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Herbal Dictionary: D

Updated on January 20, 2016
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DiDi is a healthy food writer who focuses on functional foods. You can read her blog at RXcipes



A decotion is an herbal preparation that is made by boiling the herbs in water, and then straining out the solid parts. It is typically used to extract the medicinal properties of roots, bark and hard seeds that require longer steeping than an herbal infusion. Decoctions are also well-suited for children and patients who have weakened constitutions.

In this video, Amanda Kreiss, founder of Inner Ecology, demonstrates how to prepare an herbal decoction.


A decongestant is an herb that helps remove excess mucous from the body. It has the specific effect of relieving congestion in the sinuses and the rest of the upper respiratory tract. While decongestants do not cure colds, the flu or allergies, they provide welcome relief from the symptoms of seasonal allergies and upper respiratory infections.

Decongestant herbs relieve swelling of inflamed mucus membranes in the nasal cavity, by contracting the muscular walls of blood vessel. They also have a mild drying effect that helps relieve a runny nose.

Congestion in the nose, sinuses, and chest is caused by expanded, swollen or dilated blood vessels in the membranes of the nose and airways. A decongestant helps shrink blood vessels in the nasal membranes, allowing the air passages to open up.

Decongestant Herbs:

  • Calendula (Calendula officinalis)
  • Cayenne Pepper (Capsicum annuum)
  • Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • Rosehip (Rosa canina)
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris)


A deobstruent herb that helps in the removal of obstructions, particularly small objects, which are lodged in an organ, pores or other natural passages of the body

Also called: Anthilitic, Antilithic, Lithontriptic

Deobstruent Herbs:

  • Agrimony (Agrimonia Eupatoria)
  • Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosis)
  • Banana (Musa paradisiacal)
  • Butcher’s Broom (Ruscus aculeatus)
  • Water Dock (Rumex Hydrolapathum)


A depressant herb acts to reduce nervous sensation, lower a functional activity in the Central Nervous System or to reduce vital energy by causing the relaxation of nerves, muscles or tissues.

Depressant herbs have traditionally been used in the treatment of restlessness and sleep disturbances. The German Commission E has approved hops (Humulus lupulus) as a calming and sleep promoting drug, passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) for nervous restlessness, lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) and lavender flower (Lavandula angustifolia) as a sedatives.

Also called: Stimulant, Motor-depressant

Depressant Herbs

  • Hops (Humulus lupulus)
  • Kava (Piper methysticum)
  • Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)
  • Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis)
  • Passion Flower (Passiflora incarnata)
  • Valerian (Valeriana officinalis)


A depurative herb supports the natural cleansing processes of the kidneys and liver, promoting the detoxification and excretion of waste products from the blood. The term depurate means "to purify."

Traditionally referred to as blood purifiers, the primary function of depurative herbs is to normalize dysfunctional metabolic and catabolic processes in the body, particularly with the breakdown and elimination of metabolic waste.

They also enhance general absorption and assimilation of nutrients.

Synonyms: Alterative

Depurative Herbs

  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)
  • Sarsaparilla (Smilax Ornata)
  • Stinging Nettle (Urtica dioica)
  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

This video shows how herbs can be used to cleanse and detoxify to protect your overall health. It includes a recipe for a blood cleansing herbal tea infusion prepared from Yellow Dock, Burdock root and Oregon grape root.


An herb that is beneficial for cleansing wounds of diseased or dead matter. A detergent herb may also serve as a natural cleanser and purifier for removing dirt from the skin and hair.

This video shows you how to use coconut oil, lard and other natural ingredients to formulate your own liquid laundry detergent.


A detoxicant herb supports the body’s organ systems in the elimination of waste materials and toxins. These include the intestinal tract, kidneys, liver, lungs, skin and the lymphatic system.

Detoxification is a process of inner cleansing. It is safer and most effective when conducted over a period of 4 to 6 weeks.

A detoxicant is different from an antitoxin in that it helps the liver eliminate any toxin, while an anti-toxin targets specific toxins.

Detoxifying Herbs:

  • Astragalus (Astragalus propinquus)
  • Burdock (Arctium lappa)
  • Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Dong quai (Angelica sinensis)
  • Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
  • Oregon Grape (Berberis aquifolium)
  • Milk Thistle (Silybum marianum)
  • Schizandra (Schizandra chinensis)
  • Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus)

This video discusses cleansing herbs that are great for detoxification, as well as how to use them in herbal remedies.


An herb that induces involuntary perspiration, which helps to cool the body, reduce fever and promotes the excretion of toxins from your system through the skin.

The term is derived from Greek word meaning “I carry through,” to denote that these herbs help to carry heat and energy throughout the body, promoting elimination through the skin. Diaphoretic herbs are beneficial in herbal remedies for colds, flu, fever and detoxifying preparations.

Also called: Sudorific

Diaphoretic Herbs:

  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)
  • Elder (Sambucus nigra)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale).
  • Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)


An herb that promotes normal digestion

Digestive Herbs:

  • Coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
  • Cumin (Cuminum cyminum)
  • Sage (Salvia officinalis)
  • Turmeric (Curcuma longa)


A discuent herb is one that dispels or inhibits abnormal growth and tumors

Also called: Discussive

Discutient Herbs

  • Arnica (Arnica montana)
  • Bladderwrack (Fucus vesiculosus)
  • Chickweed (Stellaria media)
  • Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis)
  • Red clover (Trifolium pratense)
  • Wormwood (Artemisia absinthium)


A disinfectant herb that cleanses infection by destroying germs and other disease-causing microorganisms or inhibiting their activity

Disinfectant Herbs

  • Lemon (Citrus limon)
  • Oregano (Origanum vulgare)
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita)
  • Sandalwood (Santalum paniculatum)
  • Tea tree oil (Melaleuca alternifolia)

In this video, Deserie Valloreo, a Certified Clinical Herbalist, discuss the disinfectant properties of Oregano Essential Oil and how to use it.


A diuretic herb promotes the production and secretion of urine (and thus water) from the body

The increased rate of urination helps to relieve water retention in the body. Diuretic herbs work by causing the kidneys to excrete more sodium in urine. This in turn causes the body to try balancing out the higher sodium concentration by adding more water into the urine from your bloodstream. Diuretic herbs are also used to treat kidney stones, bladder ache, gonorrhea and scalding urine

Diuretic Herbs:

  • Dandelion leaf (Taraxacum officinale)
  • Corn silk (Zea mays)
  • Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi)
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
  • Yarrow (Achillea millefolium)


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