Classification of Herbs


Herbs are classified in many ways. Some of them are:

  • According to the usage
  • According to the active constituents
  • According to the period of life

According to the usage, the herbs are classified in four parts: Medicinal herbs, culinary herbs, Aromatic herbs, Ornamental herbs.

Medicinal Herbs

Medicinal herbs have curative powers and are used in making medicines because of their healing properties.

Culinary Herbs

Culinary herbs are probably the mostly used as cooking herbs because of their strong flavours like mint, parsley, basil.

Ornamental Herbs

Ornamental herbs are used for decoration because they have brightly coloured flowers and foliage like lavender, chives.

According to the active constituents present in them, the herbs are divided into five major categories: Aromatic (volatile oils), Astringents (tannins), Bitter (phenolic compounds, saponins, and alkaloids), Mucilagnious (polysacharides), and Nutritive (food stuffs).

Aromatic Herbs

Aromatic Herbs, the name is a reflection of the pleasant odour that many of these herbs have. They are used extensively both therapeutically and as flavourings and perfumes. Aromatic herbs are divided into two subcategories: stimulants and nerviness.

Stimulant Herbs increase energy and activities of the body, or its parts or organs, and most often affect the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems e.g. fennel, ginger, garlic, lemon grass.

Nervine Herbs are often used to heal and soothe the nervous system, and often affect the respiratory, digestive, and circulatory systems as well. They are often used in teas or in encapsulated form, e.g. ginger, catnip.

Astringent Herbs

Astringent Herbs have tannins, which have the ability to precipitate proteins, and this “tightens,” contracts, or tones living tissue, and helps to halt discharges. They affect the digestive, urinary, and circulatory systems, and large doses are toxic to the liver. They are analgesic, antiseptic, antiabortive, astringent, emmenaggogue, homostatic, and styptic e.g. peppermint, red raspberry.

Bitter Herbs

Bitter Herbs are named because of the presence of phenols and phenolic glycosides, alkaloids, or saponins, and are divided into four subcategories: laxative herbs, diuretic herbs, saponin-containing herbs, and aloaloid-containing herbs.

Laxative Bitter herbs include alterative, anticatarrhal, antipyretic, cholagogue, purgative, hepatonic, sialagogue, vermifuge, and blood purifier e.g. aloe, cascara, licorice, pumpkin, senna, yellow dock, yucca, barberry, gentian, safflowers, and golden seal.

Diuretic Herbs induce loss of fluid from the body through the urinary system. The fluids released help cleanse the vascular system, kidneys, and liver. They are alterative, antibiotic, anticatarrhal, antipyretic, antiseptic, lithotriptic, and blood purifier in nature e.g. asparagus, blessed thistle, burdock, butcher’s broom, buchu, chaparral, chickweed, cornsilk, dandelion, dog grass, grapevine, and parsley.

Saponin-containing Herbs are known for their ability to produce frothing or foaming in solution with water. The name “saponin” comes from the Latin word for soap. They emulsify fat soluble molecules in the digestive tract, and their most important property is to enhance the body’s ability to absorb other active compounds.

Saponins have the ability to effectively dissolve the cell membranes of red blood cells and disrupt them. They are alterative, anticatarrhal, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, emmenagugue, cardiac stimulant, and increased longevity in nature. For e.g. yam root, schizandra, black cohosh, blue cohosh, devil’s claw, licorice, alfalfa, yucca, ginseng, and gotu kola.

Mucilaginous Herbs

Mucilaginous herbs derive their properties from the polysaccharides they contain, which give these herbs a slippery, mild taste that is sweet in water. All plants product mucilage in some form to store water and hydrates as a food reserve. Since most mucilages are not broken down by the human digestive system, but absorb toxins from the bowel and give bulk to the stool, these herbs are most effective topically as poultices and knitting agents, and are also used topically in the digestive tract. When used as lozenges or extracts, they have a demulcent action on the throat.

They eliminate the toxins from the intestinal system, help in regulating it and reduce the bowel transit time. They are antibiotic, antacid, demulcent, emollient, culnerary, and detoxifier in nature. For e.g. althea, aloe, burdock, comfrey, dandelion, echinacea, fenugreek, kelp, psylium, slippery elm, dulse, glucomannan from Konjak root, Irish moss, and mullein.

Nutritive Herbs

These herbs derive both their name and their classification from the nutritive value they provide to the diet. They are true foods and provide some medicinal effects as fiber, mucilage, and diuretic action. But most importantly they provide the nutrition of protein, carbohydrates, and fats, plus the vitamins and minerals that are necessary for adequate nutrition. For e.g. rosehips, acerola, apple, asparagus, banana, barley grass, bee pollen, bilberry, broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, grapefruit, hibiscus, lemon, oatstraw, oniono, orange, papaya, pineapple, red clover, spirulina, stevia, and wheat germ.

According to the period of life, herbs also can be classified as annuals, biennials, and perennials. Annuals bloom one season and then die. Biennials live for two seasons, blooming the second season only. Once established, perennials live over winter and bloom each season.

Annual herbs complete their life cycle in one year; start them from seed. Annual herbs include

  • Anice
  • Basil
  • Borage
  • Calendula (Pot Marigold)
  • Chamomile
  • Chervil
  • Cilantro/Coriander
  • DillBouquet
  • Dill Dukat
  • Fennel, smoky
  • Marjoram
  • Parsley
  • Shiso
  • Saffron
  • Summer Savory

Perennial herbs grow for more than one season and include sweet marjoram, parsley, mint, sage, thyme and chives. Most can be started from young plants except for parsley.

  • Alfalfa
  • Allspice
  • Aloe Vera
  • Angelica
  • Arimony
  • Asafoetida
  • Avens
  • Bee Balm
  • Bay leaves
  • Catnip
  • Chamomile
  • Common Thyme
  • Dill
  • Echinacea
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Mint: Spearmint/peppermint / applemint/ orangemint
  • Marjoram sweet
  • Mitsuba
  • Oregano
  • Rosemary
  • Stevia
  • Salad Burnet
  • Sage
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Watercress
  • Yarrow

Biennial herbs are plants which live two season and bloom in the second season only.

  • Caraway seeds
  • Prime rose
  • Bai Zhi
  • Mullein
  • Teasel
  • Viper’s Bugloss
Amit Kumar
Amit Kumar
Hii! Welcome to My digital home, I am Amit – an almost no-code generalist, helping businesses with their online presence using WordPress and other tools and simplifying some of their operations with ideas and automation. A psychology and philosophy geek by interest and a graduate in Hospitality Management. I founded hmhelp during college, which got me into WordPress. I am a highly motivated and results-oriented professional with a proven track record of success in the hospitality industry. I’m also a Digital Marketing Enthusiast with significant academic and practical experience managing digital content across multiple platforms. Skilled at SEO optimization, developing digital content for social media platforms, I offer extensive knowledge of multiple software programs, strong attention to detail, and extraordinary communication skills. If you are interested in talking about any of the topics I have mentioned on my website, you are in the right place. You can contact me or learn more about what I do. You can also connect with me on social networks.

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