Yellow Dock Herb – Health Benefits and Side Effects

Botanical Name: Rumex crispus.

Other Common Names: Chin-ch’iao-mai, curled dock, curly dock, garden patience, narrow dock, parell, patience herb, sour dock.

Habitat: Yellow dock is indigenous to Europe and parts of Africa, but like many medicinal herbs it has been carried beyond its native borders by travelers.

It is now found in most places including the United States and southern Canada.

Usually considered a problematic weed, it is most commonly found in open spaces where the soil is frequently disturbed such as fields, road sides, ditches, and dumps.


Yellow dock is a perennial herb belonging to the Polygonaceae family, commonly referred to as the knotweed family. This family also includes rhubarb, buckwheat, and sorrel. Mature yellow dock stands no more than 4 feet tall and is reddish-brown in color.

Its common name refers to the yellow taproot rather than the flowers or leaves. Its other common name, curly dock, refers to the willowy, undulating leaves.

The leaves are grouped around a central point at the base of the stem. Plants produce light green floppy flowers between early spring and late autumn. The flowers are arranged in loose clumps along a stalk above the leaves.

Plant Parts Used: Roots, leaves, and seeds. The root is dug up in autumn, chopped and then dehydrated for storage.

yellow dock plant
Yellow Dock Plant (Rumex crispus) – Attribution: Henry Brisse

Therapeutic and Traditional Uses, Benefits and Claims of Yellow Dock

It is the taproot of yellow dock that is most commonly used in herbal remedies as it is rich in many compounds known to have cleansing and calming qualities as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium and phosphorous.

Yellow dock contains a number of anthraquinones, including emodins, which are known for their laxative action. Though small doses of yellow dock can be used as an herbal remedy for diarrhea, higher doses actually cause diarrhea.

The herb acts to stimulate peristalsis and increase mucous production and secretion of water in the colon, hence alleviating the discomforts associated with constipation.

This herb also has diuretic properties, which makes it a natural remedy for water retention, inflammation of the bladder and urinary stones.

Both its laxative and diuretic properties make this herb a natural cleanser. The toxins are flushed out of the system through the urine and stool. Yellow dock has been used to cleanse the circulatory system, liver, spleen, kidneys, and bladder.

It is often blended with other cleansing herbs, such as burdock, red clover, or dandelion, to flush the body of toxins and clear the path to healing the primary infliction such as acne, boils, eczema, psoriasis and fungal infections.

When prepared as a poultice, yellow dock has a calming effect and is used as a natural remedy for boils and burns as well as skin problems such as weeping eczema, psoriasis, nettle rash, boils, and abscesses.

It has even been used as an herbal remedy in the treatment of syphilis and other venereal diseases with skin outbreaks as it alleviates itching and inflammation.

Yellow Dock Rumex crispus
Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) – Illustration ©The Herbal Resource

Yellow dock has been used extensively to resolve issues associated with menstruation. It is a traditional remedy for menstrual pain and heavy bleeding and has also been known to be helpful for unbalanced menstrual cycles.

This herb has also been reported to increase fertility.

The root is rich in iron and often used as an herbal remedy for anemia. The laxative effect of this medicinal herb also reduces issues of constipation often associated with iron supplements.

Yellow dock, like many other Rumex species, contains the antibacterial compound, rumicin. This makes this herb a natural remedy for treating bacterial infections of Escherichia, Salmonella, Staphylococcus, and Bacillus.

Glycosides found in the herb can help stimulate the liver, which helps heal poor absorption of nutrients and increases bile production which has further detoxifying effects. This trait made yellow dock a common herbal remedy for jaundice sufferers during the 19th century.

Yellow dock is an herbal treatment for the relief of symptoms associated with upper respiratory disorders such as emphysema, asthma, and bronchitis.

The list of illnesses that yellow dock has been used to treat is extensive. Besides what has already been described, this medicinal herb has been used in the treatment of anthrax, anorexia, cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome, common cold, cramps, depression, fever, general weakness or loss of strength, headaches, hepatitis, high cholesterol, leprosy, malaria, menopause, mental stupor, mouth sores, oral hygiene, ring worm, and tuberculosis.

Dosage and Administration

Dosage is critical as always as it can mean the difference between a natural remedy for diarrhea and severe vomiting, or worse.

The root is generally taken as a tea up to three times daily. One to two teaspoons of dried root in approximately two cups of water is steeped for ten minutes.

The root can also be found in a tincture form with the recommended dosage up to 2 tsp, three times daily.

For natural relief of upper respiratory disorders, the yellow dock root can be prepared as a syrup which is taken one teaspoonful at a time.

Half a pound of yellow dock root is added to a pint of distilled water and boiled until only a cup of liquid remains. The liquid is strained and dark honey (1/2 cup), blackstrap molasses (1/2 cup), and maple syrup (1 tsp) are added to the liquid and then blended into a smooth thick syrup. Vanilla can be added for flavor if desired.

To prepare a poultice, steam the soft leaves and place them directly on the affected area.

yellow dock herb
Yellow Dock – Herbal Medicine

Potential Side Effects of Yellow Dock

As with all herbal remedies, allergic reactions to yellow dock are possible. If there are signs of allergic reaction, stop treatment and seek medical advice.

Yellow dock should not be taken in conjunction with medication for controlling calcium in the blood as excess use can lead to calcium deficiency in the blood. As it has diuretic effects, it should not be taken with other diuretics. Nor should it be taken if there are pre-existing kidney or liver problems as it may only aggravate conditions.

Yellow dock, like any herbal laxative, should not be taken in combination with Lasix or any other brand name furosemide used for the treatment of congestive heart failure and edema as it can cause potassium depletion.

In high dosage, yellow dock can cause vomiting and lead to peristalsis and acute intestinal pain and if eat in excess, even death.

A medical practitioner should be consulted immediately if any of the following symptoms are experienced after treatment with yellow dock: intestinal pain, vomiting, nausea, confusion, fatigue, seizures, and mouth numbness

The oxalates found in the leaves of this medicinal herb can cause kidney stones and gout if consumed in large quantities, though oxalate levels in the root are safe.

It should not be used without medical supervision if pregnant or breastfeeding and should not be given to children.

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