Synonyms and Common names: Curled dock, narrow dock, narrow-leafed dock, garden patience, sour dock, rumex.
Description and Habitat: The identifying characteristics of Yellow dock are the narrow leaves which are curly along the long edges, and the deep yellow colour of the root when scraped.
It is a native perennial British herb found in arable farmland, on roadsides in ditches, and waste places throughout the world. Its spindle-shaped taproot sends up a smooth, slender stem, which can be up to a metre in height. The pointed light green leaves have predominantly and distinct wavy edges. The lower leaves are larger and have a longer stalk than the upper leaves.
Flowering from June to July, the numerous pale green, drooping flowers are loosely whorled. The fruit is a pointed three-angled and heart-shaped nut. The very small flowers can be almost red, which again makes it easily recognised, it is an easier herb to find than may be thought.
Parts used: Its yellow root.
Collection and preparation: The roots are unearthed in late summer and autumn, usually between August and October. Roots are chopped and dried in a dark, dry and warm place, and put into a sealed container, they keep well for around a year.
Actions: Alterative, gentle purgative, cholagogue, mild laxative, and mild astringent tonic.
Indications: Chronic skin conditions, obstructive jaundice, and constipation.
Constituents: Hydro- anthraquinones glycosides based on emodin and chrysophanol, tannins, bitter principles, resin, and iron
Indications and Therapeutics: Yellow dock is used extensively in the treatment of chronic skin complaints, especially psoriasis associated with constipation; and obstructive jaundice.
The anthraquinones have a cathartic action on the bowel, but act in quite a mild way, and are possibly tempered by the tannin content.
It promotes the flow of bile, and its action on the gallbladder gives it a role in the treatment of jaundice when this is due to congestion.
The herb's high iron content makes it valuable for correcting anaemia.
A compress can be used to help soothe itchy skin.
The ointment is valuable for itching, sores, swellings and scabby eruptions.
Contraindications: Large doses should be avoided due to its oxalate content. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition. Avoid during pregnancy & breastfeeding.
Preparation and dosage:
Decoction: Put 1-2 teaspoonful of Yellow Dock dried root in two cups of water and bring to the boil, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and drink 3 times daily.
Tincture: Take 1-4 ml of tincture 3 times daily.
Additional comments and Folklore:
The Greeks and Romans used it medicinally. Seeds soaked in water treated dysentery. The root was boiled in vinegar and applied to skin ailments and to ease itches.
Served in wine, dock soothed aching teeth. It was considered an effective treatment for goitre, which to the Romans meant any swelling in the throat area. One common goitre treatment was to hang a piece of dock around the patient's neck like an amulet.
Throughout Europe, rubbing dock on the skin was an antidote to stinging nettles. Since both were common in wet areas, it was usually available.
Modern herbal medicine doesn't support these uses very strongly: for example, although dock soothes the skin it is said that there are better treatments, however, yellow dock is easily available and is a good folklore curative herb.
Dock leaves were traditionally added to tobacco pouches to keep the tobacco moist. They were also boiled and added to poultry feed. The stems, after boiling and salting, were woven into baskets.
Europeans used the seeds in money charms. They were soaked in water and the liquid was sprinkled throughout a shop to bring in customers.
Seeds were tied to a woman's left arm, or carried there, to help conceive a child.
People ate dock. The whole plant is edible, as are other docks and sorrels (species in the genus Rumex, not, though, plants that share only a common name such as burdock (Arctium) and wood sorrel Oxalis). The catch is, not all docks taste good. They range from too tough or too stringy or too acidy, on over to delicious. Foragers often recommend curly dock as best-tasting of the docks. Not recommended for eating!
All docks have some oxalic acid, and in large quantities oxalic acid is toxic.