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Herbal Monograph

Herb:   YELLOW DOCK    (Rumex crispus; Polygonaceae)

Other Names:    curled dock  (2);  Curled dock (57)

Character/Energetics:   bitter, cool   (6)   

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:  liver, colon   (6); blood, skin, spleen, liver and gall bladder    (14)

Parts used:   root   (6) root    (8)

Identification & Harvesting:    a 1 m. high plant with a carrot-like rhizome.  Roots are 8-12″ long, 1/2″ thick, unbranched.  Rhizome is rusty brown, whitish on the inside, has a thick bark.  Stems are angular, grooved and usually branched from the base up.  Lower leaves are large and have flat stems, lanceolate, curly, alternate.  Upper leaves are smaller and narrowly lanceolate.  Green flowers in panicles;  fruit is a triangular, dark nut.  Grows wild in many regions.    (2)

The roots should be unearthed in late summer and autumn, between August and October. Clean well and split lengthways before drying.   (9)

Root occurs in short shrivelled pieces, about 3/4-1 inch long or more, brown, and more or less rough and wrinkled externally, showing on transverse section a yellowish brown, rather thick bark, surrounding a woody center with concentric rings and a radiate structure.  Leaves narrow, oblong, lanceolate, crisped at the margins.  Taste, mucilaginous, bitterish.  No odor.    (57)

A member of the buckwheat family, native to Europe and widely naturalized throughout much of North America.  Most of the supply comes from Europe.    (61)

Active Constituents:    Oxalates incl. oxalic acid, calcium oxalate;  tannins 3-6%;  flavonoids incl. quercitrin;  anthracene derivatives .9-2.5% incl. aglycones physcion, chryosphanol, emodin, aloe-emodin, rhein, and their glucosides;  naphthalene derivatives incl. neopodin, 8-glucoside, lapodin.    (2)

rumicin and from the root, chrysarobin     (6)

 Anthraquinone glycosides, tannins    (9)

Actions: alterative, cholagogue, astringent, aperient, blood tonic   (6)  

               alterative, purgative, cholagogue   (9)

Primarily alterative, astringent;  also cholagogue, laxative, nutritive    (14)

Cleansing, promotes bile flow, strong laxative    (15)

Laxative, alterative, tonic.    (57)

Anthraquinones, tannins and oxalic acid, trace essential oils.    (61)

A slight laxative effect has been attributed to the anthraquinones.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Treats chronic sinus inflammation and respiratory tract inflammation.  Folk uses include scurvy, and as a blood cleanser.    (2)

Yellow dock is used to treat skin diseases, liver disorders and iron deficiency. According to herbalist Michael Moore, it Iiberates iron that is stored in the liver. It is used for anemia during pregnancy and anemia generally. It has a tonic‑laxative effect good for treating rheumatism and bile congestion. As an astringent, it treats hemorrhoids and bleeding from the Iungs. It functions similarly to rhubarb as a purgative, but has a milder action. It is specific for a variety of chronic and acute skin diseases including psoriasis, urticaria and eczema (all of a hot and inflammatory nature). To take it is as a syrup, boil 1/2 pound of the crushed root in two pints of water until the liquid reduces to one half, then add half a pint of blackstrap molasses, which enhances its blood tonic action. Take one tablespoon or teaspoon two or three times a day It combines well with sarsaparilla as a tea for chronic skin problems.   (6)

Yellow dock is used extensively in the treatment of chronic skin complaints such as psoriasis. The anthraquinones present have a markedly cathartic action on the bowel, but in this herb they act in a mild way, possibly tempered by the tannin content. Thus it makes a valuable remedy for constipation, working as it does in a much wider way than simply stimulating the gut muscles. It promotes the flow of bile and has that somewhat obscure action of being a “blood cleanser.” The action on the gall bladder gives it a role in the treatment of jaundice when this is due to congestion.   (9)

Internal uses — acne:  infusion, powder*, tincture, fluid extract.  Anemia:  powder*, infusion*, syrup*.  Blood purifier, boils, tonic to stomach:  infusion, tincture, fluid extract, powder.  Cancer:  infusion*, tincture*, fluid extract*, powder*.  Jaundice, leukorrhea:  tincture, fluid extract, powder*, infusion*.  Piles:  infusion, tincture, fluid extract.  Psoriasis, skin diseases:  infusion, tincture, fluid extract, powder*.

