Yellowdock is a Eurasian herb, brought to the United States as an important medicinal plant by early colonists. It now grows wild over most of the country. Yellowdock is known for its gentle cleansing and tonic properties.
Rumex crispus L.
Botanical Family: Polygonaceae
Common name: Yellowdock, yellow dock
Synonyms: curly dock, dock, curled dock, sour dock, narrow dock
The Plant: A native of Europe and Asia, yellowdock or yellow dock, is a perennial plant, naturalized across the United States, Canada and many of the non-tropical parts of the world. It's considered an invasive weed (and is listed as such by the USDA), as it grows in all types of soils – along roadsides and ditches, in abandoned fields and field edges, and in pastures.
Several species of dock are used interchangeably, depending on locale and tradition. Red dock (Rumex aquaticus), great water dock (Rumex hydrolapathum), swamp dock (Rumex verticullatus) and broad-leaved dock (Rumex obtusifolius,) are the most commonly used species of docks, but yellowdock is considered the superior herb.
Yellowdock grows to a height of two to four feet and has a long, stout, yellow, taproot that's best dug in the fall after the flowering stalks have ripened and turned brown. The wavy edges of the large, lance-shaped leaves are responsible for the common names curly dock and curled dock.
Yellowdock leaves have a slightly sour taste (thus the common name sour dock) and are related to French sorrel (Rumex scutatis), a culinary herb whose leaves have a sharper, lemony flavor.
Constituents of Note: Yellowdock root contains 3 to 4% anthraquinone glycosides (such as emodin and nepodin). It also contains tannins, rumicin, oxalates, and a small amount of iron.
Quality: Yellowdock root are fibrous, with a yellow-brown interior and a red-brown bark. The aroma of the roots is earthy but faint, and the flavor is strong, earthy, bitter, and slightly astringent.
Because of the similarities in appearance and constituents among the most commonly used species of dock, identity testing is crucial to insure the herb is pure yellowdock. Yellowdock roots may also be adulterated with rhubarb root.
Regulatory Status: GRAS (Title 21 182.10 and 182.20) as a spice, natural flavoring, and seasoning, Dietary Supplement
Did you know? Young yellowdock leaves are harvested from the wild as a tasty cooked green. Consumed as a potherb, young leaves are cooked in water that should be changed twice during the cooking process.
Directions: To make a decoction, use 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of yellowdock root to one cup of water and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
Suggested Uses: Yellowdock root is used as an ingredient in syrups, tonics, skin salves and ointments.
Yellowdock root is best known as a traditional purification herb*, and it's often combined in formulas with other tonic, purifying herbs, such as cleavers, burdock, and dandelion root. Its gentle cleansing and purification activities are associated with clearing up the skin.
This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
Caution/Safety: The Botanical Safety Handbook* classifies yellowdock as:
Class: 2d Individuals with a history of kidney stones should use this herb cautiously.
*Michael McGuffin, ed., American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook, (New York: CRC Press, 1997)
Origins: Our organic yellowdock root is cultivated in the United States, while our non-organic comes from various sources in Europe or Asia.