive discharge of waste material (for example diarrhoea); restrain infections; promote the healing of tissues and are vulneraries.


Bactericidal: Kills bacteria.

Bacteriostatic: Inhibits the growth and/or multiplication of bacteria.

Balancing: State of balance or equilibrium; it can be mental steadiness or a habit of calm behaviour and judgement etc.

Balsamic: Soothing substance having the qualities of a balsam.

Bathmotropic: A response to stimulants which influences nervous and muscular irritability; ‘NegativelyBathmotropic’ – lessening nervous or muscular irritability; Positively Bathmotropic – increasing nervous or muscular irritability.

Bechic: Relieves or cures coughs or referring to coughs.

Bitter: Describes a group of herbs which share the same or similar chemical characteristics and which are usually bitter in taste. They are used to increase the appetite and aid in the process of digestion. They act like a tonic and stimulate the mucosal lining within the mouth, oesophagus and the stomach.

Blood Purifier: Cleans the blood stream of toxins.

Bronchodilator: Dilates lung passages.

Broncholytic: Liquefies mucous in the bronchioles.


Calmative: Agent with mild sedative or calming effects.

Calming: Free from excitement or passion, being tranquil.

Calorific: Heat producing.

Cardiotonic: Stimulates the heart.

Carcinogen: Substance or virus that induces the formation of a tumour.

Carcinogenic: Cancer causing.

Cardiac: Stimulating effect on the heart.

CardiacStimulant: Promotes circulation when there is a weak heart.

Cardioactive: Substance that has a noticeable influence on the heart function.

Cardiotonic: Improves and stimulates the heart functions.

Carminative: Relieves and removes gas, pain and distension from the digestive system. They settle digestion, increase adsorption of nutrients, promote normal peristalsis, thus promoting digestion and assisting in dispelling accumulation of undigested food materials. They warm, comfort and improve the internal blood supply in the digestive tract. These herbs will often contain iron and phosphorus.

Catharsis: Purging or cleaning out of bowels by giving a laxative (cathartic) to stimulate intestinal activity.

Cathartic: Powerful purgative or laxative, causing severe evacuation of the bowels, with or without pain.

CellProliferator: Enhances the formation of new tissue to speed the healing process.

Centrifugal: Moving or directed out from the centre.

Chemo-Enhancement: Property of some drugs, foods, or lifestyles that may increase the effectiveness of anticancer drugs by increasing uptake of the drugs into cancer cells, or making the cells more sensitive to the effects.

Chemoprotective: Quality of drugs, foods, or lifestyles that may protect healthy tissue from the toxic effects of anticancer drugs or carcinogens in the environment.

Cholagogue: Stimulates the secretion and flow of bile production into the duodenum.

Choleretic: Increases secretion of bile by the liver.

Chronotropic: Affecting time or rate, especially heart rate.

Cicatrisant: Promotes healing by the formation of scar tissue.

CirculatoryStimulant: Stimulates the movement of fluid through the body, for example, circulation.

Cleansing: Removes dirt or filth; to make clean.

Comforting: To soothe, console or to make comfortable.

Consoling: Comforting to alleviate grief or sorrow.

Convalescent: Speeds recovery during convalescence.

Cooling: Reduces internal heat or physiological hypersensitivity mainly by clearing toxins.

Corrective: Restoring to a state of health.

Counterirritant: Applications to the skin that will relieve deep seated pain. These are usually applied in the form of heat.

Cytophylactic: Substance the helps to increase the speed at which skin cells in the germinative layer of skin reproduce, hence promoting the rapid healing of wounds, burns and eliminating scarring.


Debride: Remove contaminated and/or devitalised tissue from a wound.

Decoction: Preparation made by boiling a plant part usually the roots, bark, twigs and berries in water. Compare with Infusion.

Decongestant / Decongestive: Relieves or reduces congestion or swelling, especially in the respiratory passages.

Demulcent: Substance that is locally soothing and softening and protects irritated tissues especially the mucous membranes.

DemulcentFebrifuge: Reduces heat while building bodily fluids.

Deobstruent: Removes obstructions by opening the natural passages or pores of the body.

Deodorant: Destroys or covers odours.

Depurative: Purifies and cleanses the system, especially the blood. Also see Blood Purifier and Detoxifier.

Dermatic: Applied to herbs with an action on the skin.

Detergent: Cleans boils, sores, wounds, etc.

Detoxicant: Removes toxins.

Detoxification: Process of aiding the removal of wastes products and toxins from the body.

Detoxifier / Detoxifying: Rids poisons or the effects of poisons.

Diaphoretic: Induces perspiration and by this action restores circulation, dispelling fevers and chills, which eliminate toxins from the body via the skin. They assist the excretory function of the skin; resolve the development of local congestion or inflammation resulting from a cold; they relieve muscular tension and aching joints.

Digestive: Promotes and aids the digestion of food.

Discussive: Dissolves tumours and other things.

Discutient: Dissolves or causes something such as a tumour to disappear. See also Discussive.

