What is yellow dock

Yellow Dock

What is Yellow Dock?

Yellow dock is a perennial herb that, although native to Europe, grows throughout the United States. The yellow roots and rhizomes are used medicinally.

Scientific Name(s)

Rumex crispus

Common Name(s)

Yellow dock also is known as curly dock, curled dock, narrow dock, sour dock, and rumex.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

The spring leaf stalks of this plant have been used as a potherb in salads but are disagreeable to some because of their tart sour-sweet taste. The plant must be boiled and rinsed thoroughly before being eaten. Due to its astringent properties, the plant has been used generally unsuccessfully in the treatment of venereal diseases and skin conditions. The powdered root has been used as a natural dentifrice. Larger amounts have been given as a laxative and tonic.

While the roots of yellow dock are known to exert a laxative effect, research reveals no animal or clinical data regarding the use of yellow dock to treat any condition.

What is the recommended dosage?

There is no recent clinical evidence to support specific dose recommendations for yellow dock. Caution is warranted due to oxalate content.

Contraindications

Contraindications have not yet been determined.

Pregnancy/Lactation

Documented adverse effects; contains anthraquinones (laxative action). Avoid use.

Interactions

None well documented.

Side Effects

The oxalate content of the leaves may result in GI symptoms or kidney damage. The stewed leaf stalks can be eaten as a potherb, but mature and uncooked leaves should be avoided.

Toxicology

Overdose of the root may cause diarrhea, nausea, and polyuria (excessive urination).

1. Yellow Dock. Review of Natural Products. factsandcomparisons4.0 . 2007. Available from Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc. Accessed April 23, 2007.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.

Medical Disclaimer

More about yellow dock

Professional resources

  • Yellow Dock (Advanced Reading)

Related treatment guides

  • Herbal Supplementation

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Yellow dock is said to strengthen the blood, however, very few laboratory or human studies have been conducted to confirm this traditional use.

Yellow dock is used orally to treat acute and chronic inflammation of nasal passages and the respiratory tract, a laxative, tonic, as an adjunct to antibacterial therapy, and for treating venereal diseases. Yellow dock is used topically as a dentifrice.

Historically, yellow dock has been used to treat chronic skin diseases, dermatitis, rashes, scurvy, obstructive jaundice, and psoriasis with constipation.

In food, yellow dock is used in salads.

Also known as: Acedera, Amalvelas, Broad-Leaved Dock, Chukkah, Curled Dock, Curly Dock, Field Sorrel, Herbe à Cochons, Lengua de Vaca, Narrow Dock, Oseille Crépue, Parelle Sauvage, Patience Crépue, Romaza, Rumex, Sheep Sorrel, Sour Dock, Yellowdock

Diseases and Conditions

There is insufficient reliable information available on the effectiveness of yellow dock for and as the following:

  • Acute and chronic inflammation of nasal passages and the respiratory tract
  • Laxative
  • Tonic
  • Adjunct to antibacterial therapy
  • Venereal diseases
  • Dentifrice
  • Chronic skin diseases
  • Dermatitis
  • Rashes
  • Scurvy
  • Obstructive jaundice
  • Psoriasis with constipation

Safety

Yellow dock is possibly safe when used orally in food amounts. However, the young leaves of the plant must be boiled first to remove the oxalate content otherwise they can be toxic and cause death. Yellow dock is likely unsafe for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Poisoning may occur after ingesting large quantities of the leaves. Yellow dock may have a laxative effect.

Medication Interactions

Yellow dock may interact with the following medications:

  • Digoxin
  • Diuretic drugs, such as:
    • Chlorothiazide (Diuril)
    • Chlorthalidone (Thalitone)
    • Furosemide (Lasix)
    • Hydrochlorothiazide (HCTZ, Hydrodiuril, Microzide)
  • Warfarin

Supplement and Food Interactions

Yellow dock may interfere with the following supplements, herbs, and foods:

  • Calcium
  • Cardiac glycoside-containing herbs
  • Iron
  • Laxative stimulant herbs
  • Zinc

Dosage

The correct dosage of any supplement requires a comprehensive analysis of many factors including your age, sex, health conditions, DNA, and lifestyle.

Herbalists typically use the roots of a plant at least two years old, dug after autumn frosts, or very early in the spring; leaves, harvested at any time, or ripe seeds may also be used. The roots and seeds have been used daily for up to twelve months. As a tincture of the fresh roots, ten to sixty drops has been recommended (twenty drops, two or three times a day). A fresh root vinegar preparation (one to two tablespoons or thirty milliliters) has also been recommended. Based on expert opinion, no more than one cup (two hundred fifty milliliters) of the dried seed tea should be taken per day. Based on traditional use, fresh root oil or ointment has been applied “liberally.”

Foods

There is insufficient reliable evidence available to determine if yellow dock can be found in foods.

Rumex crispus

Common names

  • Chin-ch’iao-mai
  • Curled Dock
  • Garden Patience
  • Narrow Dock
  • Parell
  • Patience Herb
  • Sour Dock
  • Yellow Dock

For centuries, herbal medical practitioners have been prescribing the roots of various genus of dock as a therapy for blood and liver ailments. Even to this day, many herbalists continue to prescribe the same, but with somewhat dissimilar terms. Books on modern herbal medicine describe the yellow dock or Rumex crispus L. belonging to the Polygonaceae family as an effective alterative as well as laxative. In brief, alterative means a remedy for healing syphilis and other associated venereal ailments (diseases pertaining or related to or transmitted by sexual contact).

