Yellow Dock

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Rumex crispus (L)

Synonyms: curled dock, narrow dock, narrow-leafed dock, garden patience, sour dock, rumex.

Order: Polygonaceae

Description: The identifying characteristics of Rumex crispus are the narrowness of the leaves, usually curly along the long edges, and the deep yellow colour of the root when scraped. It is a native perennial British herb found in arable farmland, on roadsides and in ditches and waste places throughout the world. Its spindle-shaped taproot sends up a smooth, slender stem, up to a metre in height. Lanceolate to oblong-lanceolate in shape, the pointed light green leaves have predominantly wavy margins. The lower leaves are larger and longer-petioled than the upper leaves. Blooming from June to July, the numerous pale green, drooping flowers are loosely whorled in panicled racemes. The fruit is a pointed three-angled and heart-shaped nut.

Parts used: root

Collection: The roots are unearthed in late summer and autumn, between August and October. 

Constituents: hydroanthraquinone glycosides based on emodin and chrysophanol, tannins, bitter principles, resin, iron

Actions: Alterative, gentle purgative, cholagogue, mild laxative, mild astringent tonic

Indications: chronic skin conditions, obstructive jaundice, constipation

Therapeutics and Pharmacology: Rumex crispus is used extensively in the treatment of chronic skin complaints, especially psoriasis associated with constipation; and obstructive jaundice. The anthraquinones have a cathartic action on the bowel, but act in quite a mild way, possibly tempered by the tannin content. It promotes the flow of bile, and its  action on the gallbladder gives it a role in the treatment of jaundice when this is due to congestion. The plant's high iron content makes it valuable for correcting anaemia. A compress can be used to help soothe itchy skin. The ointment is valuable for itching, sores, swellings and scabby eruptions.

Combinations: Rumex may be combined with Taraxacum, Arctium and Galium.

Caution: Large doses should be avoided due to the oxalate content.

Preparation and Dosage: (thrice daily)

Regulatory Status: GSL

Dried root: 2-4g or by decoction

Liquid Extract: 1:1 in 25% alcohol, 2-4ml

Tincture: 1:5 in 45% alcohol, 1-2ml

Additional Comments: The Romans used yellow dock for skin complaints, and Gerard said 'it purifieth the blood and makes young wenches look fair and cherry like'. The Native Americas applied the crushed leaves to boils and the pulverized roots to cuts. Mrs. Grieve states that the seeds may be used in dysentery, for their astringent action.



BHMA 1983 British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, BHMA, Bournemouth.

Gerard, J. 1633 The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes, Facsimile Edition (1975), Dover Publications, New York.

Grieve, M. 1931 A Modern Herbal, (ed. C.F. Leyel 1985), London.

Hoffmann, D. 1990 The New Holistic Herbal, Second Edition, Element, Shaftesbury.

Lust, J. 1990 The Herb Book, Bantam, London.

Mabey, R. (ed.) 1991 The Complete New Herbal, Penguin, London.

Mills, S.Y. 1993 The A-Z of Modern Herbalism, Diamond Books, London.

Ody, P. 1993 The Herb Society's Complete Medicinal Herbal, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Polunin, M. and Robbins, C. 1992 The Natural Pharmacy, Dorling Kindersley, London.

Wren, R.C. 1988 Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations, C.W.Daniel, Saffron Walden.


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Christine Haughton, MA MNIMH MCPP FRSPH

Wold Farm, West Heslerton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 8RY, UK

Last updated 27th November 2014     ęPurple Sage Botanicals