You might know yellow dock ( Rumex Crispus ) as that persistent plant in your pasture that towers over your grass. Before you rip it out of the ground and toss it, you may want to save parts of it for you and your horse.
The long tap root ranges in color from bright yellow to almost white, with the bright yellow having the most medicinal activity. The best time to gather the root is late summer or early fall. The root’s outer covering is brown, while the inside is a brilliant yellow. If you slice the root, you can see the growth rings and, like a tree, count the rings to discover the age of the plant.
Yellow dock is a hardy plant that grows in much of North America, Europe and Asia, easily recognizable by its tall flower stalk with green to pink flowers that turn a rusty brown once matured. The green leaves are elongated with slightly curled edges, giving this plant its other name, curly dock (the Latin Crispus translates to curly).
Yellow dock root is useful for assisting the liver, improving chronic skin conditions and as a mild laxative. This plant has an affinity for improving the liver’s function and its ability to store iron. It can be combined with other herbs commonly used in equine herbal blends, such as nettles, alfalfa or dandelion for anemia.
Due to its liver and blood detoxifying abilities, yellow dock root can help skin conditions that are inflammatory with a damp discharge. A salve made with yellow dock can be applied externally on your horse to help dry and reduce the itching of weepy skin.
Yellow dock root is known for its tonic action on the bowel. This plant’s bitter properties help to improve digestion. The anthraquinone glycosides in yellow dock root in larger doses act as a gentle laxative. Conversely, in smaller doses, the tannins in yellow dock have an astringent action to help stop diarrhea.
In early spring, the new leaves can be eaten in small quantities, sautéed or in salads. However, like spinach, yellow dock contains oxalates, so avoid the leaves if you have kidney stones. In the fall, you can collect the seeds to grind into flour. High in flavonoids and protein, with a taste similar to buckwheat, you might try making yellow dock crackers with the flour.
Yellow dock offers food and medicine to you and your horse. You might want to harvest it, instead of mowing it down.
Andrea Baldwin is an Herbalist, lifelong horse advocate and healer. She is currently studying at David Winston’s Center for Herbal Studies to expand her clinical knowledge. Andrea and her family live on a small farm in Georgia.