Definition of Desiccate

Desiccate: To remove the moisture from a thing that normally contains moisture, such as a plant; to dry out completely; to preserve by drying. The process of desiccating a thing is called desiccation; an agent used to bring about desiccation is called a desiccant or a desiccator.

Manufacturers of dietary supplements and medicines desiccate some products to extend their shelf life and to maintain purity. (Moisture promotes spoilage and the growth of germs.) For example, desiccated beef liver is a dietary supplement marketed in the form of powders and tablets. Synthetic desiccated thyroid hormone is a medicine marketed in the form of pills to treat thyroid conditions such as myxedema, which can cause drowsiness, tissue swelling, tongue enlargement and other symptoms because of insufficient hormone output by the thyroid gland.

Many over-the-counter (OTC) dietary products termed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as "inert glandular preparations" consist of desiccated animal organs, including brains, hearts, kidneys, ovaries, placentas, spleens and stomachs. FDA policy dictates that these desiccated products should not be represented as drugs or medications.

"Desiccate," "desiccation," and "desiccant" are all derived from the Latin word "desiccare" (to dry completely).


Last Editorial Review: 6/14/2012

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