Yellow Dock (Chin Ch’iao Mai)
Botanical Name: Rumex crispus
Yellow dock leaf stalks can be enjoyed in salads, and the roots and fruit are used as medicine to help treat swollen sore throats, respiratory infections, sinusitis, allergies, and wheezing. It is also used to treat sexually transmitted diseases. Yellow dock is especially used to treat skin diseases such as dermatitis, rashes, and psoriasis that are associated with poor digestion or poor liver function due to toxicity. It is an excellent blood purifier that is also used to treat anemia. Don’t confuse yellow dock with bitter dock (Rumex obtusifolius), which is a different plant with broad, heart-shaped leaves that have red stems.
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Below is an overview of Yellow Dock, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of Yellow Dock.
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Western Name: Yellow Dock
Also Known As: Sheep Sorrel, Garden Patience, Curled Dock, Curly Dock, Dock, Rumex, Sour Dock
Organs/Systems: Liver, Digestive, Blood, Skin, Respiratory
Key Actions: Anti-inflammatory, Antibacterial, Laxative, Analgesic, Tonic, Antifungal, Alterative, Antioxidant, Diuretic
Medicinal Uses: Swollen sore throats, allergies, sinusitis, respiratory infections, syphilis, psoriasis, eczema, scurvy, jaundice, mild constipation, fungal infections, intestinal infections, poor digestion, acne, dermatitis, scrofula, rheumatism, stomach ulcers, diarrhea, shingles, boils, pruritus, diabetes; poor urination.
Pin Yin: Chin Ch’iao Mai
Also Known As: Chin Chao Mai
Meridians: Liver, Stomach, Spleen, Intestines
Key Actions: Clears Liver Heat, Tonifies the Liver, Moves Stagnant Qi, Tonifies the Stomach, Clears Damp Heat, Builds Blood
Medicinal Uses: Constipation, menstrual cramps, anemia, poor digestion, diarrhea, skin eruptions, boils, fibroids, headaches, sinusitis, lethargy, anxiety, joint pain, cancer.
Basic Habitat / Botany:
Yellow dock is a member of the buckwheat (or dock) family Polygonaceae. The leaves have a pale green stem and are long (some leaves can grow to be over a foot long!), narrow, and curly at the edges. The leaves of bitter docks (Rumex obtusifolius) are broad and heart-shaped and have a red stem. R. obtusifolius is also in the family Polygonaceae but is a different plant. Yellow dock bears multiple clusters of dropping three-winged yellow flowers that become green seeds that then mature into a deep red color in the fall.
Yellow dock is native to Europe, Asia, and North America. It likes pastures, fields, roadsides, and wilderness. It grows well in most climatic conditions but is found primarily in the temperate climates of Asia, Europe, North America, and Northern Africa.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Fruit, Leaf Stalk
Flavors/Temps: Very Bitter, Sour, Astringent, Cool
Caution: Considered safe. When eaten raw or in excessive amounts, it can cause nausea or diarrhea; when overused externally, it can cause skin irritation. People allergic to ragweed may also be allergic to yellow dock.
Key Constituents: Anthraquinones, Anthraquinone glycosides, Oxalates, Tannins, Minerals, Inulin, Iron, Chrysarobin, Manganese, Potassium, Rumicin, Phosphorus, Vitamins A and C, Selenium, Silicon, Sodium, Nepodin, Beta-carotene
History/Folklore: Yellow dock helps treat the pain and swelling associated with cold, flu, and sinusitis. It is a digestive bitter, excellent for supporting healthy digestion, liver function, and blood purification. The herb supports stage-2 detoxification of the liver and a diverse microbiome in the gut. It also stimulates digestive enzymes and bile that further help support digestive activities. A wide range of skin ailments, from acne to dermatitis to other rashes, are all aided by yellow dock’s detoxification properties.
Yellow dock has deep cleansing properties and is used to treat a wide variety of chronic problems associated with liver or digestive dysfunction. Arthritis, chronic morning diarrhea, and chronic skin conditions can benefit from yellow dock’s cleansing and gentle, yet powerful, ability to move stagnation and clear toxicity.
Yellow dock can be blended with burdock to help cleanse the blood, with licorice root to help cleanse and tone the bowels, and with red clover and cleavers to cleanse the lymphatic system, helping to treat swollen glands and sore joints.
The bitter tannins in yellow dock help to naturally balance hormones by aiding in the elimination of excess estrogen released during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The astringent properties of these same tannins help tone tissues and treat diarrhea.
Yellow dock is considered one of the safest laxative herbs available. It is less cathartic than Senna or Cascara and stronger than either dandelion or burdock. Yellow dock is a good herb to treat mild constipation or bowel sluggishness, especially if it is being used over a longer period. In general, extended use of harsher or stronger herbs can begin to overcome the digestive system and create unwanted dependency for ensuring proper bowel movements.
The anthraquinone compound found in yellow dock contributes to the herb’s properties as a mild laxative.
Yellow dock contains inulin, which is a prebiotic that helps support a healthy digestive microbiome. It nourishes beneficial bacteria that help keep the digestive system functioning properly.
Midwives have combined yellow dock in syrups with dandelion and blackstrap molasses to prevent iron deficiency in pregnant women. Yellow dock teas, syrups, and tinctures have been used by women, and men too, to help treat iron-poor blood and anemia. The herb blends well with other herbs that can also help tonify and build blood.
While small amounts of raw, early-spring leaves can be safe to eat when picked before the flowers bloom, eating large amounts of these raw leaves can be toxic. The leaves are more safely enjoyed by adding them to soups and stews. If using the leaves as greens, then boiling them twice is recommended. Simply boil the leaves, throw out the water, and then quickly boil again. This technique helps to remove the toxic oxalate compounds in the leaves that can cause stomach upset and prevent the absorption of calcium and magnesium.
Typical dosages include 2-4 tbsp of the fresh root or 2-4 g of the dry root used in tea three times a day for no longer than 8-10 days.
Native American tribes used yellow dock extensively. The Dakota used the bruised fresh leaves as a poultice to help heal infected wounds, and the Blackfoot and Cheyenne tribes used the root pulp topically to treat rheumatic pains. The Iroquois used the root pulp as a poultice to treat yellow fever. They all used the root internally as a tonic and blood purifier. In preparation for healing and sacred ceremonies, the Navajo used the whole plant as an emetic to cleanse the system.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, a tea made from yellow dock root is famous for treating constipation.
The homeopathic remedy made from the plant in its pre-flowering stage is useful for treating irritable tickling coughs of the throat and upper bronchial passageways.
The plant’s Latin name Rumex means lanced. This refers to the plant’s leaves, which are long and narrow. The Greek name for yellow dock is lapathum, which translates as “blood purifier.”
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Used for itching and swollen glands, the root of yellow dock can be boiled in vinegar, with the pulp then mixed with lard or another agent as the base for the ointment.
The roots of yellow dock have growth rings that can be seen when the roots are sliced.
Yellow dock is rich in minerals. It soaks up trace minerals from the soil and transforms them into an organic form the body can digest. Traditional herbalists sprinkled iron filings on the soil around the plants to further increase their ability to treat anemia and blood deficiency.
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