GlossaryEssentialOilProperties-graphic (1)

Here on the Aromatic Wisdom blog, I frequently post a special feature called Fragrant Friday where I focus on one specific essential oil and share all the benefits and properties of that oil.   I’ll often name specific therapeutic properties then get a message from a reader asking for a translation of such bizzare terms as “galactagogue” or “anti-tussive.”

Therefore, to assist you in better understanding the meaning of the words for actions and therapeutic properties of essential oils, I offer the helpful list below.

Note: I know that some of these words sound totally made up, and others sound like spells straight out of Harry Potter. Others, like laxative and anti-bacterial will be familiar.  They are, indeed, real terms to indicate real actions by essential oils and you’ll see them over and over when you read aromatherapy books and journals.

Have I missed any good ones?  If so, just let me know in the comment section below.

Suggestion: Print this list and keep it next to your Aromatherapy Library!

Abortifacient: Capable of inducing abortion.

Analgesic: Pain relieving.

Antiangiogenic: Suppresses new blood vessels from forming, which may be useful in preventing tumor growth. However, it may also suppress fetal growth, therefore, should be avoided in pregnancy.

Anthelmintic:  Expels parasitic worms from the body by either stunning or killing them. They may also be called vermifuges (stunning) or vermicides (killing).


Anti-bacterial: Destroys bacteria.

Anti-odontalgic:  Relieves toothache.

Anti-emetic:  Reduces the severity or incidence of vomiting.

Anti-fungal: Inhibits fungus growth.

Anti-galactagogue:  Impedes or lessens the flow of breast milk.

Anti-hemorrhagic:  Prevents or combats bleeding.

Anti-infectious: Helps the body strengthen its own resistance to infective organisms and rid the body of illness

Anti-inflammatory: Alleviates inflammation.

Anti-phlogistic: Counteracts inflammation

Anti-pruritic: Relieves or prevents the sensation of itching

Anti-pyretic: Dispels heat, fire, and fever (from the Greek word pyre, meaning fire).

Antiseptic: Assists in fighting germs and infections.

Anti-seborrheic:  Helps control the oily secretion from sweat glands.

Anti-spasmodic: Relieves spasms of voluntary and involuntary muscles.

Anti-sudorific:  To lessen sweating.

Anti-rheumatic: Prevents and/or relieves rheumatic pain and swelling.

Anti-tussive:  Capable of relieving or suppressing a cough (from ANTI- + Latin tussis to cough)

Anti-toxic: Antidote or treatment to counteract the effects of poison.

Anti-viral: Inhibits the growth of viruses.

Aperient: Mild laxative

Aphrodisiac: Increasing sexual desire and sexual functioning

Astringent: Firms tissue and organs; reduces discharges and secretions.

Balsamic: Soothing medicine or application having the qualities of balsam

Carminative: Relieves intestinal gas pain and distention; promotes peristalsis.

Carcinogenic: A substance that promotes cancer or cancerous growths

Cephalic: A substance which is stimulating and clearing for the mind.

Cholagogue: Stimulating the secretion of bile into the duodenum

Choleretic: Helps the liver to excrete bile, leading to greater bile flow

Cicatrisant: Promotes healing by cell-regeneration and formation of scar tissue.

Cytophylactic: Action of increasing the leukocyte activity to defend the body against infection.

Colic: Pain due to contraction of the muscle of the abdominal organs

Decongestant: Reduces nasal mucus production and swelling.

Demulcent: An agent protecting mucous membranes and helps stop irritation

Depurative: Helps to detoxify and to combat impurities in the blood and body

Detoxifier: Helps to detoxify and to combat impurities in the blood and body.

Diaphoretic: Causes perspiration and increased elimination through the skin.

Diuretic: Promotes activity of kidney and bladder and increases urination.

Emetic: Induces vomiting.

Emmenagogue: Helps promote and regulate menstruation.  Helps the uterus to expel.

Emollient: Smoothes, softens and protects the skin.

Expectorant: Promotes discharge of phlegm and mucous from the lungs and throat.

Febrifuge: Helps to combat fever

Galactagogue: Helps to increase milk secretion.

Hemostatic: Stops the flow of blood. An astringent that stops bleeding or hemorrhaging.

Hypotensive: Lowers high blood pressure.

Immune stimulant: Stimulates functioning of the immune system.

Laxative: Promotes bowel movements.

Menorrhagia: Excessive blood loss during menstruation

Mucolytic: Breaks down mucus (pulmonary).

Narcotic: Substance inducing sleep

Nervine: Strengthens the functional activity of the nervous system; may be either a stimulant or sedative.

Neurotoxin: A substance having a toxic or harmful effect on the nervous system

Parturient: Assisting and helping childbirth

Pruritis: Itching

Pyrosis: Heartburn

Rubifacient: Increases local blood circulation, can cause minor skin irritation, vasodilation, and local analgesic effect.

Sedative:  Calms and tranquilizes by lowering the functional activity of the organ or body part.

Soporific: A substance which helps to induce sleep

Stimulant:  Increases functional activity of specific organ or system.

Stomachic:  Serves to tone the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite.

Tonic:  Strengthens and restores vitality.

Sudorific: Increases sweating.

Vasoconstrictor: An agent which helps the contraction of blood vessels.

Vasodilator: An agent which helps the dilation of blood vessels.

Vermifuge: Expels intestinal worms

Vulnerary: An agent applied externally which helps to heal wounds and sores and helps to prevent tissue degeneration.

Are these words new to you?  Will this help you understand the therapeutic properties of essential oil?  

Please leave a comment below!

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