Yellow dock is a perennial herb. The herb normally grows around four feet above the ground and bears willowy leaves that are marked by undulating and twisted edges. Owing the special characteristic of the leaves, yellow dock is also known as the curly dock. Although the herb is indigenous to Europe and some parts of Africa, it is now found in most places, including the United States. It may be found growing in abundance in waste places, roadsides or even dumps and ditches. While the leaves of yellow dock are also eaten as a potherb (any plant that is boiled to be eaten), basically the deep yellow roots and rhizomes (subversive parts) are therapeutically useful. In fact, a number of similar species of yellow dock is used for medication. It may be noted when The National Formulary listed Rumex crispus L. as a medicinal herb, R. obtusifolius L. was also selected as a basis for the remedy.

Scientific researches have recognized the presence of various anthraquinone by-products such as chrysophanic acid, emodin, physcion and others to be present in yellow dock. All these derivatives are responsible for the herb’s proven laxative action. In effect, one of the researches has shown that the total anthraquinone content in yellow dock’s root is 2.17%, much higher that the 1.42% strength of the substance found in therapeutic rhubarb. It may be noted here that the medicinal rhubarb should not be confused for the garden rhubarb that has very poor concentration of anthraquinones. The fact is that rhubarb as well as yellow dock are members of the same family and many members of the Polygonaceae enclose anthraquinones together with considerable percentage of tannin.

It is interesting as well as difficult to comprehend how an ordinary laxative medication has succeeded in preserving its repute and value for also being an efficient remedy for venereal disease (sexually transmitted ailment) and its different symptoms, particularly the skin disorders. This only goes on to show how insignificantly the qualities or their absence in different herbal remedies are still be evaluated by their admirers. However, in the case of yellow dock, there is no physiological or chemical proof to back up such medicinal assertions. Nevertheless, presence of anthraquinones and tannin in yellow dock, the laxative as well as astringent properties of this medicinal herb are well established.

Not aware of the herb’s therapeutic value, many consider yellow dock as a problematic weed that grows abundantly in the garbage dumps and fields all over Europe, the United States as well as southern Canada. Yellow dock has a spindle-like yellow taproot that sends up a soft, somewhat slim stem that grows up to one to four feet in height. The contour of the leaves of the herb is lance-like or oblong-lanceolate and primarily has undulating edges. The lower part of the herb’s leaves are larger and longer petioled compared to the tip. In other words, the leaves are much longer than wide, broadest below the middle and tapering to the apex. The herb bears plentiful of light green floppy flowers that form a loose group arranged along a single peduncle. The seeds of yellow dock are pointed and triangular in shape, while the kernel often resembles the form of a heart.

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A decoction prepared from yellow dock is an immensely beneficial laxative and helps heal constipation. Preparing the decoction too is easy. In order to formulate an effective yellow dock decoction, simply boil one qt of water, reduce the heat and add one cup of sliced fresh or dehydrated root of the herb. Cover the container and seethe for around 12 minutes. Next, remove the cover and allow the chopped roots to steep in the liquid for another one to one-and-a-half hours. Sieve the liquid, sweeten it with honey and drink as many as four cups of it daily, particularly during the brief week-ends. It is a mild-mannered foodstuff from which much of the nutrients are derived from liquids.

When the decoction prepared from yellow dock roots is cooled, it may be used to wash or bathe different skin problems and essentially alleviated itching and inflammation. Equivalent amounts of sage and yellow dock root may be used to prepare a fantastic tea which can be drunk while using a sauna or sitting in a Jacuzzi. However, here is a word of caution. People suffering from hypertension should essentially stay away from such extreme heat. Drinking a cup of warm tea prepared with yellow dock root chopping enhances digestion and improves appetite. This is especially beneficial after a heavy meal or consuming rich foodstuff. In addition, the yellow dock tea is also helpful in assisting the liver as well as invigorating the colon.

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Syrup prepared from yellow dock is an efficient medication for alleviating problems of the upper respiratory system like emphysema (a chronic, irreversible disease of the lungs). Preparing the syrup is simple. Take a pint of distilled water and boil half pound of yellow dock root in it until the liquid is diminished to a meager cupful. Sieve the liquid and throw away the boiled root. Add half a cup dark honey, half a cup blackstrap molasses (thick, dark, heavy sweet syrup) and one teaspoon of pure maple syrup to the strained liquid. You may also add a pinch of vanilla to it for essence. Blend everything by hand till you produce a smooth thick sweet sticky liquid or syrup. This syrup may be taken one teaspoon at a time to heal bronchitis, asthma as well as cease tickling or scratching commotion in the throat or the lungs.

As mentioned earlier, yellow dock has a strong purification result in the body. The herb helps to incite a bowl movement inside a few hours of consuming it. At the same time, yellow dock lessens any surplus activity of the intestines and comforts inflammation of the intestinal lining. These properties of the yellow dock have helped to establish the herb as a long term therapy for slow-moving bowels. Yellow dock is also beneficial for curing bowel infections as well as treating peptic ulcers. The herb also comforts irritation or itchiness in the respiratory system. Sour glycosides present in yellow dock aids in assisting as well as invigorating the liver, healing poor absorption of nutrients by the body as well as alleviating wind. Additionally, yellow dock root also possess diuretic functions and enhances urine production. It also removes toxins from the body through the urinary system. Yellow dock roots are also beneficial for healing gout (arthritis caused by a salt of uric acid crystals in the joint), cystitis (inflammation of the bladder), water retention, urinary stones and gravel (stone particle).

