Yellow Dock Used For Metabolism, Digestion and More

Rumex crispus

Polygonaceae (buckwheat family)

The species name, crispus, means "crisped or curled" and accurately describes this plant's curly leaf edges, but the original meaning of Rumex is obscure. Curly dock, narrow dock, or common sorrel are some of the regional names for this powerful healing herb.

Perhaps twenty species of dock are found across North America and some of them are Eurasian introduced species. All have a long history of food and medicinal uses. The juice from their crushed leaves will relieve irritations from stinging nettles as well as some insect and spider bites. Shades of bright green and yellow dyes are obtained from these roots and leaves. Bitter or broad-leaved dock, R. obtusifolius, is especially common along roadsides and in meadows.

Sheep-sorrel, R. acetosella, a diminutive relative in this same family, is one of the major herbs in the old Ojibwa cancer formula known as essiac.

Traditional uses:

American Indians used all plant parts in various seasons for foods and health care needs. It is fascinating to see how readily and widely native herbalists and families adopted the uses of this plant, long considered an introduced European herb. In the mid-1880s Hoffman noted that the Ojibwa used the pounded roots poulticed on skin sores and wounds. The roots and seeds were considered laxatives, purgatives, and diuretics. The young green leaves were stewed for a spinach-like vegetable among many tribes.

The carrot-like, yellowish-brown taproots anchor these rugged perennials in almost all soils. A slender, grooved stalk rises to almost three feet tall by midsummer, supporting many branching, erect, tiny green flowers. These ripen by late summer into three-winged grains turning golden amber, then brown. These are roasted and ground fine into a delicious buckwheat-like flour for hot cereals, soups, breads, and ash cakes. Pressed into patties with herbs and raw eggs, these make memorable grilled veggie burgers. The large lance-shaped green leaves are steamed and sprinkled with vinegar. The fresh green leaves also make excellent wound dressings and can relieve skin rashes and irritations.

Modern uses:

Today herbalists rely on yellow dock roots in tinctures and teas to take as blood purifiers for toxic skin conditions like acne, psoriasis, and eczema. This herb also can increase iron absorption and help our bodies with fat metabolism. The anthraquinones curb ringworm.


Both curly dock and sheep-sorrel should be used in moderation as they can prove to be poisonous in large doses. Their high oxalic acid content can bind and eliminate calcium from our bodies, and their tannin content can cause stomach upset and constipation.

Growth needs and propagation:

Yellow dock will grow in most soil, and in full sun or partial shade - nearly anywhere. It propagates readily from seed and root cuttings following standard procedures


Yellow dock grows well with yarrow, strawberry poke, and most other plants.

Yellow dock, Rumex crispus, is often used to assist with complaints of the gallbladder, where it will stimulate bile flow and aid congestion. Yellow dock can also be used as a laxative, since it is gentle - Yellow dock has been shown to have efficacy in the treatment of chronic constipation.

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