Curled Dock

Some 200 species of annual, biennials, and perennials makes up this genus, which ranges throughout northern temperate regions. Rumex scutatus is one of the few species with any merit as an ornamental, though it may be difficult to eradicate when well established. Rumex crispus (curled dock) and R. obtusifolius (broad-leaved dock, lapathum), long used to treat skin complaints, are similar in constituents, containing laxative atnrhquinones; they stimulate bile flow and trigger the excretion of toxins. Rumex crispus gained ascendency among 19th century American physiomedicalists and predominates in modern practice. The roots of R. aquatica (water dock) are powdered as a dentifrice and used internally in similar ways to R. crispus. According to Pliny, Julius Caesar's soldiers were cured of scurvy by the use of herba britannica (since identified as R. aquatica). Rumex acetosella (Sheep's Sorrel) is best known as an ingredient of "essiac", a native American anti-cancer remedy that also includes Arctium lappa (See, Burdock), Rheum palmatum (See, Chinese Rhubarb), and Ulmus rubra (See, Slippery Elm). Most species contain oxalates, similar to those found in spinach and rhubarb. Oxalates are poisonous in excess, especially for those with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones, and hyperactivity. They are also acidic, which may affect sensitive teeth. In the past, young leaves of several species of Rumex were picked as pot herbs. Culpeper regarded docks as "exceedingly strengthening to the liver and as wholesome a pot herb as any" (The English Physician Enlarged, 1653). Most people today would find docks unpalatable, but sorrels remain popular.

Native to Europe and Africa, yellow dock, a member of the buckwheat family, gets its scientific name rumex from the Latin word for "Lance", and crispus from the Latin word for "Curly", referring to the lancelike, curly shape of the leaf. Yellow dock is one of the chief ingredients of essiac, an anticancer folk remedy. Today we know that yellow dock is a source of emodin and rhein, two phytochemicals shown to exert antitumor activity in laboratory animals.

Variable, erect perennial with a stout rootstock and lanceolate leaves, to 30cm (12in) long, which have noticeably wavy margins. Very small green flowers are produced in simple or little-branched whorls in summer, followed by tiny, woody fruits.

Common Name:
Curled Dock
Other Names:
Garden Patience, Hualtata, Narrow Dock, Narrow-Leaved Dock, Rumex, Sad Dock, Sour Dock, Yellow Dock
Botanical Name:
Rumex crispus
Europe and Africa; naturalized in most temperate regions.
Moist soil in sun or partial shade. Rumex crispus has deep roots and may be difficult to eradicate when established. It is subject to statuatory control as a weed in some countries, notably in parts of Australia.
By seed sown in spring (species only); by division in autumn or spring.
Leaves are picked when young and used fresh. Roots are lifted in autumn and dried for use in decoctions, liquid extracts, and tinctures.
30cm-1.5m (1-5ft)
45-90cm (18-36in)
If you are stung by the infamous needles of the nettle plant, head for the nearest patch of yellow dock. A poultice made from the leaves of the yellow dock provides such instantaneous relief from the nettle's venom that the plant inspired this little ditty:
Dock in. Nettle out.
Dock rub Nettle out.

Through the centuries, the docks and sorrels of the Rumex genus have provided all kinds of medicinal relief and culinary delights. Yellow dock has a long history as a treatment for anemia (the plant is rich in iron) and scurvy, but it is especially prized as a gentle laxative and blood tonic, especially effective for stubborn skin ailments.
Parts Used:
Roots, leaves, rhizomes
A bitter, astringent, cooling herb that stimulates the liver and gall bladder, cleanses toxins, and has a laxative effect..
Phytochemical and Nutritional Content:
Vitamin A, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Vitamin C, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Selenium, Sodium, Beta-Carotene, Hyperoside, Quercetin, Quercitrin, Rutin, Tannin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Zinc, Oxalic Acid, Potassium Oxalate.
Known Effects:
  • Irritates skin when handled
  • Stimulates gastrointestinal tract as a mild laxative
  • Stimulates bile production