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Over the centuries, yellow dock has proved to be an outstanding medication for skin problems like weeping eczema, psoriasis (a chronic disease of the skin consisting of itchy, dry, red patches, usually affecting the scalp or arms and legs), nettle rash, boils and abscesses (pus-filled, inflamed area around a tooth). This medicinal herb is effective in activating clogged blood and lymph. In addition, yellow dock can extract toxins out of tissues and also ensure their removal from the body. In fact, the herb can be used wherever there is blockage, heat and irritation. Yellow dock is an outstanding supplement to recommendations for arthritis, gout, rheumatism (any painful disorder of the joints or muscles or connective tissues) and chronic lymphatic congestion. The herb is also beneficial for women as it has been extensively used for healing unbalanced menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding during periods, menstrual pain and also as fibroids (non-cancerous tumors) in the uterus.

The yellow dock roots are rich in iron content and hence offer an exceptional medication for anemia (low hemoglobin content in blood). The herb has earned a reputation as a reinvigorating remedy owing to its iron content as well as it beneficial action on the liver. Yellow dock is intensively uses for curing general weakness or loss of strength, mental stupor, headaches, convalescence, depression as well as irritability. Yellow dock also has calming and healing effects and hence it makes for a superb medication of all types of swollen or irritating skin conditions.

Parts used

Root, leaves, seeds.

Uses

Yellow dock’s laxative properties make it an important herbal medication for minor cases of constipation. The laxative action of yellow dock increases when one enhances the fiber content in his diet. Anthraquinones in yellow dock invigorates the colon as a result of which feces are thrown out more effectively lowering the possibility of re-absorption of toxins into the system. In addition, yellow dock is considered to be helpful in enhancing bile secretion that again helps in the detoxification process. It may be mentioned here that this is possible because all waste products inside the system are eliminated through the bile ducts.

Normally, when yellow dock is blended with other cleansing herbs like burdock and dandelion, the herb is useful in healing a wide range of ailments by significantly reducing the toxic contents in the body. In fact, most of the ailments and disorders have their genesis in the toxics accumulated in the system and so when these noxious substances are removed it becomes easier to heal conditions like acne, boils, eczema and psoriasis as well as fungal infections. In addition, use of yellow dock decoction or tincture is also helpful in alleviating poor and slow digestion, constipation, arthritic as well as rheumatic troubles, particularly osteoarthritis.

Habitat and cultivation

Although yellow dock is indigenous to Europe and Africa, the herb is frequently found in other parts of the world, too. Normally, yellow dock grows and flourishes on odd places like abandoned lands, along the roads and even in ditches and trenches. The root of yellow dock is burrowed out during the autumn, chopped up and dehydrated for storing.

Research

Not much research work has been done so far to explore the medicinal properties of the yellow dock. But still, people are well aware of the herb’s laxative (a substance that promotes bowel movements), and cleansing functions. It has been established that the yellow dock’s laxative and cleansing properties are primarily owing to the presence of a substance called the anthraquinones. This ingredient of yellow dock is beneficial as a laxative and when used in high doses acts as a purgative. The action of anthraquinones is similar to that of Chinese rhubarb, but comparatively much more placid. Since ages, the leaves of yellow dock have been used as a spring tonic, but researches have shown that the herb contains large proportions of oxalates that may cause kidney stones and gout if consumed in huge doses. However, it has been found that the content of oxalates in yellow dock root is safe for use.

Constituents

Usual dosage

The root of yellow dock herb can be used both as a decoction (an extraction by boiling of water-soluble drug substances) and as tincture. To heal constipation, take 100 ml or 4 fl oz of the decoction for brief periods. On the other hand, to heal skin problems, combine the yellow dock decoction with marigold and cleavers. Use 100 ml or 4 fl oz of the mixture of the three herbs daily. Alternatively, 2.5 ml or 50 drops of the yellow dock tincture may be taken thrice daily to get rid of the above-mentioned problems.

How it works in the body

As mentioned earlier, the presence of anthraquinones in yellow dock enables the herb to function as a laxative. In fact, yellow dock is mainly prescribed by herbal medicine practitioners for its laxative and cleansing properties. The anthraquinones invigorate the colon which in the process helps to throw out the waste and toxins from the body. It may be noted here that any substance that has laxative property also helps in cleansing the system when taken in small proportions. However, when they are taken in large doses they act as purgatives leading to peristalsis (causing a rippling motion of muscles in the intestine) and gripping pain. Nevertheless, when yellow dock is taken in the right doses, it acts gently and helps to alleviate constipation. In addition, the yellow dock is also beneficial for the digestive system. When mixed with other herbs, yellow dock is also useful in assisting the liver, removing toxins from the skin as well as healing ailments like eczema, psoriasis, and acne. Yellow dock also acts as a cleansing agent in the musculoskeletal system where there is regular accumulation of toxins owing to constipation.

Applications

Leaves of yellow dock make an effective poultice for contagious skin disorders like acne, sores and eczema. However, in order to make the poultice, one needs to steam the soft leaves of the herb and place them directly on the affected area. The new leaves of the herb can also be consumed raw in the form of a salad using a maximum of three leaves in each serving, or drunk as a decoction after boiling them in water. It may be taken for many days at a stretch to cleanse the liver as well as the blood circulation system.

The root of yellow dock has a special action on the lower portion of the digestive system as well as the intestines and assists in regulating these organs. For an effective laxative action, 15 grams of the yellow dock root may be added to one cup or 250 ml of water and consumed. If yellow dock is to be taken as an astringent (an agent that contracts or shrinks tissues), add five grams of the root extract in one cup or 250 ml of water and drink the solution. If a mother tincture is prepared with the root and seeds of yellow dock by adding 15 grams of the herb in one cup or 250 ml of water and consumed on a regular basis, it is helpful in fighting anemia, reinvigorating the nervous system as well as increasing fertility, particularly in women.

