YELLOW DOCK IS NOT JUST AN INVASIVE WEED: HEALTH BENEFITS AND USES OF CURLED DOCK
Yellow dock gets its name from the colour of its roots, and is also called curled or curly dock because of its crinkly-edged leaves. It is one of the Polygonaceae family of plants along with sorrel, common dock, red dock and rhubarb. Like rhubarb it has a laxative action so is good for mild cases of constipation. The root is used medicinally mainly with the leaves being eaten as a green vegetable either cooked or in salads. However as they contain oxalic acid, it isn’t a good idea to eat many of them. If you cook the leaves they need to be boiled in several changes of water or steeped in water before cooking, preferably overnight and the water changed several times. The stems can be peeled and the inner part eaten and roasted seeds have been used as a coffee substitute although as these are fiddly to harvest if you need a coffee substitute, use dandelion roots or chicory ones. The seeds may be eaten raw or cooked if you are prepared to persevere.
Yellow dock and it relatives have been used for centuries and Nicholas Culpeper has this to say of Yellow dock’s properties and those of its relatives: -
“the Yellow Dock root is best to be taken when either the blood or liver is affected by choler. All of them have a kind of cooling (but not all alike) drying quality, the sorrel being most cold, and the blood worts most drying. The seed of most of the other kinds, whether gardens or fields, doth stay laxes and fluxes of all sorts, the loathing of the stomach through choler, and is helpful for those that spit blood.
The roots boiled in vinegar helpeth the itch, scabs, and breaking out of the skin, if it be bathed therewith. The distilled water of the herb and roots has the same virtue, and cleanseth the skin from freckles, morphewa, and all other spots and discolourings therein.”
Traditionally the root has also been used to inhibit the growth of cancers although no medical evidence has supported this use.
The root has been made into a decoction and syrup, with the decoction being used externally for skin problems such as weeping sores and acne. A powder can also be made form the root which can be dusted onto wounds and sores to help clean and heal them. Apparently an infusion of the root has been used for women who have problems with menstruation including period pains. For digestive purposes equal amounts of yellow dock root and sage can be made into a tisane and taken a cupful at a time. It has to be flavoured with honey though as the root has a slightly bitter taste.
A syrup of yellow dock root is said to be beneficial for respiratory problems and diseases such as asthma and emphysema, while the decoction and infusion are diuretic and useful in the treatment of cystitis and urinary tract infections.
The leaves contain vitamins A and C as well as some of the B-complex vitamins notably B1, B2, B3 and B6 and the minerals iron, potassium, and phosphorous.
If you enjoy dying then the roots yield different coloured dyes, from yellow through to brown and dark grey.
Yellow dock is an invasive plant in
North America, southern parts of South America, and parts of and New Zealand . It is native to Australia Europe including the British Isles and to North Africa and Western Asia. Perhaps it would not be seen as such a pest if people knew how beneficial it could be if only they knew how to use it.