What is an Alterative?
In broad terms, alteratives seem to alter the body’s metabolic processes to improve tissues’ ability to deal with a range of body functions, from nutrition to elimination. Many of the herbs with this action help the body eliminate waste through the kidneys, liver, lungs, or skin. Some work by stimulating the digestive system, and some are immunomodulators.
This is why working with an herbalist who has training in Phytotherapy and an understanding of anatomy, is very important. It makes the dosage become more accurate. The herbalist should also be aware of the energetic make up of the herb being used to treat the individual. If you “run hot” in body temp, constantly “on the go”, with post nasal drainage, than an herb with warming and drying energetics would not be the right choice for you.
Alteratives and Secondary Actions
Many herbs have an alterative function and can commonly be their secondary or tertiary action. For example, diuretic & hepatic remedies could also be seen as alteratives. They can be used safely in many diverse conditions as supportive remedies, and should be considered when chronic inflammatory or degenerative disease exist.
First Action; alterative. Secondary Action astringent.
Herb; Urtica dioica
Body system affinities
Each system of the body has plants that are particularly suited to it. Alteratives have a particular affinity towards the circulatory, respiratory, digestive, urinary, reproductive, musculoskeletal, nervous system, and integumentary systems. Skin conditions, arthritis, and auto-immune diseases are especially improved.
Alterative activity is not specifically indicated for this system. However, by nature, alteratives will aid circulation by helping the whole body work at its peak. (Hoffman, 2003)
Medical Herbalism (David Hoffman)
The Essential Guide to Herbal Safey (Mills and Bone)
The Home Physician (Dr. Christian Fanger, 1918 edition)
Clinical Herbalist Training (Herbal Academy)
Science and Art of Herbalism (Rosemary Gladstar)