Navajo syrup

  • 4 cups (1 liter) water
  • 2 lb (300 g) fresh yellow dock roots
  • 2 cups (500 g) wildflower honey

Slowly boil the roots until half the water has evaporated. Strain and melt the honey in the liquid, heating slowly. Keep this syrup cool: it’s ideal in the fall for treating respiratory ailments. Take 1 t (5 ml), 3 times daily, as a pectoral, cholagogue and laxative syrup.

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Yellowdock Root Cut and Sifted Bulk

Yellowdock Root, (Rumex crispus) Cut and Sifted Bulk

Family

Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Etymology

Rumex is an ancient Latin word for “lance,” referring to the shape of the leaves. Crispus is Latin for “curly,” in reference to the edges of the leaf. The common name dock derives from the Old English name for this plant, docce.

Range of Appearance

Native to northern Africa, Asia, and Europe, yellow dock is a perennial that can reach a height of 1 to 5 feet. It has large, curly basal leaves. The hermaphroditic flowers are greenish. The seeds are three-sided winged capsules that turn rusty red when mature. The roots are russet on the outside and a deep yellow or orange within.

Parts Used

Root, leaves

Physiological Effects

Medicinal Uses

Though introduced from Europe, yellow dock root was widely used by the Native Americans. This herb was included in the United States Pharmacopoeia from 1863 to 1905. It clears toxins, moves stagnation, promotes bowel cleansing and bile flow, reduces inflammation, and inhibits the growth of E. coli and staph. Yellow dock helps to free up iron stored in the liver, thus making it more available to the rest of the body. As a tea, it aids in the digestion of fatty foods. Yellow dock is used in the treatment of acne, anemia, appetite loss, arsenic poisoning, arthritis, boils, cancer, catarrh, constipation, dermatitis, eczema, glandular tumors, indigestion, jaundice, leprosy, liver congestion, lumbago, lymph node enlargement, malabsorbtion, psoriasis, rheumatism, scrofula, sore throat, and syphilis. It also is used to encourage convalescence. Topically, yellow dock can be used as a poultice to soothe stings from nettle plants and as a poultice or salve to treat athlete’s foot, boils, eczema, hives, itchy skin, ringworm, scabies, skin infection, swellings, ulcers, and wounds. It can be prepared as a tooth powder to treat gingivitis or a gargle to treat laryngitis. It also can be made into a douche or bolus to treat vaginitis.

Culinary Uses

The leaves and peeled stems are nutritive. Eat them in spring and late fall (after the first hard frost). The young greens can be eaten raw or cooked as a potherb. Older leaves need to be soaked or cooked in two changes of water to remove bitterness. The leaves have a flavor similar to that of rhubarb and can be used in pie. The seeds are used as a grain; they are usually dried, threshed, and ground into flour. They can also be roasted and used as a coffee substitute.

Other Uses

Yellow dock is useful for animals as well as humans; it can be prepared as a poultice to treat saddle sores on horses, mules, and donkeys and mange on dogs. The roots yield a brown to dark gray dye. In folkloric tradition, a woman will wear yellow dock seeds on her left arm to increase her chances of conceiving a child. The seeds are also used in prosperity rituals and are sprinkled about a place of business to attract customers.

Constituents

Contraindications

Yellow dock leaves are high in oxalate, which can impair calcium absorption and potentially aggravate kidney stones, arthritis, gout, and hyperacidity. Large amounts of the root or leaves may cause nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea. In rare cases handling the plant may result in contact dermatitis.

Plant details were provided by iPlant by Brigitte Mars.

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What is it?

Yellow dock has distinctively narrow leaves that curl at the edges (hence some of its other common names). The medicinal part comes from the root which, when scraped, has a magnificent deep yellow colour.


FLOWERS


PLANT


DRIED

How has it been used?

Yellow dock has a long history of use for stimulating liver function, for cleansing the blood and for helping with chronic skin problems that were traditionally associated with ‘bad blood’. These were things such as boils, acne, dry scaly eczema and psoriasis.

Native Americans used Yellow dock as a blood purifier and as an antidote for poisons. The leaves were applied to boils to bring out the infection and the crushed roots were put on cuts to cleanse and stimulate healing.

TJ Lyle writes ‘the root is a mild, slow stimulating, tonic alterative. It influences the mucous membrane, the skin and the secernents (secreting glands) generally. It is of much importance in all forms of scrofula, skin diseases, syphilis, ophthalmia, glandular troubles, rheumatism and piles. It is somewhat laxative to the bowels, is both hepatic and cholagogue and assists in the process of assimilation’

WM Cook writes ‘Yellow-dock root is an alterative of the slowly relaxing and stimulating class, leaving behind a mild tonic impression that is sometimes classed as astringent. The greater portion of its power is expended upon the skin; but the gall-ducts, small intestines, and kidneys, feel its impressions to a fair extent. Though not cathartic, it is fairly laxative; and exerts a desirable tonic influence upon the entire hepatic and digestive structures’

F Ellingwood writes ‘the alterative properties of this agent are underestimated. It is a kidney cleansing and general alterative of much value when ulceration of mucous surfaces or disease of the skin results from impure blood. It acts directly in its restorative influence, purifying the blood, removing toxic material, and quickly cures the disease conditions. It is valuable in ulcerative stomatitis, in nursing sore mouth, and in ulceration of the stomach with great lack of tone, combined with quercus (Oak bark) or other tonic astringent, it has no equal in these conditions. It has cured exceedingly persistent cases of exhaustive morning diarrhea, the discharges being very frequent between six and twelve o’clock’

Simon Mills writes this about it ‘in modern clinical practice Yellow Dock is most used as an alterative or blood-cleansing remedy, applicable to the treatment of systemic toxic states of any sort where the main trouble is seen to lie in what might be termed the ‘bile-bowel’ axis. In other words, if there is a skin disease, or arthritic or other toxic degenerative condition, and there is the suggestion that liver and bowel dysfunction is implicated, then Yellow dock is the remedy of choice’ .

