San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Plants at a Glance: Yellow Dock

Yellow Dock or

Curly Dock

(Romaza or


Rumex crispus


Geo-distribution: Yellow dock can be found growing around the world in temperate climate zones. It is

believed to originate from the Old World, dispersed to the New World with the immigration of people and animals. In the tropics, it grows in the highlands, in cooler temperatures. In these regions, yellow dock can be found in pastures and areas with wet soil conditions.

Botanical Description: Yellow dock is a perennial herbaceous plant with large green leaves 15-35 centimeters long, with a lancelike appearance and a curly border on the edge. The stems are striped with a bright maroon-red center. The small green flowers are borne on an erect stem, and turn into dried, red seed capsules. The root is often 10-20 cm long and is bright yellow on the inside. This plant is often confused with rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum).

Medicinal Uses: European settlers have used yellow dock for centuries to treat a number of health problems. The root has strong, bitter, yellow alkaloids, much like goldenseal, and can be used in the same manner to treat skin problems, such as psoriasis, eczema and urticaria. The plant has been used internally for iron deficiencies and anemia, hemorrhoids, bile congestion, rheumatism, infections, digestive disorders, and as a laxative and a general tonic. This is an emergency botanical and should be used for a limited time to prevent secondary effects.

Dosage: As a tea, one to three cups per day for three to six days. As a tincture, one to three teaspoons per day internally, for six days. Used externally for skin problems; can be used for extended periods as a skin wash.

Preparation: The mature root of the plant can be used fresh or dried to make teas and tinctures. First, the roots are washed well, dried and sliced into thin sections. These can be dried in a warm dry place or in the oven until they are brittle, then stored for future use. The dried chips can be ground in a blender to form a powder for boiled teas. Add one teaspoon of ground root powder or several slices of fresh root to each cup of water, and boil for 10-20 minutes. Tinctures can be made by adding the dried or fresh root to vodka or clear rum. Shake daily for several weeks before using.

Notes: Yellow dock was an old-time favorite of mine when I lived in the north, because it could be grown in the home garden for food and medicine. The root is a good substitute for the endangered forest plant goldenseal. Tropical highland gardeners will find this a nice addition to their plant collections. The tender young leaves can be used in salads. Young plants can be transplanted from pastures to the home garden, or seeds can be collected and sown in the germination unit for propagation. These  hardy plants require no special care; however, choose a site with wet to moist conditions and full sun to partial shade, with average to fertile soil.


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