Disinfectant: Prevents and combats the spread of infective microorganisms.

Diuretic: Induces urination, thereby reducing fluid retention and high blood pressure and assists the kidneys. These assist the removal of waste products and toxic materials; they promote the excretion of waste fluids from tissues and cavities in the body; they maintain kidney action; they help eliminate urine solids and lessen irritation; they have an antiseptic effect reducing infections in the urinary system; and they stimulate the blood flow to the kidneys or reduce the reabsorption of water from the filtrate in the kidneys nephrons. They contain high levels of potassium, silica and iron.

Drawing:Bring or take out.


Ecbolic: See Abortifacient.

Emmenagogue: Promotes and regulates the flow of menstrual fluid and assist in the elimination of menstrual blood. They assist with dysmenorrhoea, leucorrhoea and amenorrhoea. Emmenagogues are not abortifacients (they do not cause abortion) however they can be uterine stimulants and are best avoided during pregnancy.

Emollient: Softens and soothes the skin when applied locally.

Estrogenic: Induces female hormonal activity.

Euphoric: Unnatural elation or a feeling of well-being.

Exfoliate: To shed.

Exhilarant: Enlivens and clears the mind.

Expectorant: Promotes the discharge of mucous secretions (phlegm and mucous) from the lungs. They assist the respiratory system.

Expellant: Expelling or having the power to expel (drive or force out).

Extract: Substance that has been produced by pressure, distillation or solvents, for example, an essential oil.


Febrifuge: Brings out and encourages fever. Your horse should be kept warm if you are treating them with a febrifuge as it will increase their susceptibility to chilling.

Fungicide: Kills fungal infections.

Fungistatic: Inhibits the growth of fungi.


Galactagogue: Increases the secretion of milk.

Gargle: Fluid used therapeutically as a throat wash.

GastroProtective: Protective for the gastrointestinal tract.

Germicide / Germicidal: Destroys germs or microorganisms such as bacteria.


Haemostasis: Cessation of bleeding.

Haemostatic: Controls or stops bleeding (Haemorrhage).

HealingCrisis: This is an unpleasant early stage of healing when the body is releasing toxins. This is also referred to as a ‘toxic release’.

Hemostatic:Arrests bleeding.

Hepaprotective: Protects the liver, has a utility in liver disorders.

Hepatic: Tonic action on the liver.

Hepatotoxicity: Harmful or toxic effect on the liver.

Histamine: Compound that is found in nearly all tissues of the body. It causes dilation of the blood vessels and contraction of smooth muscle. It is produced in large amounts as a mediator after skin damage and is also released in allergic reactions.

Homeostasis: Equilibrium of internal environment.

HormoneBalancer: Rebalances the hormonal system.

HormoneSuppression: Restrain the production of hormones, for example, the male hormone testosterone.

Humectant: Attracts or retains moisture.

Hypercholesterolemic: Lowers blood cholesterol levels.

Hypotensor: Reduces blood pressure.


ImmuneEnhancer: Enhances the immune system.

ImmuneStimulant: Stimulates the body’s immune defences to counter infection.

Immuno-Modulator: Regulates and adjusts the immune system.

Immuno-Stimulant: See Immune Stimulant.

Insecticide: Kills insects.

InsectRepellent: Repels insects.

Intoxicating: Excite mentally beyond self-control.

Invigorating: Fill with life and energy.

Irritant: Causing irritation.


Larvicidal: Kills larva.

Lithotriptic: Causes dissolution and destruction of bladder and kidney stones.

LiverStimulant: Enhances the livers detoxifying activities and increases the production of bile, which improves digestion and the excretion of waste products and cholesterol.

Lymphatic: Assists the tissue cleaning action of the lymphatic system. This refers to the lymphatic vessels or to the transportation of lymph. As an action for herbs it means that is has a tissue-cleansing action of the lymphatic system.


Moisturising: Substance that protects the skin against: dirt, damage, pollution and harsh climatic conditions. They give the skin a plump, smooth and supple appearance and prevent moisture loss by adding a protective film to the skin.

Mucilage: Substance containing gelatinous constituents (sticky carbohydrates) that are demulcent.

Mucilaginous: Pertaining to, resembling or containing mucilage; slimy. Herbs that have a soothing effect on inflamed mucous membranes.

Mucolytic: Dissolving or breaking down mucous.

Mycotoxins: Poisons produced by fungi.

Mydriatic: Cause the pupil of the eye to dilate.


Narcotic: Addicting substance that reduces pain and produces sleep. These can be toxic in large doses.

Nephritic: Substance that has an action on the kidneys.

Nervine: Substance that can strengthen, calm and tone the activity of the nervous system; they can be either stimulants or sedatives. They are nerve restoratives that are mildly tranquillising. Most nervines contain varying amounts of magnesium, phosphorus, calcium with silica and some have zinc and trace minerals like bromine, iodine and selenium.

Neuroprotective: Substances that protect the neurons from degeneration.

Neurotoxic: Has a harmful or toxic effect on the nervous system.

