By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer
What is yellow dock? Also known as curly dock, yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is a member of the buckwheat family. This perennial herb, which is often considered to be a weed, grows wild in many areas of North America. Yellow dock herbs have been used for centuries, valued for their medicinal and nutritional qualities. Read on to learn about yellow dock herbal uses, and get a few tips on growing yellow dock plants in your own garden.
There are said to be many benefits of yellow dock herbs, and yellow dock herbs have been used since ancient times, and their use is still implemented by herbal medicine practitioners today. Yellow dock leaves and roots are used to improve digestion, remove toxins from the body, and are often taken as a gentle laxative. It is also used to treat various skin conditions (including burning from stinging nettle) and may be useful as a mild sedative.
Native Americans used yellow dock herbs to treat wounds and swellings, sore muscles, kidney trouble, and jaundice.
In the kitchen, tender yellow dock leaves are steamed much like spinach, then served with olive oil and garlic. Leaves and stems can also be eaten raw or added to salads. The seeds are frequently used as a healthy coffee substitute.
Herbalists warn that the plant can be powerful and shouldn’t be used as a home remedy without expert advice. To that end, it’s recommended that you seek professional advice beforehand if you’re interested in using yellow dock herbs medicinally.
Yellow dock is commonly found in fields and other disturbed areas, such as along roadsides and in pastures in USDA zones 4 through 7.
If you want to try growing your own yellow dock, consider that the plant is invasive and can become a pesky weed. If you still want to give it a try, scatter the seeds on the soil in fall, or in spring or summer. Yellow dock prefers moist soil and either full sunlight or partial shade.
Look for some of the seeds to germinate in a few weeks, with more seedlings showing up for the next few years.
Don’t attempt to transplant wild plants, as the long taproots make transplantation nearly impossible.
To help keep the plant under control, you may want to try growing it in a container. Just ensure it is deep enough for the taproot.
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The aforementioned fence surrounds a garden that has undergone several iterations over the last several years. When we moved into the house, there was a young Norway maple in the center of the patio and the garden was full of perennials of the former owner’s choosing. As the maple grew (rapidly, as Norways are wont to), the garden became increasingly shady, so I moved shade-loving plants there as needed.
This seemed like a sound approach until a Halloween ice storm that coated the trees, in full leaf, with a thick layer of ice that proved too much to bear for many. The trunk of our patio maple split three ways and crashed into the fence and garden, effectively ending its tenure as a shade garden.
So we patched up the fence and next spring moved the shade-loving plants elsewhere, replacing them with a hodgepodge of various perennials – whatever I had on hand. I didn’t love it. But life as it is, I just left it for a few years.
This spring, we replaced the old, gray, lichen-covered fence due to obvious structural reasons. The new spruce fence looks great and soon will age to the gentle gray pickets I so enjoy as a backdrop for the flowers and plants.
But not those flowers and plants – that garden was a total mess, and several plants got walked all over in the process of replacing the fence. I knew it was time to start the garden rehabilitation project I had been envisioning – a sunny herb garden chock full of my favorites.
Before I could add more Echinacea, wild bergamot, holy basil, and yarrow, I had to remove plants to create space. This proved to be nothing short of a surgical extraction, as I carefully removed plants and weeds that had wound their way amidst everything. In the process, I discovered that wild bergamot has quietly been establishing itself for the past few years, much to my delight. I also discovered something else completely unexpected: yellow dock ( Rumex crispus ).
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:
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 bitter. However, the bitter, the better. Dandelion has antitumor, antimicrobial, antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory, hepatoprotective, and hypoglycemic properties (Hoffman, 2003, Noh, H-Y et al. 2013).
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.)
This medicinal plant is an excellent herbal remedy for impure blood, bacterial infections, scrofula, glandular tumors, swellings, leprosy, cancer, sore eyes, syphilis (and other sexual transmitted diseases), and hemorrhoids.
It also aids in skin disorders such as, acne, psoriasis and other skin diseases as well as running ears.
This medicinal herb is considered a highly effective blood cleanser and is used by herbalists to assist the body in eliminating heavy metals and to treat other hepatic disorders.
Many people use it just for the purpose of purifying the blood and thereby getting rid of toxins that are built up in the body. It is also a good remedy to treat sickle cell anemia.
It is an herb that will promote the flow of bile and it has an active effect on the bowel, and may ease cases of constipation, digestive problems, and liver diseases. It may also be used as a toothpaste.
The young leaves of yellow dock medicinal herb should be boiled in several changes of water to remove as much of the oxalic acid in the leaves as possible, or it can be added directly to salads in moderate amounts.
It makes an excellent herbal ointment for itches and sores and for glandular tumors and swellings. An application of fomentation wrung from the hot tea can be very beneficial as well.
It contains vitamin C, iron, calcium, and phosphorus and tannin which can be used in tanning leather. Since it is high in tannin content, it should be taken only every other week.
Other constituents of this medicinal herb are manganese, potassium oxalate, rumicin as well as chrysarobin.
According to Encyclopedia.com, the tea is prepared by boiling 1-2 tsp (5-10 g) of the root in 500 ml (2 cups) water for 10 minutes. Syrup is made by boiling 0.5 lb of crushed root in a pint of syrup.
The dried extracts are also prepared as pills or capsules, and are available commercially. These commercial preparations are often a mixture of several different types of herbs.
The directions on the label of any commercial product of this medicinal herb should be followed for recommended dosages.
An excellent herbal combination to treat acne includes herbal extracts such as sarsaparilla , burdock, cleavers along with curl dock.
These medicinal herbs are very effective in cleansing the lymph and the blood. Half of a teaspoonful three times per day will help in preventing acne.
Do not use yellow dock medicinal herb during pregnancy.
Ann-Marie Bulgin-Graham, owner of Medicinalherbs-4u.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
Beyond the tender green leaves, Samuel Thayer talks a great deal about eating the stalks of various dock plants. I’ll admit when dock stalks sprout I often have other wild edibles on my mind, and I’ve never actually cooked these. He makes a distinction between two different vegetables here:
One of the best wild vegetables I tried last summer was burdock stalks, and from this description, I think dock stalks sound about as tasty. They’re on my list to try this year…
Yellow Dock sprouting in the very early spring. Snow has just melted back on this patch of ground, and the leaves were already developing under the ice. Note the dead leaves from last year, dried and brown. Also, note the thick seed stalk. I cut this one off last fall, but otherwise, it might still be standing marking the place of this young spring green.
Common Names: Curly Dock, Yellow Dock
Description: Flowering stem, 1 to 3 feet tall, emerges from a basal rosette of leaves dull green, oblong leaves up to 6 inches long 6- to 18-inch-long panicle of small, yellow-green flowers
Hardiness: To Zone 1
Flowering: Early summer
Parts Used: Roots and leaves
Range/Habitat: Native to Europe, naturalized throughout North America found along stream banks, in meadows, and along roadsides
Powdered yellow dock can also be mixed into curry powders. Curry with yellow dock once a week is recommended by herbalist Ryan Drum to gradually improve one’s iron levels.
Find powdered yellow dock here . Or grind dried yellow dock root to a fine powder in your coffee grinder.