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Gardening | Food | Wellbeing

What is Yellow Dock Good For: Surprising Health and Medicinal Benefits

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You may have heard of yellow dock tea or supplements. But if you look outside, you just might find the source of these products, the yellow dock plant itself growing wild. It’s a common “weed” found in many backyards.

Yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is a perennial plant characterized by its curly or wavy-edged leaves, tall flowering stalks, and its yellow roots. It’s also known as curly dock, curled dock, or butter dock. Originating in Eurasia, it now is found all over North America and many countries around the world.

What is yellow dock good for? While some classify yellow dock as a weed, it’s an edible wild plant that has long been used for its medicinal and health properties. High in iron, and vitamins A and C, yellow dock is also used as a mild laxative and to help with minor digestive issues.

The fleshy taproot of the dock plant runs deep and wide. Some roots penetrate the soil up to 150 cm (59 inches) deep.  Its deep roots enable this plant to survive year after year in the same spot. It is this coveted yellow root that’s used for many traditional healing purposes.

Please note: I am not a doctor or herbalist. Please speak to your doctor before using yellow dock supplements. This post is only intended to shine a light on the many uses of yellow dock.

WhatIsYellowDockGoodFor (Rumex crispus leaf3
Yellow dock growing in the wild.
Credit: Harry Rose / Flickr, Rumex crispus leaf3

Health benefits of yellow dock

Dock is a rich source of vitamin C and A. Just one cup of raw dock greens provides over 100 percent of your daily requirements.2 It’s also full of calcium and iron. If you suffer from anemia, yellow dock helps maintain healthy iron levels.

The leaves and seeds contain dietary fiber making it a natural laxative. Yellow dock is also a nutrient-rich source of niacin, thiamine, folate, magnesium, riboflavin, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, and copper.

Who should avoid yellow dock?

While there are many health benefits of yellow dock, some people may experience negative side effects. Avoid yellow dock if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding due to its laxative properties. People with kidney issues, ulcers, gastrointestinal blockages, or blood clotting disorders should also avoid yellow dock.

Ways to use yellow dock in the kitchen

As with any wild edible plant, it’s best to eat in moderation. The leaves, stems, root and seeds are all edible. If you’re hoping to forage yellow dock outdoors, please take the time to learn how to properly identify this plant. Consult with a local specialist if you’re not 100 percent sure before eating it.

Leaves and stems

Dock leaves growing wild can have greatly differing tastes depending on the soil conditions and growing environment. Dock is a plant that is best harvested when leaves are young and tender because it contains oxalic acid. Young leaves have a slightly mild, sour taste. Older leaves have greater oxalic acid content creating a more bitter taste, and in some cases may cause your throat to sting or tingle. Avoid harvesting leaves from flowering dock.

Dock leaves can be eaten fresh in moderation. They can be added as part of a salad when mixed with other greens. Stems can also be eaten and tend to be juicy with a milder taste than the leaves themselves. Eating too much fresh dock leaves can cause an upset stomach and an increased risk of kidney stones.

To break down oxalic acids, cook or freeze the leaves.

Dock leaves and stems can also be blended with other greens to make green juices or smoothies. It’s important to note that only a small amount of dock leaves should be used in a juice or smoothie due to its oxalic acid content.

Seeds of yellow dock

Dock seeds, once dried, can be used whole and sprinkled on cereals or salads. They are full of dietary fiber. The seeds can be ground up finely and added to recipes such as bread and other types of baking.

The seeds on a dock plant are easy to gather in the fall, and even the winter. Seeds are ready to be harvested when they are brown. The tall flowered stalks of the yellow doc plant produce an abundance of seeds that fall off easily at the slightest touch.

Enveloping each seed is a paper-thin, triangular casing, or sheath. The sheaths can be ground up along with the seed.

YellowDock(Rumex crispus fruit2)
A closer look at the seeds (or fruit) of yellow dock.
Credit: Harry Rose / Flickr, Rumex crispus fruit2

Medicinal properties of yellow dock

The yellow dock plant has long been harvested as a source of healing in many cultures around the world. Different parts of the dock plant are used for different healing and medicinal purposes. It’s known for its high iron content and astringent properties.

Mash up fresh leaves to create a poultice to apply on a variety of skin ailments such as infections, boils, and insect bites.

Drink dock root tea for digestive issues and constipation. The yellow roots give the plant its namesake. The roots are typically used for healing purposes. Roots are dried and steeped in boiling water to make yellow dock root tea which can be consumed to help with digestive problems and support functioning of the kidney, liver, intestines, and lymph.

The astringent properties of yellow dock make it a great herb for healing and daily care. Try adding dock root tea in bathwater to help tighten and tone the skin. It can be swished around in the mouth and used as a mouthwash to cleanse gums and teeth.

Powdered dock root is often taken in capsule form as a natural iron supplement to help with anemia. The dried powdered root is sometimes used as an herbal remedy when mixed with other ingredients to use as healing balms or tinctures.

The Zuni people, a Native American group from modern-day New Mexico, make a poultice from powdered dock root to use on skin infections, sores, and rashes. They create an infusion of the powdered root to help treat athlete’s foot.4

Conclusion: what is yellow dock good for?

Yellow dock (or curly dock) is a wild edible plant that’s harvested for both its nutritional content and medicinal properties. Whether you plan on adding leaves of yellow dock to your salad for a dose of vitamins A and C, grinding the seeds to flour, drinking dock root tea, or taking dock root supplements, use in moderation.

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  1. CAB International, Invasive Species Compendium, Datasheet: Rumex crispus (curled dock): https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/48059. Accessed March 2020.
  2. Blair, Katrina (2014). The Wild Wisdom of Weeds: 13 Essential Plants for Human Survival. Chelsea Green Publishing. ISBN  978-1-60358-516-3.
  3. WebMD, Vitamins & Supplements, Yellow Dock: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-651/yellow-dock. Accessed March 2020.
  4. Camazine, Scott and Robert A. Bye 1980 A Study Of The Medical Ethnobotany Of The Zuni Indians of New Mexico. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:365-388.

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