Nourishing: Fosters or promotes health.

Nutrient orNutritive: Nourishing; increases weight and density.


Oestrogenic: Resembles the actions of oestrogen.

Orexigenic: Appetite stimulant.

Oxytocic: Induces or accelerates labour.


PainInhibitor: Inhibits pain.

PainRelieving: Relieves pain.

Parasiticide: Prevents and destroys parasites, such as, lice, fleas, etc.

Parturient: Induces and promotes labour.

Pediculicide:Destroys lice.

Pesticide: Kills insects or other harmful organisms in crops. The residues of harmful pesticides may find their way into the horse’s diet.

Photosensitivity: Increased sensitivity of the skin to ultraviolet light.

Precursor: Substance from which another is formed.

Proliferant: Multiply.

Prophylactic: Agent which wards off and prevents disease or infection.

Proteolytic: Breaks down proteins into amino acids and peptides, as in digestion.

Purgative: Causes cleansing or watery evacuation of the bowels, usually with griping (painful cramps).

Purifying: Making something pure, as in the removal of foreign materials and pollutions; to cleanse the system.

Purulent: Containing or exuding pus.


Refrigerant: Cooling; they reduce fever and thirst and lower the body’s temperature.

Regenerative: Restore; bring into existence again.

Regulator: Helps to balance and regulate the functions of the body.

Relaxant: Tends to relax and relieve tension, especially muscular tension (soothing).

Resolvent: Promotes the resolving and removing of abnormal growths, such as a tumour.

Restorative: Helps strengthen and revive the body systems.

Revitalising: Introduce new vigour and strength.

Revulsive: Relieves pain by means of the diversion of blood or disease from one part of the body to another.

Rubefacient: Literally means to make red. Rubefacients cause the reddening or irritation when applied to the skin. They act as irritants which bring the blood to the surface or deeper by over stimulating blood vessels or nerves; they are warming and they improve circulation. Never use strong rubefacients on your horse’s lower limbs, this cannot produce positive results because the lower limbs are not supported with enough circulation and blistering sores are usually the result. These are used if atrophy is present in big muscles.


Secretion: Release of chemical substances from the glands.

Sedative: Calms the nerves, allays excitement, induces relaxation, and is conducive to sleep. Sedatives reduce anxiety and tension.

Sialagogue: Increases the flow of saliva.

Soothing: To calm or tranquilise; to relieve, comfort and refresh.

Soporific: Induces sleep.

Spasmolytic: Reduces spasm or tension especially in the visceral smooth muscle, the muscle in the gut wall, or bronchial tubes.

Splenetic: Tonic for the spleen.

Sternutatory: Producing sneezing by irritation of the mucous membranes.

Stimulant: Causes increased activity of another agent, cell, tissue, organ, or organism. It temporarily increases the functional activity of the body and its organs, for example the appetite and the circulatory and immune systems.

Stomachic: Digestive aid that gives strength and tone to the stomach. They are also used to stimulate the appetite.

Strengthening: Make stronger; to give strength to.

Stupefying: To stupefy is the suspension of sensibility as in disease or as caused by narcotics or intoxicants etc. Giving a deadened sensibility and dulling the faculties.

Styptic: Astringent agent that stops or reduces external bleeding (Applied externally).
Sudorific: Cause heavy perspiration. See Diaphoretics.

Synergistic: Having the property that the total combined effect of two or more factors exceeds the sum of their individual effects. They cooperate with each other; work together.

Synergy: Agents working together harmoniously: coordination in the action of muscles, organs or substances, such as, drugs.

Systemic: Affecting the body as a whole rather than affecting individual organs.


Teratogen: Causes deformity of a foetus.

Therapeutic: Substance or form of treatment with the power to cure.

Tonic: Ambiguous term referring to a substance thought to have an overall positive medicinal effect of an unspecified nature. They increase body tone and give a feeling of wellbeing and improve physiological functions. See Adaptogenic.

Tonify: Strengthens and restores body systems.

Topical: Applied directly to the part being treated (externally).

Toxic: Potentially lethal effect.

ToxicRelease: Often unpleasant early stages of healing when the body is releasing toxins often referred to as a ‘Healing Crisis’. See also Healing Crisis.

Tranquiliser: Calming effect.


Uplifting: Intellectually or spiritually elevated.


Vasoconstrictor: Substance like caffeine and nicotine that constricts (narrows) blood vessels thus reducing blood circulation and raising blood pressure.

Vasodilator: Dilates blood vessels and thus lowers blood pressure. .

Vermicide: Kills worms and creeping parasites.

Vermicidal: See Vermicide.

Vermifuge: Expels worms and creeping parasites from the body.

Vesicant: Causing blistering to the skin; a counter irritant.

Virustatic: Inhibits the multiplication of a virus.

Vulnerary: Repair damage to blood vessel walls and surrounding tissues. They restrain infections, promote the healing of tissues, prevent tissue degeneration and arrest bleeding in wounds. Used for healing wounds, fresh cuts, etc, usually used as a poultice.