T Bartam describes its actions as ‘general alterative tonic, bitter, laxative, lymphatic, cholagogue’ and says it can be used for ‘disorders of the spleen, lymphatic glands, to promote the flow of bile in liver congestion and jaundice. Chronic dry itchy skin eruptions, boils, shingles, pruritis and rheumatism’

The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia (BHP) describes Yellow Dock’s actions as gentle purgative & cholagogue and says it is indicated for chronic skin disease, obstructive jaundice & constipation and specifically indicated for skin disease, especially psoriasis with constipation where it is often combined with Dandelion root. The BHP suggests a dose of 2-4 grams or by decoction and suggests a tincture in the ratio of 1:5 in 45% ethanol with a dose of 1-2mls
Yellow dock is a mineral-rich herb; it soaks up trace minerals from the soil and transposes them into an organic form that can easily be absorbed and herbalists of old used to sprinkle iron filings on the soil on which they grew Yellow Dock to treat anaemia and blood deficiency (my comment – the amounts of iron or other minerals in Yellow Dock are likely to be very modest in the doses we typically use, however its broader tonic effects on the liver and gut in turn enable a better absorption of nutrients from the diet and it may be this that has seen it be able to help in cases of anaemia and depletion)

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Science on Yellow Dock

~ There is undoubtedly much more to the healing actions of this herb than has been investigated but what we do know is that at least part of Yellow Dock’s effects are due to it containing a mixture of anthraquinones and anthraquinone glycosides.

~ The free anthraquinones remain in the intestines and cause a stimulus to the bowel by irritating the intestinal wall, the anthraquinone glycosides that are bound together with a sugar molecule are absorbed into the bloodstream and eventually stimulate a nerve centre in the lower part of the intestine that cause the muscle to become activated and so further stimulate the bowel.

~ The authors, titles and the ‘where-and-when’ published of nearly 20 further studies and articles on Yellow Dock are listed in a PDF found here

Cross-section of fresh Yellow Dock

Safety of Yellow Dock
The bowel cleansing action of Yellow dock is very mild, and it is generally considered one of the safest herbs to use when the liver and bowel need some stimulation. Yellow dock is not listed as harmful for breastfeeding or pregnant women however small amounts of the anthraquinones may be passed into the breast milk and so likewise stimulate more bowel activity in the infant (note that the American Academy of Paediatrics consider Senna to be compatible with breast-feeding and that Senna contains far more anthraquinones than Yellow dock).

General comment on herbal safety
All medicinal herbs that have the power to do good have the potential to do harm. The old maxim ‘the poison is in the dose’ precisely describes how too much of anything can be bad for us. The ancient rule to ‘firstly, do no harm is, to this day, held as the core directive by all practitioners of traditional herbal medicine. Not only are we careful to do our best to use the right herbs, but equally we take care to not give too much of them or use them overlong.

For some years now, against this proven and safe way of herbalism, there has been a rising tide of excessive caution and scare-mongering in many parts of the world. The same authorities that, not so long ago, decried herbal medicines as ineffectual, have now taken up a different adversarial position; that they are dangerous substances that should only be prescribed by Doctors, who of course have zero training in them.
Lists of ’10 popular herbs and why you should avoid them’ include things like Garlic and Ginger that might ‘thin your blood’. Such cautions are absurd to the point of the ridiculous, but fear is a universal driver that has long been proven to be effective at manipulating people.

Unfortunately, the same unnecessary fear and worry has crept into many natural health websites and popular publications on herbs. Herbs that we have safely used for thousands of years, that have no reports of adverse reactions in the medical literature despite widespread use by millions of people, are suddenly described as contraindicated because of something that should have been seen as completely unimportant, or at the utmost a merely theoretical concern, such as a laboratory study on one of the herb’s constituents to use an all too common example.

I wonder sometimes if the writers of such articles feel that the herb will be more deserving of respect if it is thought to be a little bit dangerous, in other words more like a drug than something that has simply come out of the earth and been used by ordinary people for generations beyond count.

There is just so much misinformation about herbal medicine on the internet now. Ludicrous claims and cautions abound in equal measure; it seems like one group are trying to make money out of the public whilst the other are busily trying to scare them off.

I have to believe that the kind of reader who takes the time to read pages on herbs that are as extensive as this one is much less likely to be swayed by marketers or misinformers. I hope that you will keep your wits about you if you get conflicting opinions from people who have never really got to know these herbs, who have never worked with them, or learned how to use them safely and effectively.

I want to remind you that the reason that herbs can never be patented and owned by any individual or corporation is because they are, and always will be, the People’s medicine. They belong to all of us and it is my great hope in sharing this work that you will learn how to use them wisely for yourself, and the people you care for. Be safe, but do not be afraid.

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Personal experiences

Yellow dock does stimulate bowel activity, but it is nowhere near as cathartic as herbs like Senna or Cascara, neither is it as mild as Dandelion or Burdock in this regard. You can usually rely on Yellow dock to assist with mild constipation or bowel sluggishness to at least some degree.

In reading through a number of herbal reference books on Yellow Dock I came across frequent references to it being traditionally used for things like swollen glands, irritating coughs and itchy skin; this is a herb that clearly has the power to help move stuck conditions wherever it is used.

