Yellow dock is found in many places throughout North America. The root of the plant is used in herbal medicine.
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Indigestion, Heartburn, and Low Stomach Acidity
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Yellow dock is a digestive stimulant widely used in traditional medicine in North America.
Bitter herbs are thought to stimulate digestive function by increasing saliva production and promoting both stomach acid and digestive enzyme production.1 As a result, they are particularly used when there is low stomach acid but not in heartburn (where too much stomach acid could initially exacerbate the situation). These herbs literally taste bitter. Some examples of bitter herbs include greater celandine, wormwood, gentian,dandelion, blessed thistle, yarrow, devil’s claw, bitter orange, bitter melon, juniper, andrographis, prickly ash, and centaury.2. Bitters are generally taken either by mixing 1–3 ml tincture into water and sipping slowly 10–30 minutes before eating, or by making tea, which is also sipped slowly before eating.
Some bitters widely used in traditional medicine in North America include yarrow, yellow dock, goldenseal, Oregon grape, and vervain. Oregon grape’s European cousin barberry has also traditionally been used as a bitter. Animal studies indicate that yarrow, barberry, and Oregon grape, in addition to stimulating digestion like other bitters, may relieve spasms in the intestinal tract.3
Yellow dock has a long history of use as an alterative. Alterative herbs have nonspecific effects on the gastrointestinal tract and the liver. As a result, they are thought to treat skin conditions attributed to toxic metabolites from poor digestion and poor liver function.
Yellow dock contains relatively small amounts of anthraquinone glycosides, which may contribute to its mild laxative effect.4 It is also thought to stimulate bile production. It is often used as a digestive bitter for people with poor digestion. No human studies have been done on its use as medicine.
A tincture of yellow dock, 1/4–1/2 teaspoon (1–2 ml) three times per day, can be used.5 Alternatively, a tea can be made by boiling 1–2 teaspoons (5–10 grams) of root in 2 cups (500 ml) of water for ten minutes. Three cups (750 ml) may be drunk each day.
Aside from mild diarrhea or loose stools in some people, yellow dock is rarely associated with side effects.6
1. Schulz V, Hänsel R, Tyler VE. Rational Phytotherapy: A Physician's Guide to Herbal Medicine. 3rd ed, Berlin: Springer, 1998, 168-73.
2. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 425-6.
3. Tewari JP, Srivastava MC, Bajpai JL. Pharmacologic studies of Achillea millefolium Linn. Indian J Med Sci 1994;28(8):331-6.
4. Hoffman D. The Herbal Handbook: A User's Guide to Medical Herbalism. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1988, 40.
5. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 274.
6. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 274.
Last Review: 07-22-2014
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