I want a word to use to describe a drug, vitamin, mineral, supplement, herb, food, or spice that you can take to treat a disease or that would affect the body.

I want to put a label on these things. I want to be able to write something like:

_____s that have been shown to be effective in treating heart disease: garlic, resveratrol, aspirin, and statins.

The word "treatment" might be good above, but I'd like to be able to use the same word for things that are not treatments. It may not be a disease either. It may just be a mechanism. For example:

_____s that may increase blood pressure: sodium, caffeine, and some antidepressants.

It would be nice if the word could encompass activities, like exercises, or diets, like a paleo diet or Mediterranean diet. Those would be nice to have.

I suppose I could use the word "drugs" or "supplements" even though it would not always be accurate. I'm considering using the word "agents". The word "biologics" sounds general, but the definitions I have read are too specific.

8 Answers 8


For me, the obvious choice would be

agent n
3. A means by which something is done or caused; an instrument.
4. A force or substance that causes a change: a chemical agent; an infectious agent.



Definition of NUTRIMENT from merriam-webster

Something that nourishes or promotes growth, provides energy, repairs body tissues, and maintains life


For the beneficial ones you can use ...



noun: remedy; plural noun: remedies

  1. a medicine or treatment for a disease or injury. "herbal remedies for aches and pains"

synonyms: treatment, cure, medicine, medication, medicament, drug, restorative; More


Other possibilities are: therapies, treatments, restoratives

  • The example the OP gave, of increasing blood pressure, is generally regarded as an unhealthy effect. And it seems quite odd to refer to caffeine as a "remedy", "therapy", "restorative", or "treatment". Jul 26, 2015 at 19:34
  • @brianhitchcock Caffeine is among the treatments for migraine headaches and is in Excedrin. Sorry it seems "odd" to you. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excedrin
    – user662852
    Jul 29, 2015 at 2:20

I would propose: Dietary Regimens

Regimens are defined as:

a : a systematic plan (as of diet, therapy, or medication) especially when designed to improve and maintain the health of a patient

b : a regular course of action and especially of strenuous training

It seems to embody the two meanings you want to infer: (a) something you take in a systematic way in hopes of achieving a favorable health outcome (e.g. a supplement) and (b) something you do (e.g. exercise).


Maybe 'alterants'? If that's too broad (general), you could focus it on the body: 'corporal alterants', 'somatic alterants', or 'body alterants'.


A generic term you can use is substance

substance: matter of definite chemical composition

Drugs, supplements and food are all substances.


I believe the term products can cover: food, natural remedies, medicine, drugs, supplements, herbs and spices.

Products that have been shown to be effective in treating heart disease: garlic, resveratrol, aspirin, and statins.


One word won't do it; it will always be either too narrow or too broad

The items you listed encompass some foods some drugs, some remedies, and "supplements". So any of these words, alone, define too narrow a category.

And yet substances, agents and products, as categories, are much too broad. They include items we do not consider edible, let alone healthy, nutritive—or beneficial in any way—to the human body (for example, lead, arsenic, lye, PCBs, gasoline)

The main thing that an aspirin has in common with a Paleo diet is that they are both (eaten/ edible/ ingested/ ingestable).

So you are speaking of edibles or ingestables.

But you are apparently trying to limit this category to things for which some health benefit is claimed.

However, the list you gave included some items and dietary regimens that are not widely recognized as nutriment, nor even as beneficial (e.g. caffeine)—though all have their proponents. (note that coffee has some healthful or beneficial effects, but caffeine, per se, is only an addictive stimulant drug that happens to be legal.)

There are of course nuances, and heated controversy, as to just which of these things are actually beneficial. Indeed this is a highly subjective question.

So, to qualify and/or quantify the aspect of having at least some proponents who attribute health benefits to these ingestables, without you wholeheartedly agreeing that they all have such benefits, you could string three words together, both to express your relative level of skepticism or enthusiasm, and to emphasize the nature of the good results that you feel they share.

  • {allegedly/ supposedly/ ostensibly/ apparently/ presumably/ recognized/ proven}
  • {beneficial/ salutary/ healthful/ restorative/ protective/ strenghtening/ immune-boosting/ curative/ age-defying/ miraculous}
  • {edibles/ ingestables/}

But...if your opiniond still varies as to the helpfulness of particular items in the category, you would have to break down which qualifiers apply to which items—and then you wouldn't have one category, you'd have several!

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