Digging Medicinal Roots - Yellow Dock

These roots can be decocted fresh, or cut and dried for later decocting.

Here in the mountains of Virginia we've had unusually warm weather and are beyond two months past our usual killing frost date without having had one.  This has given us a long season in which to harvest roots, whether for medicine or food, because not only is the ground far from freezing, but it's actually been warm enough that the top growth of many plants is still happening (this helps for identification and locating).

Note the paper sheath that surrounds the petiole, or leaf stem, and how each individual leaf arises from the ground.

One plant whose roots I've harvested this fall, is Yellow Dock, Rumex spp.; if you have a garden, or a plot of un-manicured land with some sunlight and moisture, it's likely you have Yellow Dock.  It's a tenacious weed whose roots are medicinal (what we'll mainly be discussing today) and it's leaves and seeds are edible.  Harvesting this root was actually a case of "killing two birds with one stone" as it needed to be weeded out of some of the garden area anyway.  I totally dig this efficiency.  :)

The leaves are best eaten when fresh and young in early Spring, but with a warm, late fall like the one we've had,        there is often a second flush of fresh, young leaves.  These pictured here are getting to be mature, but still edible.

    Note that the leaves contain Oxalic acid, like many of our store-bought vegetables, so cooking in water and then pouring it off is ideal.

Here it is with the prior seasons seed stalk - a great identifying feature.
Seed stalk up close.

Just run your hands up the stalks to collect the edible seeds

Yellow Dock root is an alterative; it's cooling, astringent, and bitter (leaves sour) so it's good for Damp Heat conditions and as such has traditionally been used for stimulating digestion, blood cleansing, constipation, food stagnation, wet/red eczema, nervous dyspepsia, liver detoxification, lymph congestion, jaundice, sore throat, fatigue, ovarian cysts, gout, tumors, and chronic skin conditions.  It is also good for anemia as it helps the body to better utilize Iron (combine with Iron rich foods or herbs).

Roots scrubbed and ready to slice.  I "slice" them with pruners though one could use a knife.

After a couple days of drying by the wood stove, still a few more to go before jarring.


  1. I like. I have French Sorrel, I'll have to get some of Yellow Dock.

    1. I wouldn't plant it on purpose unless you are careful to not let it spread. I think it's a good plant to take advantage of growing as a "weed," but it's roots are quite tenacious and the seeds spread mightily - so it ends up all over and is almost impossible to get rid of growing where you don't want it. French Sorrel is Rumex too and in some cases is used similarly - not sure of its medicinal potency of the root, but worth looking into... That said, if you use a lot of it medicinally, it might make sense to just allow it to grow all over and dig it up as needed...instead of purchasing it. I would not grow it as a green (the reseeding and perennial taproot are just too great; it would be a nuisance if you weren't using large quantities of the root).