The Benefits and Risks of Yellow Dock as a Health Supplement

Yellow dock is a traditional medicinal herb that can improve digestion.

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus), an agricultural weed growing at wayside on farmland.
Credit: Duncan Shaw/Photodisc/Getty Images

What is Yellow Dock?

Yellow dock, also called curled dock or Rumex crispus, is native to Europe and Asia and grows throughout North America as a common weed. In Europe, it's cultivated as a vegetable. Its leaves are harvested in spring, and may be used in salads or other dishes though the taste is somewhat sour. The part used medicinally is the bitter root, though the leaves can also have a mild laxative effect.

In traditional herbal medicine, yellow dock is thought to be a general health tonic which "tones" the body and maintains proper digestive health.

Uses for Yellow Dock

Yellow dock is thought to benefit the digestive tract, liver and skin and to treat inflamed nasal passages. One of its primary uses by herbalists is for skin conditions associated with poor digestion, poor liver function or "toxicity". It is also thought to be helpful for rheumatism and disorders such as scurvy and scrofula.

Yellow dock has a mild laxative effect, due to constituents called anthraquinone glycosides. It appears to stimulate the release of bile and digestive enzymes.

  • Poor digestion
  • Skin conditions
  • Mild constipation
  • Liver detox

Yellow dock is prepared for medicinal use as a syrup, a tincture, or an ointment. To make the ointment, which is used for itching and swollen glands, the root is boiled in vinegar; the pulp is then mixed with an agent such as lard.

 Yellow dock may also be made into capsules or tea.

Caveats

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the side effects of using yellow dock. 

Yellow dock contains oxalic acid, which irritate the bowels and may cause mild diarrhea in some people. Call your health practitioner if you experience abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, or vomiting.

Overuse can cause laxative dependence.

Yellow dock should not be used by people taking drugs that decrease blood calcium, such as diuretics, Dilantin®, Miacalcin®, or Mithracin®.

Yellow dock should not be used by people with kidney disease, liver disease, or an electrolyte abnormality.

Excessive use of yellow dock can cause a blood disorder called metabolic acidosis and life-threatening calcium deficiency in the blood. Call your health practitioner if you experience signs of low blood calcium, such as fatigue, seizures, confusion, muscle spasms, and numbness around the mouth.

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Using Yellow Dock for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend yellow dock as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using yellow dock, make sure to consult your physician prior to starting your supplement regimen.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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