In a nutshell Yellow dock is a herb with profoundly deep cleansing properties that give it the potential to help people with diverse kinds of chronic problems with their skin, respiratory, lymphatic or digestive systems. One of the things I love about it is how you can use it for a stuck liver and bowel without causing stress or damage. As Maude Grieve says ‘it has an action on the bowels similar to that of Rhubarb but operating without pain or uneasiness’

I knew of Yellow dock as one of the great liver and bowel herbs but the turning point for me to ‘get’ this herb was when I made and tasted my first tincture of it… it was like tasting some kind of living, organic, vibrant Earth element and it gave me a deep and lasting appreciation for its strength and vitality.

If you who are reading this are studying herbal medicine or just have your own good reasons to want to know this plant ally at a much deeper level then I warmly recommend you to get some tincture of Yellow Dock or make a tea from it and then, with a quiet and attentive mind, take a dose of it to feel its ‘action’. This ancient method of ‘experiential’ learning can do more to help you understand the action of a herb than any amount of academic study. Only a small dose will be required for you to feel it and I think that if you do this with an open mind you well feel for yourself how it might be that one could use this remedy with some confidence for some of those deeply stuck problems it has become famous in being able to help over the millennia.

Further to this, if you would like to learn more about the ancient art of pulse testing, a simple but powerful way to ask the intuitive intelligence of the body for its responses to a herb by feeling the pulse whilst giving a tiny dose by mouth, read here

As always, the art of medicine lies in using it for the right person in the right dose. I find that just 1-2 mls in a day is usually enough to have a gentle but deep cleansing effect (for example I might give just 40-80mls of it in a 560ml formula that a person would take for a month) Higher doses than these are likely to be needed to achieve any kind of direct laxative action. Of course, this much depends on the person’s size, sensitivity and degree of need and for some people a smaller or larger dose may be required for optimal effect.

Yellow Dock combines perfectly with Dandelion root and Burdock for deep blood cleansing programs and with Licorice root to cleanse and tone the bowel. A Yellow Dock taken along with Red Clover and Cleavers can be very good for cleansing the lymphatic system (problems there showing with such things as swollen glands, eruptive skin, or sore joints)

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Constitutional note

Much of the information here about the traditional uses of Yellow Dock is consistent with the model of thinking whereby one may treat problem A with herb B. There is value in this approach in how it helps us pass on useful knowledge to one another but where it falls short is that people are not all cut from the same cloth! Yellow dock might work brilliantly for one person but less well for another with the same sort of symptoms — why is this?

Part of the reason is that people vary in their constitutions as to whether they are either hotter or cooler and, at the same time, either dryer or damper. This useful and rather fascinating subject is introduced further here

Another big part of using the right herb when it is most needed comes from understanding the need to treat what is going wrong for the person that had led up to their getting a health condition. In this light, Yellow Dock can particularly offer its benefits when a cleansing action is needed in the ‘cycle of healing’ , more about this here

Please understand that I cannot advise you, including on products or dosage, without seeing you in person in my clinic but for ideas on how you might find a good herbalist in your area read here
This living ‘book’ is my labour of love so, wherever you are, I wish you peace & good health!

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As the days grow a bit shorter and the nights a little cooler, we can sense the approach of autumn and the changes it brings. Fall is root season! Autumn is a time of harvest and abundance, and as the earth itself grows cooler, digging for nourishing, medicinal roots gives us a close intimacy with the season and its generosity.

A Word on Wild Harvesting

Check out any wild-crafting article and there will be a long list of “don’ts” and with good reason. We need to be mindful of what plants we harvest, when, where, and how much. Many of our medicinally significant native plants have become rare, threatened, or endangered from over harvesting the whole plant, indiscriminately. The most well-known is American ginseng (Panax quinquifolia). Please familiarize yourself with the United Plant Savers rare and threatened medicinal plant list.

While harvesting leaves may not be so harmful, harvesting roots and flowers threatens a plant’s potential for regeneration and establishment, which in turn shapes how our ecosystems function and thrive into the future.

Yet, roots make up a significant portion of our more potent plant medicinals. Roots carry the life force of the plant. Medicinally, it works the same way for us.

So, how can we harvest roots with a good conscience?

There are two solutions to this problem:

1. Cultivate highly valued plant species rather than take them from their habitats.

2. Wild harvest prolific plant species in your region. That is, the plants that are considered “weeds” because of their abundance and vigorous growth habits.

Let’s do solution #2: “wild harvest prolific plant species.” Our common roots have well-established uses. It’s worth getting to know a few, intimately.

So, yeah! Let’s dig these medicinal roots; dandelion, burdock and yellow dock!

Top on my list, yet not insignificantly, is:

Getting to Know Dandelion Root (Taraxacum officinale)

This familiar weed is found throughout the northern hemisphere. Though not considered a native, it’s not clear where this well-established immigrant got started. Botanists assign its origins to Eurasia (Gleason and Cronquist, 1963). Why dandelion roots? Think about dandelion’s reputation and you can get an idea of its power:

  • Dandelion is in everyone’s yard, sidewalk crack and garden.
  • Poisons have been invented to get rid of it.
  • Pavement has been laid down over it to smother it.
  • Tools have been designed to pull it.

Yet, here it is, cheerfully showing off its yellow flowers at the first signs of spring – in your yard, garden or sidewalk crack – year after year. Its airborne seeds fly across the sky and settle down in a new location quietly and unnoticed. Plants tolerate almost any type of waste ground. Come fall, the plant dutifully sends down all of summer’s sunshine and rain into its roots, never-minding what the rest of the world thinks or has done to try to get rid of it.

Dandelion root is a powerful diuretic, stimulating kidney function as well as the movement of bile from the gallbladder and liver. Folklore and scientific evidence supports the use of dandelion as a diuretic with intriguing possibilities that it may help with controlling blood sugar and inflammatory processes (Castleman, 2001). Due to its diuretic properties, dandelion may help PMS (Castleman, 2001, Hoffman, 2003) and, most recently, andropause symptoms (Noh, H-Y, 2013).

