Yellow Dock: Edible Weed and Digestive Ally

| 6/4/2018 4:44:00 PM

Found in all fifty states and on six continents, yellow dock (Rumex crispus) is an edible, medicinal plant that has naturalized in many parts of the world. In other words, it’s a weed, and one that folks often spend a lot of effort eradicating from their lawns and gardens. Yet, like many underappreciated weeds, yellow dock has a lot to offer in both nutritional and health benefits.

Photo by Sarah Baldwin

Health Benefits of Dock

Yellow dock is an important digestive ally, with bitter properties that activate the liver and gall bladder, aiding in the digestion of fats and absorption of nutrients. The root is often used as a gentle, but effective laxative. Meanwhile, the plant’s cooling properties ease inflammation of the digestive tract.

This herb has a long history of use as an alterative, a term that can be a little confusing. This is what folk healers might call a “blood cleanser,” and it indicates a plant that improves the metabolic functioning of the body to encourage the breakdown and elimination of toxins and waste. Thus, yellow dock is indicated in chronic skin conditions like acne and eczema, which often have an underlying cause in liver congestion.

How to Identify Yellow Dock

Yellow dock’s genus name, Rumex, means “lance-like” and describes the narrow shape of the leaves, while crispus means “curly” and refers to the undulating leaf margins. Although most modern herbalists prefer R. crispus, several dock species have historically been used interchangeably. Narrow leaves with very wavy edges and pale green stems are a couple of ways to differentiate R. crispus from other Rumex species. When in doubt, you may need to dig up a plant and take a cross-section of the root, which has a yellow hue--hence the moniker, “yellow dock.”

Dock can tolerate infertile soil and tends to thrive in waste areas. However, we must take care not to harvest this plant from polluted areas, as it accumulates heavy metals such as cadmium and lead from the soil. (In fact, this principle goes for all wild plant foraging!)

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