Yellow Dock Root, also known as Curly Dock, grows in a wide range of habitats, from wetlands to fields, edges of roads and forests. It is a member of the Polygonaceae, or knotweed/buckwheat family. It also is often found growing in a wide range of soil conditions in disturbance areas and wastelands. It has wide, long lanceolate green leaves with wavy margins arranged in a rosette around a central stalk on which the pale green flowers are loosely whorled in panicled racemes. They mature into reddish brown three angled, heart shaped seeds, and the stalk can reach up to 4 or 5 feet tall. The root is a long, yellow, branching taproot.
Yellow dock is a bitter, cooling herb. The root is the part typically used medicinally, as the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid (which can cause kidney stones) leaving only the young, tender leaves as edible and high in vitamins; However, the leaves, when applied as a poultice, make a great remedy for the dermatitis caused by stinging nettle, and they usually grow within close proximity of each other. The leaves also make a great poultice for acne and boils. Yellow Dock Root is an alterative herb, or blood purifier, and is used to stimulate bile and digestion, treat a variety of skin and liver conditions such as psoriasis and eczema. It’s tonic-laxative effects are useful to treat rheumatism and congestion of bile. According to Michael Moore, the esteemed herbalist from the Southwest, it also liberates iron stored in the liver, making it useful for treating iron deficiencies. It is also useful to tone the liver and gall bladder, treat jaundice, and relieve constipation.
Historically used as a laxative and astringent tonic, it became well known in the 19th century as a blood purifier, prescribed for skin eruptions and other disorders. As an ointment, it was used for itching, sores, and scabs. Native Americans used the root as a poultice to heal cuts and the leaves to heal boils and stings, and contact dermatitis. The juice from the leaves can be used to pull rust and mildew stains off of linen, silver, and wicker. Methow Valley Herbs has some interesting Yellow Dock recipes ranging from fritatas and crackers to natural dyes and syrups.
Yellow dock root can be prepared as a decoction, of 1-2 teaspoons of the dried herb per cup of water, simmered for 10-15 minutes and drunk three times daily. It can also be taken as a tincture of 2-4 ml three times daily. It combines well with burdock, cleavers, and dandelion. For chronic skin conditions, it combines well with sarsaparilla. For extra blood toning action, prepare as a syrup, by boiling 1/2 a lb of the crushed root in two pints of water until the liquid is reduced by half. Then, add half a pint of blackstrap molasses. Take 1-2 teaspoons three times daily.
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