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Medical Terms

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A brief glossary of medical terminology as gathered from Jack Ritchason's The Little Herb Encyclopedia.

Abortifacient: A substance which causes or promotes abortion

Adaptogen: Increases the body's ability to adapt to internal or external stress

Alterative: Gradually alters or changes a condition

Analgesic: Relieves pain and discomfort

Anodyne: A medicine that relieves pain.

Antihelminic: Expels worms. Also called vermifuge.

Antibiotic: Kills or inhibits the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms.

Antidote: Counteracts the action af another substance; usually refers to poisons.

Antipyretic: Reduces or prevents a fever

Antiseptic: Destroys bacteria; usually applied externally

Antispasmodic: Relieves or prevents muscle spasms or cramps

Astringent: Causes dehydration and the tightening and shrinking of tissues. Used to stop bleeding and close pores.

Bitter tonic: Has a bitter taste that stimulates the flow of gastric juices

Calmative: Has a calming effect; usually not as strong as a sedative

Carminative: Dispels or prevents gas catarrh Inflammation of the mucous membranes; especially those of the respiratory system. May be accompanied by gastric upsets or diarrhea.

Cathartic: Causes evacuation of the bowels

Cholagogue Promotes the flow of bile

Demulcent: Oily or mucilaginous substance that soothes and moistens irritated tissues

Diaphoretic: Promotes sweating

Diuretic: Also called "water pills;" promotes the flow of urine emetic induces vomiting

Emmenagogue: Promotes menstruation

Emolient: Softens and soothes the skin

Expectorant: Expels phlegm by inducing coughing, sneezing, or spitting febrifuge Dissipates fever

Flatulence: Gas in the stomach or bowels

Hemostatic: Stops internal bleeding

Hepatic: Affecting the liver

Laxative A gentle cathartic. A laxative may act by stimulating the motion of the bowel, moistening the colon, increasing bile secretion, or relieving cramps. nervine calms nervousness, tension, and excitement

Pectoral: Relieves ailments of the chest and lungs

Physic: A medicinal preparation

Purgative: A strong cathartic

Rheumatism: Stiffness of joints and muscles

Rubefacient: Increases blood circulation to the area to which it is applied

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Sedative: Reduces nervous tension; stronger than a calmative

Sialogogue: Increases the flow of saliva

Simple: A herb used solo in treatment of a medical condition

Soporific: Induces sleep

Stimulant: Increases or quickens actions of the body

Styptic: Stops external bleeding; usually an astringent

Sudorific: Promotes sweating

Tonic: Strengthens or invigorates the systems

Vermifuge: Destroys or expels worms

Vesicant: Causes blisters

Vulnerary: Used to treat wounds

Source: The Little Herb Encyclopedia by Jack Ritchason N.D.

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