Common Terms Used in the Quest for Herbal Remedies

By  Gaye  Levy

Guest writer for  Wake Up World

For many of us, the migration toward independence and self-reliance includes having a knowledge of herbal remedies.   There are many reasons for this not the least of which is the lack of traditional, western medicines in a post SHTF world.   But even in a world without problems and global uncertainties, the benefit of using herbal remedies are immense.   For the most part they are inexpensive, easy to administer and safe.

As you begin to learn about herbals, you may find that you are faced with a myriad of confusing terms.   What is a tincture?   How about an infusion?   What is all this business about an active principal?

Today I am reaching into the archives of some of my own reference books to bring you a dictionary of common terms that are used in the quest for herbal remedies.   While not all inclusive, the following list includes some of the most common terms used when describing herbals uses for self-treatment.

Herbal Medicine: What Some of Those Terms Really Mean

Active Principle

A plant chemical proven to have medical effect.


A substance that prevents or stops the growth of microorganisms that cause infection.


A substance the draws together the soft tissues such as skin or mucous membranes.


A drink or liquid extract made by boiling plant bark, roots, berries or seeds in water.


A substance that increases the flow of urine.


A substance that softens and soothes the skin and mucous membranes.

Essential Oil

A plant oil that   vaporizes readily and is often obtained by steam distillation.


A substance that loosens and helps to expel phlegm.

Herbal Tea

A beverage made from steeping or boiling herbs.


A preparation in which flowers, leaves or stems are steeped in water that is not boiling.

Liquid extract

Concentrated infusion made by soaking an herb in distilled water, grain alcohol, or glycerin for a long period.

Mucous membrane

Lining of body passage, such as the throat, that protects itself with secretions of mucus.


Sensitivity to sunlight, resulting in rash or burning sensation, brought on by ingestion or application of certain substances.


Gauze or cloth in which medicine has been wrapped.   A plaster is typically applied to the skin.


An herbal preparation that is usually applied directly to the affected area to relieve pain or swelling.


A very strong laxative.


Astringent and bitter compounds found in the seeds and skins of grapes, which slow oxidation and aging.


An herbal liquid extract that generally involves macerating the herb in alcohol.

Volatile Oil

A plant oil that vaporizes readily and is often obtained by steam distillation, used interchangeably with essential oil.


A liquid herbal medicine preparation for external use.

The Final Word

Having some knowledge of the terms used in herbal medicine will help you when choosing the best method to administer your self-healing remedy.   Whether are growing your own herbs (see  Nine Healing Herbs You Can Grow Yourself in a Healing Garden) or purchasing fresh herbs from a farmer’s market or herbalist, learning to take care of yourself using natural remedies can greatly enhance your ability to take care of your health when there is no other resource available.

About the Author

Gaye  Levy  lives and teaches the principles of a sustainable, self-reliant and stylish lifestyle through emergency preparation and disaster planning. She does this through her website at, an online preparedness blog that provides lifestyle tools, tips, and thoughts to guide you through the back door of life in the 21st century. With an emphasis on prepping and survival, she writes about and shares practical, thoughtful, and inspirational tools for survival in uncertain times.

Backdoor Survival is currently listed on the Survival Top 50. In addition, Gaye is a frequent guest on the Preparedness Radio Network and the soon to be author of a book on 21st century preparedness. Also known as SuvivalWoman, Gaye   speaks her mind and delivers her message with optimism and grace, regardless of mayhem swirling around us.

You can find Gaye through her website at  Backdoor Survival, on the  Backdoor Survival Page  on Facebook, and as  Survival Woman  on Twitter.


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