Supplements Glossary


All the words you need to know. And a few other ones.


Adaptogen  An agent that reduces reactions to various stressors, therefore helping to restore and maintain a normal balance to the body.

Agonists  A plant compound which binds to a receptor and activates it, producing a pharmacological response (eg contraction, relaxation, secretion, enzyme activation, etc).

Alkaloids  A naturally occurring organic compound containing nitrogen. Many alkaloids are physiologically active and can be used in small quantities as medicines, but if taken in larger doses they can be extremely poisonous. Examples include caffeine and nicotine.

Antangonists  A chemical that, when bound to a receptor, blocks the receptor and prevents it from responding. Antagonists prevent agonists from binding or attaching to the receptor, inhibiting the physiological action of that receptor. Antagonists include caffeine and naloxone.

Antioxidant  A chemical that prevents oxidation, and subsequent production of "free-radicals" which are harmful to the body.

Anxiolytic  An anxiety-reducing agent.

Aperitif  An alcoholic drink that is taken before a meal as an appetizer.

Atopy  An allergic reaction that becomes apparent in a sensitized person only minutes after contact.

Ayurvedic  A system of traditional medicine practiced in India.



Bioavailability  The extent to which a compound or other substance becomes available to the body for biological effects.

Biodiversity  The measure of the number of different plant and animal species in an environment.

Biodynamic  A farming method taking in consideration both biological cycles and "dynamic" aspects of the farm, and trying to achieve a balance between the physical and non-physical aspects.

Bioflavonoids  Naturally occurring plant metabolites. Often highly pigmented, these compounds are responsible for the colors of fruits, vegetables and flowers. 

Bitter  A liquor (extract) that is flavored with the pungent taste of plant extracts and is used medicinally to promote appetite or digestion. 

British Pharmacopoeia  A book containing an official list of medicinal herbs describing their preparation, testing and usage.



Cathartic  A very powerful agent used to relieve severe constipation (also called a laxative).

Cellulose  The indigestible component of plants that comprises the cell walls in the botanical kingdom.

Chelate  A compound formed when a metallic ion is bound to an organic molecule; used to improve availability of minerals.

Chlorophyll  The green pigment of plants that captures the energy from sunlight necessary for photosynthesis.

Cholagogic  The action of an agent that increases flow of bile from the gallbladder.

Commission E Monographs  Published by the German Institute for Drugs and Medicinal Products in the Bundesanzeiger, the German equivalent to the US Federal Register. For physicians, pharmacists and other health professionals. Contains information on the uses, side effects and drug interactions of more than 300 herbs.

Constituents  A natural chemical that has been identified, isolated and classified. Many herbs contain hundreds of known constituents.

Contraindication  A condition or factor that serves as a reason to withhold a certain medical treatment due to the harm that it would cause the patient. 



Decoctions  The liquid resulting from extracting the essence of a substance by heating or boiling. This tea preparation method is used for the more robust/woody parts of the plant such as root, stem, seed or fruit. The reason for the added cooking time is that these tougher plant parts need a longer cooking time to release the potential healing benefits.

Density  The measure of how much mass is contained in a given unit volume.

Double-blind  A study in which neither the study subjects (participants) nor the experimenters (researchers) know which treatment or intervention any particular participant is receiving during the study. This produces objective results without bias.

Dyspepsia  Stomach or intestinal upset, including nausea, increased gas and vomiting.



Eclectic Physicians  19th-century physicians in the US who used herbal therapies.

Enzyme  A protein that acts as a catalyst in mediating and speeding up a specific chemical reaction.

Essential Fatty Acid  A component of a "fat" molecule that is essential to human health, but cannot be manufactured by the body.

Essential Fatty Acids, Polyunsaturated  A class of natural organic compounds--derived from fats--that are essential for normal human growth, health promotion, and disease prevention.

Estrogenic  A substance that induces female hormonal activity.

Excipients  Extra ingredients or contaminants used to speed up production.



Fatty Acids  A natural organic compound derived from fats.

Flavonoid  A generic term for a group of compounds widely distributed in higher plants. They have shown antioxidant effects. Anthocyanins is a subgroup.



Galen  An ancient Greek physician. His views dominated European medicine for over a thousand years.