External uses —  boils:  fomentation, salve.  Leukorrhea:  retention douche.  Piles:  retention enema.  Psoriasis:  wash, fomentation.  Tumors:  fomentation.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Yellow dock is an astringent blood purifier.  It will tone up the entire system and is good for diseases such as skin infections, tumors, liver and gall bladder problems, ulcers and skin itch.  It acts as a laxative because it stimulates the flow of bile.  It makes an excellent salve for itchy skin diseases and swellings of glands or otherwise.  Yellow dock is high in iron and is used in the treatment of anemia and wil nourish the spleen.  Use in formulas when treating jaundice and hepatitis.  Combine in teas and salve with echinacea, burdock root and sarsaparilla.  Externally, it is applied to bleeding piles and wounds.  When there is running of the ears, ulcerated eyelids, scurvy, blood or lymph problems, drink three cups of the tea daily.    (14)

For psoriasis: Cleansing, diuretic, and laxative; stimulates bile flow and clears toxins. Take an infusion or tincture. Combines well with burdock as a general cleanser. Add Oregon grape vine or figwort to help cleanse and cool the liver.  (15)

Can be freely used in rheumatism, skin diseases, bilious complaints, piles, bleeding of the lungs, etc.    (57)

Historically considered a blood purifier, tonic, mild astringent, used to treat “bad blood“, enlarged nymph nodes, skin conditions, nervous dyspepsia, respiratory infections;  used externally for skin conditions, psoriasis, glandular deficiencies, jaundice, constipation.  Related species of common sorrel and sheep sorrel were considered anti-inflammatory and folk cancer remedies.    (61)

Combinations:    Yellow dock combines well with sarsaparilla as a tea for chronic skin       problems.    (6)

                             (Yellow dock) will combine well with dandelion root, burdock and  cleavers.  (9)                                                                                                                                          For psoriasis: Cleansing, diuretic, and laxative; stimulates bile flow and clears toxins. Take an infusion or tincture. Combines well with burdock as a general cleanser. Add Oregon grape vine or figwort to help cleanse and cool the liver.  (15)

Precautions:  Possible mucus membrane irritation and vomiting following intake of the fresh rhizome, due to its anthrone content.  Anthrones are oxidized to anthraquinones through dehydration and storage.  Oxalate poisonings are possible but only through heavy consumption of the leaves, as with a salad.    (2)

Use only in the short term, due to the laxative effect.  Oxalic acid content may disturb calcium metabolism.  Avoid during pregnancy.    (61)                                                                                                                                     

Tincturing Process:

Applications:   Decoction:   put 1 to 2 teaspoonsful of the root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. Drink 3x daily

            Tincture: take 1 to 4 ml of the tincture 3x daily   (9)

Decoction:  simmer 5-15 min.;  1 tbsp in 6 oz. water, 3 x daily.  Tincture:  5-30 drops, 3 x daily.  Fluid extract:  1/2-1 tsp., 3 x daily.  Syrup:  1 tsp, 3-4 x daily.  Powder:  5-10 #0 capsules (30-60 grains), 3 x daily.    (14)

A syrup may be made by boiling 1/2 pound of crushed root in a pint of syrup, and taken in teaspoonful doses.    (57)


Dosage:  standard decoction or 3‑9 gms.;  tincture, 10‑30 drops   (6)

The infusion of an ounce of powdered root in a pint of boiling water is taken in half-cup doses.  Liquid extract dose 1/2-1 drachm.    (57)

Up to 2 g capsules daily.  Tincture 20-40 drops up to 2 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:  Cayuga Botanicals R.D. Note — [Has a folk reputation as an antibacterial, and although more cautious sources downplay this role, the anthraquinones, formed by oxidation of the anthrones mentioned, probably do perform this function, at least under certain circumstances.  Another case where a putative use, in the absence of a prescribed mechanism explaining it, is supported by independently obtained chemical research.]

There is no current research.    (61)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 1106-07

(6) Planetary Herbology by Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., pg. 194

(8)  The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, p. 243

(9) The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman, pg. 40

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 196-97

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, 146-47, 182

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., pgs. 381-82

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 214-15


PHOTO: Wikipedia