  • Miscellaneous information:
    Yellow dock is used as food in salads.
    Possible Additional Effects:
    May temporarily relieve constipation
    Medicinal Uses:
    Internally for chronic skin diseases, jaundice, constipation (especially associated with skin eruptions), liver disorders, and anemia. Combined with Arctium lappa (See, Burdock), Taraxacum officinale (See, Dandelion), or Smilax spp. (See, China Root) for skin conditions, and with molasses as a blood tonic. Used for dry cough, sore throat, and laryngitis in homeopathy.
    To treat sore throat, fever, psoriasis, and inflammation of the nasal passages; to purify the blood.
    Yellow dock has astringent, mild laxative, and tonic properties. It also increases the flow of bile to the intestines and thus helps rid the body of toxins. Yellow dock is taken internally for acne, anemia, constipation, gallbladder and liver ailments, indigestion, and psoriasis.
    Yellow dock is available as dried herb and in capsules, teas, and tinctures. To make a decoction, boil 1 teaspoon of dried rootstock in 1 cup of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain, and drink up to 3 cups a day.
    Typical Dose:
    A typical daily dose of yellow dock may range from 2.5 to 5.0 mg of the dried root.
    Do not take yellow dock if you are pregnant or nursing. In some individuals, yellow dock may cause and allergic reaction, diarrhea, or nausea. Overconsumption of the fresh herb may be toxic.
    Possible Side Effects:
    Yellow Docks side effects include mucous membrane irritation, nausea, vomiting, and allergic reactions.
    Drug Interactions:
    Taking yellow dock with these drugs may reduce or prevent drug absorption:
    Ferric Gluconate, (Ferrlecit)
    Ferrous Fumarate, (Femiron, Feostat)
    Ferrous Gluconate, (Fergon, Novo-Ferrogluc)
    Ferrous Sulfate, (Feratab, Fer-Iron)
    Ferrous Sulfate and Ascorbic Acid, (FeroGrad 500, Vitelle Irospan)
    Iron-Dextran Complex, (Dexferrum, INFeD)
    Polysaccharide-Iron Complex, (Hytinic, Niferex)
    Taking yellow dock with these drugs may increase the risk of hypokalemia (low levels of potassium in the blood):
    Acetazolamide, (Apo-Acetazolamide, Diamox Sequels)
    Azosemide, (Diat)
    Bumetanide, (Bumex, Burinex)
    Chlorothiazide, (Diuril)
    Chlorthalidone, (Apo-Chlorthalidone, Thalitone)
    Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)
    Ethacrynic Acid, (Edecrin)
    Etozolin, (Elkapin)
    Furosemide, (Apo-Furosemide, Lasix)
    Hydrochlorothiazide, (Apo-Hydro, Microzide)
    Hydroflumethiazide, (Diucardin, Saluron)
    Indapamide, (Lozol, Nu-Indapamide)
    Mannitol, (Osmitrol, Resectisol)
    Mefruside, (Baycaron)
    Methazolamide, (Apo-Methazolamide, Neptazane)
    Methyclothiazide, (Aquatensen, Enduron)
    Metolazone, (Mykrox, Zaroxolyn)
    Olmesartan and Hydrochlorothiazide, (Benicar HCT)
    Polythiazide, (Renese)
    Torsemide, (Demadex)
    Trichlormethiazide, (Metatensin, Naqua)
    Urea, (Amino-Cerv, UltraMide)
    Xipamide, (Diurexan, Lumitens)
    Taking yellow dock with this drug may be harmful:
    Digitalis, (Digitek, Lanoxin)—may increase risk of drug toxicity.
    Lab Test Alterations:
    • May decrease serum potassium levels.
    • May confound results of diagnostic urine tests that rely on color change by discoloring urine (pink, red, purple, or orange).
    Disease Effects:
    • May worsen bleeding disorders.
    • May worsen kidney damage
    Food Interactions:
    May decrease mineral absorption when taken with dietary Calcium, Iron, or Zinc.
    Supplement Interactions:
    Warnings and Precautions:
    Excess may cause nausea and dermatitis.

    Don't take if you:
  • Are pregnant, think you may be pregnant, or plan pregnancy in the near future
  • Have any chronic disease of the gastrointestinal tract, such as stomach or duodenal ulcers, reflux esophagitis, ulcerative colitis, spastic colitis, diverticulosis, or diverticulitis

  • Consult your doctor if you:
  • Take this herb for any problem that doesn't improve in 2 weeks (There may be safer, more effective treatments.)
  • Take any medicinal drugs or herbs including aspirin, laxatives, cold and cough remedies, antacids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids, supplements, other prescription or non-prescription drugs

  • Pregnancy:
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
    Infants and Children:
    Treating infants and children under 2 with any herbal preparation is hazardous
    Dangers outweigh any possible benefits. Don't use.
  • Store in cool, dry area away from direct light, but don't freeze
  • Store safely out of reach of children
  • Don't store in bathroom medicine cabinet. Heat and moisture may change the action of the herb.

  • Safe Dosage:
    Consult your doctor for the appropriate dose for your condition.
    Rated slightly dangerous, particularly in children, persons over 55 and those who take larger than appropriate quantities for extended periods of time.
    Adverse Reactions, Side Effects or Overdose Symptoms:
    Signs and Symptoms: What to do:

    Diarrhea Discontinue. Call doctor immediately.
    Kidney Damage characterized by blood in urine, decreased urine flow, swelling of hands and feet Seek emergency treatment.
    Nausea or Vomiting Discontinue. Call doctor immediately
    Skin Eruptions Discontinue. Call doctor when convenient.
    Encylopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright ©: 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited pg.351
    The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.502-504
    The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 105-106
    Vitamins, Herbs, Minerals & Supplements The Complete Guide. by H. Winter Griffith, MD Copyright©1998; Fisher Books pp. 470-471