But, wait! Before you try to pull a dandelion root, know this. You can’t. They will most often break off. So, will any plant that has a deeply embedded single-stemmed tap root. Burdock and yellow dock also have tap roots. None of these roots can be pulled by hand without some considerable trouble.

Instead, we must dig down and around the whole plant to get most of the root. Pick a place away from heavy traffic of any kind and avoid areas that may have been sprayed. You’ll only need a small shovel. Or, if you have a digging fork, that can also be used. I find the dandelions that are the easiest to dig are in my garden. The soil has been turned and there isn’t the matted grass of the lawn to fight through.

If you want to dig for dandelions in your yard, take heed of one consequence. You’ll end up leaving lovely pot holes, unless you fill them in with soil. (Hence, is the reason why they invented dandelion killer solutions. Few want to leave them in, but fewer want to dig them out.)

Burdock (Arctium lappa)

Like dandelion, burdock originates from Eurasia and has more sparingly, unlike dandelion, established itself along roadsides and waste places over most of the northern U.S. and Canada (Gleason and Cronquist, 1963). Though less prevalent than dandelion it is still considered a “weed” but a rather valuable one.

Burdock is known as a powerful alterative supporting liver health. It has been used for all types of skin diseases, including eczema, especially, when taken together with yellow dock and sarsaparilla (Grieve, 1996).

Burdock root is bitter. Very bitter. Because of this quality, burdock is used as a “bitter” which can help with digestion and appetite. Science is beginning to support its traditionally known role as a “blood purifier”, as evidence now supports its ability to rid the liver of environmental and chemical toxins (Herb Clip News, 2013).

If you think dandelion roots are difficult to dig, then don’t bother trying to dig out burdock. Burdock roots grow with fervor – down. Roots are at least 12 inches or more in length and about 1 inch thick. Though, roots can, more often, be 2 to 3 feet deep.

One time, not long ago, an herbalist acquaintance, a tallish man of over 6 feet, showed us his prize picture of the burdock root that he dug. There he was standing in the field, with his arm out stretched over his head grasping the root’s upper mid-section, as the rest of it towered over his head. The bottom of the root trailed for a few feet past his foot! This root was over 9 feet long! It was also quite thick at its mid-section. Maybe it was at least 6 inches in diameter. It was GIGANTIC. Imagine the crater that was left after that dig!

Preferably first year roots are dug – first year burdock will not have a seed stalk. Grieve (1996) suggests that they should be dug in July. Waiting until after the first frost will make the roots starchier and sweeter. But, isn’t bitter better? Go ahead and dig it!

Burdock roots accumulate toxins so be absolutely sure you’re wildcrafting well away from roadsides, industrial sites, and areas that have been sprayed.

Yellow Dock or Curled Dock (Rumex crispus)

This native of Europe is found along roadsides, fields, and waste ground throughout U.S. and southern Canada (Gleason and Cronquist, 1996). We have quite of few dock species, many of them preferring wet soil. Yellow dock is more wide-ranging.

Yellow dock has the “crisp” leaves with curly edges. In fall their tall greenish inconspicuous flower stalks turn a reddish brown and so flag our attention. First year plants don’t make flower stalks. If in doubt, dig it. (Sorry.) But, a little bit of a dig will reveal its yellow-orange roots which is confirming. At times, I have been a bit confused but the yellow-orange roots are a give-away.

Yellow dock roots are at least 8 to 12 inches long much like dandelion roots and about ½ inch thick. The roots are quite bitter. Traditionally, yellow dock has been used as a laxative, alterative, and a mild liver tonic (Grieve, 1996; Hoffman, 2003). Current research supports yellow dock’s use along with dandelion and burdock for IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) (Bone, 2011) and, interestingly, for bone health (Khalsa, 2003).

One of my earlier experiences with yellow dock was as a midwife. We used yellow dock for iron deficiency anemia. Perhaps because it is a vegetable source for iron, it is better digested and tolerated by most women. I found a woman’s iron level improved with yellow dock tincture (about 1 teaspoon per day), as well if not better than women who took conventional iron supplements for the same amount of time.

Despite its gentle laxative effect, yellow dock has not been found to stimulate the pregnant uterus (Romm, 2010). Considered safe to take in pregnancy, traditional midwives have made syrups combining dandelion and yellow dock roots with black strap molasses for added iron (Romm, 2010). To this day, I prefer that a woman take a teaspoon of yellow dock tincture rather than Feosol (a commercial ferrous sulfate supplement).

Processing Your Medicinal Roots

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

1. First step: Wash and dry. Scrub off the dirt without soap. Wipe dry or air dry your roots but don’t leave them out for many days. They will shrivel, get rubbery, and lose their quality.

2. Second step: Cut up or grate your roots. I have cut up dandelion and yellow dock for tincture. I have grated and dried burdock root to add it to soups and stews. (Dried in my oven, it gives a nutty taste when cooked.)

3. Third step: Dry roots or prepare your tincture with fresh roots. Drying roots: I prefer to cut up the long roots so I can use portions of the root later. Dry roots on a tray in your oven by turning on the oven briefly to 200F and then turning it off. Leave the oven door open to allow for air to circulate. It is much easier to cut or grate fresh root, by the way, than waiting until after they are dry. Take the time to cut or grate them up.

Store your dried roots in an air tight container. Well dried roots won’t rot. If your roots become moldy, they can only be used by the compost pile.

