Herbalism Terms

How can we help?
< All Topics

Herbalism Terms

from the American Botanical Council:
Herb:     The word herb (sometimes referred to as botanical) has several different meanings depending on the perspective:

In commercial terms – herb generally refers to plants used for culinary purposes. Additionally the terminology differentiates Temperate Zone plants from tropical and sub-tropical plants (i.e., spices).

In horticultural terms – herb refers to “herbaceous,” which describes the appearance of the plant (i.e., a non-woody, vascular plant).

In taxonomic terms – herb generally refers to the aboveground parts or the aerial parts (i.e., the flower, leaf, and stem).

In terms of herbal medicine – herb refers to plants used in various forms or preparations, valued for their therapeutic benefits, and sold as dietary supplements in the U.S. marketplace.

Term Definition
Menstrum (Solvent) the liquid used to extract the constituents from plant material.
Common Menstrum liquids:
Water Used to make infusions & decoctions.
Alcohol Used to make tinctures, generally above 100 proof.
Glycerin Used to make tinctures. Sweet, vegetable based menstrum good for childrens remedies.
Apple Cider Vinegar Used to make tinctures, oxymels and culinary preparations.
Wine Vinegar Used to make culinary preparations.
Honey Sweet and preservative.
Olive Oil Conditioning, cleansing, softening,  absorbs easily, anti-oxidant.
Coconut Oil Protective, conditioning, and helps to keep other carrier oils from going rancid. Solid in cool temps.
Grapeseed Oil The lightest of the oils and virtually odorless. It is also very “drying”.
Sweet Almond Oil An light oil used to soften, soothe, and re-condition the skin.
Witch Hazel An astringent used in cosmetic preparations.
Rubbing Alcohol Used to make liniments.
Infusion Herbs steeped in a water menstrum and strained. Sweeten and drink.
Decoction Roots, bark, berries, and seeds boiled in a water menstrum and strained. Sweeten and drink.
Tincture Plant constituents extracted in a menstrum. Tinctures are usually alcohol, glycerin or vinegar based.
Infused Oil Extract of a plant using a carrier oil.
Essential Oil A highly concentrated liquid containing volatile aroma compounds from plants, derived through distillation.
Salve An ointment used to promote healing of the skin or as protection.
Liniment Extract of a plant using alcohol or vinegar and applied topically.
Poultice Topical application of a soft moist mass of bruised fresh herbs, usually wrapped in a cloth.
Electuary Powdered herbs preserved in honey.
Oxymel A honey and vinegar blend.
Beeswax Used to thicken salves.
Vitamin E Oil Used as a preservative in salves and infused oils.
Previous Herbal Properties and Actions
Table of Contents