Glycerin  A colorless, odorless, viscous, water-soluble liquid with a slightly sweet taste. Vegetable glycerin is made from palm, soybean, coconut or corn oils. It is added as a carrier in pharmaceutical preparations to increase palatability and preserve shelf life.

Glycosides  A molecule in which sugar is bound to another functional group via a glycosidic bond. Many plants store constituents in the form of inactive glycosides. Example of a cardiac glycoside is digitoxin, found in foxglove.

Genetically Modified Organism's (GMOs)  An organism or a microorganism in which the genetic material (DNA) has been altered by genetic engineering or in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination. 



Hepatic  Relating to the liver.

Herbarium  A collection of dried plant specimens used for reference in the identification and comparison of subsequent plant samples.  These specimens are dried, pressed plants on sheets of stiff paper with facts about the plant, including common and scientific names, height, geographical location where the plant was growing, and date of acquisition.

Hermetically  A sealed barrier that is airtight (impervious to gases).

Herb Identity Guaranteed  We verify the ingredient identity using infrared spectroscopy and checking the color, taste, and smell, requiring a match against our specifications and our database. This allows us to guarantee that the identification meets a consistent set of standards every time.

Hexane  A colorless flammable liquid alkane derived from petroleum and used as a solvent.

High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)  An analytical technique that is used to separate, identify, and quantitate the concentrations of constituents in a plant or a solution.

Hydroxypropyl Methylcellulose (HPMC)  A viscoelastic polymer used in the development of controlled-delivery medications and supplements. Dissolves readily in water and is commonly used as an alternative to gelatin. Although a common compound in vegetarian capsules, Oregon’s Wild Harvest uses pullulan, not HPMC in our vegetarian capsules. HPMC capsules are also not permitted in products certified to the NOP.

Hypoglycemic  The condition in which the body has a deficiency of blood sugar.

Hypokalmeia  Deficiency or lower than normal levels of potassium in the bloodstream. Can cause dysfunction of the nerve and muscle cells, particularly heart muscle cells. 

Hypotension  Blood pressure that is below normal.


I, J, K

Infusions  An herbal infusion is a strong tea used as a remedy, made using hot or boiling water and steeping the plant material for a set amount of time.  Infusions are the most common type of herbal tea and they're the simplest to make. Typically, infusions are made from the more fragile plant parts such as the leaves, flowers and other non-woody parts of the herb. The therapeutic effect from many of these herbs is due to the volatile compounds and it is important not to boil these herbs so that these delicate compounds are retained.

In-Vitro  Literally translates as "in glass." An artificial environment created outside a living organism (eg a test tube or culture plate) used in experimental research to study a disease or process.

Irradiated  A plant material that has been treated using gamma-rays.  This is a sterilization method against microbial deterioration and insect infestation during storage and transport.  Irradiation is not allowed for organic ingredients. Oregon’s Wild Harvest products are all non-irradiated.



Lipids  Any of a group of fats or fat-like compounds insoluble in water and soluble in fat solvents.

Lowest Oxygen Permeability  Oxygen is kept out of the product more efficiently, therefore preserving the freshness and beneficial compounds of the product inside.



Meta-Analysis  A publication that is a review and synopsis of recent publications pertaining to a specific area of study.

Mycelium  The main structure of fungus - a loose network of the delicate filaments consisting of feeding and reproducing hyphae.



Nervine  An herb that has an effect on the central nervous system.



Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)  A widely used testing method which measures the antioxidant activity of a food ingredient. The higher the measurement, the better the ORAC unit.

Organic  Of, or relating to, foodstuff grown or raised without synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or hormones.

Organoleptic  A quality assessment and identification technique pertaining to the sensory properties (taste, odor, color) of a particular substance or material. 

Oxidation  The process in which molecules react with oxygen to decompose or produce damaging free radicals.


P, Q

Pericarp  The wall of a ripened ovary or seed vessel.

Phagocytosis  The ingestion of microorganisms, cells or foreign particles by a cell (often a phagocytes). Example: phagocytic macrophages.

Pharmacognosy  The study of physical, chemical, biochemical and biological properties of drugs, drug substances or potential drugs of natural origin, as well as the search for new drugs from natural sources.

Pharmacopoeia(s)  Official compilation of medicinal substances and/or articles with descriptions, test and formulas for preparing them, selected by a recognized authority. The pharmacopoeia issued for a country is the legal standard for that nation.