For making a tincture; fill a glass quart jar ¾ of the way with fresh roots or half way with dried roots (these roots are also available to purchase here). Cover with a good quality 80 proof vodka. Label your jar. Then, wait. Some check in to shake their jar every day, some only once in a while. No rules here, but more attention than less is more virtuous, I suppose.

Some herbalists say that a tincture is ready after one full cycle of the moon. So, this is 4 to 6 weeks, and is a good way to think about it. However, you can leave your roots in the alcohol practically forever. To use your tincture you can strain out your roots and store your tincture in a labeled jar. (You can learn more about how to tincture here.)

Happy digging it! You’ll come home, with not only a handful of medicinal roots, but a good story to tell along with them! To learn more about herbs and how to use them, join us in our Online Intermediate Herbal Course.

This post was written by Rachel Ross of Hillside Herbals. Rachel grew up between two nature sanctuaries and received a degree in biology and a Masters in Botany. Later, she acquired an RN, and MSN, and is now a practicing Certified Nurse-Midwife. She sees the plants as powerful allies to nourish, strengthen, calm, and heal. Her humble hope is to share this knowledge with you.

Castleman, M. (2001). The new healing herbs. Bantom Books. New York.

Grieve, M (1996). A modern herbal. Barnes and Nobles Books. New York.

HerbClip News (2011). Burdock – The Purifying Root. Online; http://cms.herbalgram.org/herbclip/421/421.html

Hoffman, D. (2003). Medicinal herbalism. Healing Arts Press. Rochester, Vermont.

Romm, A. (2010). Botanical medicine for women’s health. Elsevier Press, St. Louis, Missouri

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Yellow Dock Root

For many, the yellow dock plant is considered nothing more than an invasive and unwelcome weed. However, herbalists and Native Americans know otherwise. While most of the plant can be used for herbal remedies, we’ll be taking a closer look at the actual root of this plant.

For many, the yellow dock plant is considered nothing more than an invasive and unwelcome weed. However, herbalists and Native Americans know otherwise. While most of the plant can be used for herbal remedies, we’ll be taking a closer look at the root of this plant. Characterized by its tree like growth rings when sliced, the yellow dock root is used for a variety of treatments and is considered by many herbalists to be a panacea, or a cure-all for what ails you.

Native American tribes used the root for many conditions from helping external swelling and sores to constipation and blood cleansing. In modern herbal medicine, its most common health benefits include:

Tweet: #didyouknow Native American tribes used Yellow Dock Root for many conditions from helping external swelling and sores to constipation and blood cleansing! @BaselineHealth

Yellow Dock Root a Natural Antioxidant

Studies have shown the antioxidant potential of yellow dock root and have confirmed that it reduces oxidative stress. For example, a study by the Department of Chemistry at Jamia Hamdard in India showed that the root possesses potent antioxidant and free radical scavenging activities and thwarts oxidative damage and hyperproliferation in liver tissues. This could be significant since oxidative stress is thought to be involved in many diseases including in the development of cancer, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, yellow dock is a staple of many natural anticancer formulas, including Essiac Tea. In fact, a 2012 study instigated by the Essiac formula found that yellow dock displayed “remarkable cytotoxic activities” on several tested leukemia cell lines.

Yellow Dock Root for Natural Detox and Cleansing

Yellow dock is most often used for its ability to facilitate detoxification. The cleansing ability of the plant can help with many functions. For instance, it is a powerful blood cleanser and lymph cleanser, inciting and increasing the action of lymph glands throughout the entire body. Not surprisingly, this herb is a staple of many traditional blood cleansing formulas, including Essiac Tea and Jon Barron’s Blood Support formula.

Yellow Dock Root for Digestive Health

According to the University of Massachusetts Memorial Medical Center, yellow dock can help alleviate stomach acid, heartburn, and indigestion. It stimulates the digestive functions by helping to increase both digestive enzymes and stomach acid. More specifically, it can aid the liver and gallbladder. It is called a cholagogue because it is thought to stimulate the production of bile and digestive fluids. Yellow dock also contains low levels of anthraquinone glycosides. This helps to stimulate the release of bile and various digestive enzymes to relieve constipation and minor digestive disorders. From a detox perspective the root can help remove lingering waste in your intestinal tract by stimulating bowel movements, as well as increasing the frequency of urination which assists in toxin elimination.

Yellow Dock Root for Skin Conditions

Not only for internal conditions, yellow root has also been used topically to treat a number of skin conditions including age spots, psoriasis, rashes, poison ivy, and eczema. Native American tribes used the yellow root in a poultice treatment to help alleviate these types of issues.

More Natural Health Benefits of Yellow Dock Root

Yellow dock root has also been used to the treat:

  • iron-deficiency anemia
  • pain and swelling of nasal passages and the respiratory tract
  • bacterial infections
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • scurvy
  • diarrhea and constipation
  • menstrual pain and heavy bleeding
  • upper respiratory disorders
  • jaundice

How to Take Yellow Dock Root

It is best not to use raw or uncooked yellow dock. It can cause serious side effects including vomiting, heart problems, and breathing difficulty. Also, handling raw yellow dock can cause skin irritation in some people. Check with your doctor about taking yellow dock if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. It has laxative effects that could be unsafe.

For more information on natural blood cleansing, .

Resources: http://www.ptfarm.pl/pub/File/Acta_Poloniae/2012/3/487.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rumex_crispus http://vitalitymagazine.com/article/herb-feature-spotlight-on-yellow-dock/ http://www.altmd.com/Articles/Yellow-Dock–Encyclopedia-of-Alternative-Medicine http://www.redrootmountain.com/yellow-dock-and-the-magic-of-spring/88 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17517459 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20623623 http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-651-yellow%20dock.aspx?activeingredientid=651&activeingredientname=yellow%20dock

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