Other Common Names:The other common names for the herb yellow dock are Chin-ch'iao-mai, Curled Dock, Garden Patience, Narrow Dock, Parell, Patience Herb and Sour Dock.
HistoryThe name Dock applies to a widespread group of broad-leaved wayside weeds having roots possessing astringent properties, with a cathartic principle of the genus Rumex.The name "dock" refers to a genus of broad-leaved wayside weeds related to rhubarb which are rich in tannin. The species used medicinally are usually Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus), Red Dock (Rumex aquaticus) and Great Water Dock (Rumex hydrolapathum).Yellow dock has a long history of use as an alterative. Books on modern herbal medicine describe the yellow dock or Rumex crispus L. belonging to the Polygonaceae family as an effective alterative as well as laxative where alterative means a remedy for healing syphilis and other associated venereal ailments. Alterative herbs have nonspecific effects on the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. As a result, they are thought to treat skin conditions that are attributed to toxic metabolites from mal-digestion and poor liver. Owing the special characteristic of the leaves, yellow dock is also known as the curly dock.
DescriptionYellow dock is a perennial species and reproduces by seed. The mature plant is a reddish brown colour, and produces a stalk that grows to about 1 to 3 feet high. The leaves are bluish-green, lance shaped leaves. Alternate above, often a large basal rosette is produced late in the fall. Leaves are 3-12 inches long (or more including the stock), with noticeably wavy and curly edges. Leaves decrease in size towards the top of the plant. There is a membranous sheath at the leaf base. Leaves become more reddish-purple with age. Small flowers occur on the upper portion of the stem, and are yellowish green at first, but become rosy then reddish brown. The 6 flower parts do not look like petals. The 3 inner parts become greatly enlarge and heart shaped. They surround the tiny fruit, and have the appearance of wings. At maturity, these wings are 1/8 to ¼ inch long, and usually have a little wart-like thickening on the back. The flowers have 6 sepals. The root-structure is a large, a yellow, forking taproot. Seeds are borne in a large, loose, branching cluster, 1 ½ - 2 feet long at the top of the stems. Each flower produces one glossy, triangular achene, about 1/12 inches long.
RangeYellow dock is a perennial plant found growing in fields and waste places in Europe, the U.S., and southern Canada. Although yellow dock is indigenous to Europe and Africa, the herb is frequently found in other parts of the world, too.
HabitatIt may be found growing in abundance in waste places, roadsides or even dumps and ditches. Normally, yellow dock grows and flourishes on odd places like abandoned lands, along the roads and even in ditches and trenches.
Yellow dock is generally cultivated Wild. It propagates from seed. A large, mature curly dock can produce up to 40,000 seeds per year. The seeds are shed continuously from late summer through the winter. Seeds are capable of surviving in undisturbed soil for 50+ years and seed numbers in soil have been estimated at 5 million per acre. Young seedlings vary in color from entirely green to being red tinged in cooler months. Curly dock grows in a wide variety of habitats, from open fields to transition areas where it gets direct sunlight only part of the day. Although it prefers slightly moist soils, it can tolerate dry rocky or sandy soils as well. In drier conditions it tends to produce seed and die back earlier in the year, in August or September depending on how dry it is. In hot, dry summers it is best to harvest this herb in areas where it receives direct sunlight only part of the day as the soil conditions in these areas will be more moist. In cool, wet summers it is best to harvest curly dock in open areas with good drainage.
In contrast, broad-leaved dock thrives in a much narrower range of conditions. It only grows in relatively moist soils and doesn't like too much sun. It is most common in open woodlands and transition areas near streams, bogs and other sources of water. The leaves of this species have shorter, wider blades that are heart-shaped at the base. It is less common than curly dock. Acute dock primarily occurs in transition areas where the ranges of the other two species' overlap. Its leaves are intermediate in appearance between those of the other two. Acute dock is not very common in Ontario.
All three of these species produce branching taproots that grow about two to three feet deep and tend to spread laterally to a radius of about eight to twelve inches. The root will tend to be larger in sandy soils and smaller in clay soils. The roots should be harvested after the flowering stalk and most of the larger basal leaves have died back. That can be as early as September when the conditions are dry, but are more typically late October to the end of November as with most root herbs which leave a dried stalk that is easy to recognize after the aerial parts of the plant die back. It is the roots of the three to four year old plants that are preferred. Plants this age tend to produce two to three flowering stalks, whereas two year old plants produce one, and older plants usually produce more than three in any given year.
CultivationYarrow is propagated through its roots. Grow yarrow plants in full sun and in well-drained soil. It is drought-tolerant once established.pH preference is acidic to slightly alkaline. Common yarrow is a drought tolerant species of which there are several different ornamental cultivars. Seeds require light for germination, so optimal germination occurs when planted no deeper than ¼ inch. Seeds also require a germination temperature of 18-24 °C (65-75 °F). Common yarrow responds best to soil that is poorly developed and well drained. The plant has a relatively short life, but may be prolonged by dividing the plant every other year, and planting 12 to 18 inches apart. Common yarrow is a weedy species and can become invasive. It may suffer from mildew or root rot if not planted in well-drained soil. The aerial parts of the plant are plucked during summer when it is in blossom.
Flowering SeasonThe flowers of the yellow dock are in bloom between the months of June to October.
Pests and DiseasesIt's basically disease and insect free - aphids may show an interest in the young leaves where they can be removed with a sharp spray of water. Even slugs rarely bother this potherb.
|The root leaves and the seeds are the most commonly used part of the plant for its medicinal and commercial applications.
- Yellow dock is used in traditional medicine as a gentle laxative or mild astringent tonic.
- It encourages both bowel movement and good digestion by stimulating the release of gastric juices.
- An ointment of yellow dock is valuable for eruptive skin conditions that cause itching, sores, and scabby skin lesions.
- The American Indians used yellow dock leaves to treat boils, and the pulverized roots to treat cuts.
- The root has laxative, alterative and mildly tonic action, and can be freely used as a tonic and laxative in rheumatism, bilious complaints and as an astringent in piles, bleedings of the lungs, etc.
- It is useful for relieving a congested liver, as well as for scrofulous skin diseases.
- The seeds are used in dysentery, for their astringent action.
- A decoction prepared from yellow dock is an immensely beneficial laxative and helps heal constipation.
- Yellow dock is also beneficial for curing bowel infections as well as treating peptic ulcers.
- It also removes toxins from the body through the urinary system. Yellow dock roots are also beneficial for healing gout, arthritis, cystitis, water retention, urinary stones and gravel.
- The herb is also beneficial for women as it has been extensively used for healing unbalanced menstrual cycles, heavy bleeding during periods, menstrual pain and also as fibroids in the uterus.
- The yellow dock roots are rich in iron content and hence offer an exceptional medication for anemia.
- The leaves of yellow dock are also eaten as a potherb.
- The powdered root-stock in water is employed as a gargle for laryngitis and as a tooth powder in gingivitis.
- Young leaves may be eaten as greens, but water should be changed twice during cooking.
Folklore and MythsYellow dock root is said to Draw Money, Business Customers, and Love. To Draw Money and Business, brew a strong tea from the herb and strain out the root and use this tea to wash the door knobs to draw customers into a shop. This is also used to make an Old Indian Love-Doll. To work this Iroquois-style doll-baby trick, name a forked YELLOW DOCK ROOT for the intended and carry it around and love it up for a month, then boil it, and use the tea to wash your face and hands and sprinkle your clothes and then go to see your loved one at once, wearing these clothes.