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Energetics (Plant Properties)

Energetics - defined

Energetics is a term herbalists use to describe the different properties of plants and herbs. It also describes the action of those plants on a body system. These descriptions are based on observations of the plants and their effects. These descriptions are not medical or scientific terms that explain how or why the plants work the way they do.

It’s a good idea to use the language of energetics with your integrative health care provider. Together, you can create an informed, personalized plan to help you reach optimal health.

Key Energetics

Below is a list of key energetics: adaptogens, alteratives, anodynes, anthelmintics, anti-inflammatories, antimicrobials, antispasmodics, bitters, cardiotonics, carminatives, cholagogues, demulcents, depuratives, diuretics, expectorants, hypotensives, immunomodulators, laxatives, lymphatics, nervines, trophorestoratives, and vulneraries.

Each includes a list of plants that contain the properties described. (Phyllanthus NiruriOcimum SanctumBacopa MonnieriSemen CuscutaeCistanche TubulosaTerminalia ChebulaPaeonia LactifloraPolygala Tenuifolia, and Vaccinium Uliginosum.)

You can also learn more about energetics here.

This list is intended for educational purposes only. It should not be used during any medical emergency and should not substitute for seeking responsible, professional medical care.

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Adaptogens are herbs that strengthen the HPO (hypothalamus, pituitary, gonadal) axis. They bring the body back in balance by promoting and restoring physiological function. They can also increase resilience to the negative effects of stress and adversity.


Alteratives are herbs that support nutrition absorption and specific elimination pathways of the body. They can help the function of the kidneys, liver, lungs, skin, bowels, and lymphatic system. They can help the body repair damage from chronic disease, especially inflammation caused by food allergies, nutritional deficiencies, and environmental toxins.


Anodynes are herbs that lessen the sensation of pain. They are classified by whether they are applied internally or externally. Anodynes can also be differentiated by whether the action affects the nervous system or the muscular system.


Anthelmintics are herbs that help the body eliminate stomach parasites and intestinal worms. Optimal treatment often takes the particular parasite into consideration and includes dietary considerations.

Select Adaptogens: Phyllanthus niruri.


Anti-inflammatory herbs lessen the inflammatory response in the body caused by injury, infection, or allergies.


Antimicrobials are herbs that disadvantage pathogens in the body. Antimicrobial herbs can be useful in fighting viral, bacterial, and fungal infections.


Antispasmodics are herbs that help suppress or reduce muscular spasms and tension. Some antispasmodics ease muscle cramps throughout the body. Others are specific to particular organs and muscle types. Many of these herbs can also help relax psychological tension by acting on the central nervous system.

Select Adaptogens: Phyllanthus niruriOcimum sanctum.


Bitters stimulate a flow of digestive effects. The benefits range from increased salivation to the release of bile and pancreatic enzymes. The bitter taste can stimulate the appetite, aid digestion, and encourage nutrient integration. A taste of bitter can also affect mood, helping to reground a person to the present.


Cardiotonics are herbs used to support heart function. They have observable beneficial actions that improve heart function. However, they do not contain cardiac glycosides found in plants and herbs that act more aggressively.


Carminatives are herbs that soothe the gut wall. The benefits of carminative herbs include preventing or dispelling gas and bloating. Benefits also include providing relief from gastrointestinal pains and nausea.


Cholagogues are herbs that support gall bladder and liver health. They promote the flow of bile from the gall bladder into the intestines. They also stimulate constriction and relaxation of the muscles of the intestine and may have laxative qualities. In addition, cholagogues improve liver function and can increase the ability to digest fats.

Select Adaptogens: Phyllanthus niruri.


Demulcents are mucoprotective agents. Demulcent herbs are used to soothe and shield irritated tissues. They also provide a protective coating for sore throats, digestive ulcers, irritated intestines, and other mucus membranes.

Select Adaptogens: Terminalia chebula.


Depuratives are herbs that help eliminate waste and toxins from the body. They support the natural cleansing functions of the kidneys and liver. They have also demonstrated the ability to increase tissue blood flow and lymph drainage.

Select Adaptogens: Terminalia chebula.


Depuratives are herbs that help eliminate waste and toxins from the body. They support the natural cleansing functions of the kidneys and liver. They have also demonstrated the ability to increase tissue blood flow and lymph drainage.


Expectorants are herbs that promote the excretion of mucus from the throat, lungs, and sinuses. Expectorants are often used to treat coughs. Herbs in this class can be either relaxing or stimulative.


Hypotensives are herbs that lower blood pressure, which can help the body reduce hypertension. They are sometimes used to help lower blood pressure.


Immunomodulators are herbs that adjust the immune response in the body to optimal levels. Immunomodulators can help build and balance the immune system over long periods of time.


Laxatives are herbs that stimulate or encourage bowel movements. Some laxative herbs increase intestinal and bowel kinetics; others may provide lubrication. 


Lymphatics are herbs can that be specialized alteratives or specialized depurativesThey move congested lymph fluid. They can also shrink swollen lymph glands and dissolve benign cysts. 


Nervines are herbs that act on the nervous system. They can be categorized as stimulants or relaxants — they either calm or energize the nervesSome nervines are neurotropic, which means they help the nerves grow.


Trophorestoratives are herbs that help bring balance to excess or deficient function in an organ or systemMany trophorestorative herbs are organ or body system specific.

Select Adaptogens: Phyllanthus niruri.


Vulneraries are herbs that are used to help heal internal and external wounds. Vulnerary herbs can be used for wounds such as ulcers or hemorrhoids. In addition, some vulneraries may act as immunostimulants. 

Select Adaptogens: Phyllanthus niruri.