Phytochemical  A biologically active substance or chemical that occurs naturally in plants. Phytochemicals have many health-promoting and immune boosting properties and some are responsible for the color and other organoleptic properties of a substance. 

Phytoestrogen  A plant substance that induces female hormonal activity. However, the activity is somewhat weaker. The best researched phytoestrogens are isoflavones which occur in soy and Red Clover.

Phytonutrients  A synonym to phytochemicals. Phytonutrients are chemicals that occur naturally in plant foods. They can help protect the plant from outside threats such as germs, fungi, and bugs as well as provide health-promoting benefits to those who consume the foods.  

Polyphenols  Antioxidant phytochemicals found in plant foods. Evidence of polyphenol’s role in the prevention of degenerative diseases and other conditions is emerging.

Porcine  A substance that is derived from pigs.

Poultice  A soft, moist mass of plant material applied to the body to relieve soreness and inflammation and kept in place with a cloth. 

Precursors  In a metabolic sequence of reactions, a precursor is a compound that gives rise to the next compound. For example, Choline is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine.

Probiotics  Substances which promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

Proteolytic  A general term referring to any enzyme which digests or splits large proteins into smaller sections or amino acids.

Purgative  A powerful agent used to relieve severe constipation (also called a laxative).



Renal Dysfunction  A disorder of the kidneys.

Resin  Any of a class of solid or semi-solid organic products of natural or synthetic origin, generally of high molecular weights with no definite melting point. Most resins are polymers. An example is tree sap.



Secondary Plant Metabolites (SPMs)  Products that aid in the growth and development of plants but are not required for the plant to survive. Three major groups of SPMs are: flavonoids, phenolic and polyphenolic compounds; terpenoids; and nitrogen-containing alkaloids and sulphur-containing compounds. A common role of SPMs is defense mechanisms. 

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)  A caustic detergent useful for removing grease. Although commonly included in personal care items such as shampoo and toothpaste, it can irritate the skin and should not be swallowed.

Softgel  A soft gelatin capsule which is made up of a solid outer shell surrounding a liquid or semi-solid center.

Solvent  A substance that is capable of dissolving another substance. In the manufacture of herbal extracts, this may be a combination of water, alcohol or harsher solvents such as methanol, acetone or hexane.

Standardized  A product with a specified minimum level of one or more plant constituents, which is often used in clinical trials so the researcher can reduce plant variability. However, other nutritional factors of the plant have been discarded to create, in effect, a botanical pharmaceutical.

Sterols  A type of waxy lipid which is present in the cell membranes of plants and animals. For example, cholesterol.

Sulfites  Sulfites occur naturally in a number of foods and are also sometimes added to herbs for their preservative properties. Sulfite sensitivity occurs most often in asthmatic adults.

Sulfur  A yellowish solid element marked by a smell like rotten eggs.

Sustainable  A method of manufacturing in which a material is able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed, particularly natural resources.

Synergistic  The action of two or more compounds working together in such a way that the total effect is greater than if each compound acted alone.


T, U, V

Tannins  Astringent, bitter-tasting plant polyphenols that bind and precipitate proteins. Tannins are responsible for the astringent taste we experience when we taste wine or unripe fruits. Common plant parts that are high in tannins are: bark, wood, fruit, fruitpods, leaves, and roots. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)  A holistic practice based on a concept of balanced qi (pronounced "chee"), or vital energy, that is believed to flow throughout the body. Disease is proposed to result from the flow of qi being disrupted and yin-and-yang becoming imbalanced. Among the components of TCM are herbal and nutritional therapy, restorative physical exercises, meditation, acupuncture and remedial massage.

Teratongenic  Any compound that can disturb the development of an embryo or fetus. Teratogens may cause a birth defect or halt the pregnancy altogether. Classes of teratogens include radiation, maternal infections, chemicals and drugs. 

Thin Layer Chromatography (TLC)  A chromatographic technique that is useful for separating organic compounds. Because of the simplicity and rapidity of TLC, it is often used to identify plant species and to check the purity of herbs.

Tonic  A substance believed to support an organ or body part in an unspecified way


W, X, Y, Z

Wildcrafting  The gathering of plant material from its native uncultivated environment. There are some ethical concerns about how this is practiced sometimes - leading to the extinction of important medicinal plants in the wild - if not done using sustainable methods.

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