Yellow dock: botanical image of the yellow dock plant

Yellow Dock

Rumex crispus

Family: Polygonaceae

Description: A perennial herb growing to 1m (3 1/2ft) high when in flower. The lance shaped leaves are crisped at their edges; leaf base attenuate distinguishes it from common docks. The pale green flowers are small and numerous, male and female or both. Segments of the inner whorl are much longer and enlarged at fruiting. The fruiting valves are broad-ovate with raised veins with nuts 2-5mm long and dark brown. The thick fleshy roots are rusty brown in colour externally whilst internally whitish with fine, straight medullary rays and thick bark. There is little or no smell and a bitter taste.

Habit and cultivation: Originally from Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia, it has been naturalised in Australia and New Zealand. It grows freely in roadside ditches and on wasteland, preferring damp places but has the ability to survive in drier environments or cultivated ground. Deep rich damp soils and full sun produce better roots. Drought and frost resistant. The roots are dug up in autumn, chopped and dried.

Actions (known for): Alterative (general, bowel, hepatobiliary), cholagogue, laxative and astringent.

History: Formally a member of the Lapathum family, derived from the Greek word ‘lapazein’ to cleanse. Historically used when either the liver or blood were affected by choler, piles, bleeding from the lungs, diphtheria, scurvy, itchy skin conditions, and for the treatment of cancer. The seeds were used to treat dysentery. Externally: for skin conditions such as itching, scabs, eruptions, freckles, morphews, spots and discolouring.

Parts used: Root.

Constituents (bio available chemicals): Anthraquinones 3-4% including emodin, chrysaphenol and nepodin. Tannins, volatile oil and resins.

Nutritional constituents: Vitamins: A and C. Minerals: iron, manganese and nickel. 

Indications: Constipation, jaundice, psoriasis, chronic skin conditions, arthritis and anaemia. Externally: gingivitis (mouthwash), laryngitis (gargle), slow healing ulcers and wounds.

Dosage: Liquid extract (1:2): 15-30ml per week. Decoction of dried root: 2-4g 3 x daily.

British Herbal Pharmacopoeia: skin conditions, especially psoriasis with constipation.

Cautions for therapeutic doses: Avoid during pregnancy and lactation.

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