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What’s up, Dock? Benefits of Burdock and Yellow Dock

Yellow Dock leaves and flowers

Given the similarities in their names, you might guess that Burdock and and Yellow Dock are somehow related. In fact, they are not closely related at all. But Burdock and Yellow Dock do have something in common. They are both wonderful plants with medicinal properties, especially useful for detoxication, among other things.

Because some people sometimes confuse the plants, or think they are different names for the same thing, we’ll start by describing the plants themselves. Then we’ll take a look at some of their uses in the natural healing apothecary.

Are Burdock and Yellow Dock different names for the same plant?

No, these a two different plants. They are not even very closely related.

Burdock refers to Arctium, a genus of biennial plants, belonging to the Asteraceae family. The plant grows 2 or 3 feet tall with hollow stalks, and large dark green leaves. The leaves tend to be oval shaped with a rough texture. The tops of Burdock plants produce prickly burrs that stick very well to clothing and wildlife, thus providing a very effective method of spreading their seeds. It grows worldwide. (See photo below.)

Burdock, Arctium lappa (photo from Wikipedia)

Yellow Dock, on the other hand, or Rumex crispus, belongs to the buckwheat family (Polygonaceae). Sometimes called curly dock, for the shape of its leaves, Yellow Dock has smooth, slender leaves with wavy edges, and a flower stalk that gets about 3 feet tall. The plant is native to Europe and western Asia, but also common in North America. In parts of the midwestern United States it is actually quite invasive. (See photo at the top of the page.)

What are the medicinal uses of Burdock and Yellow Dock?

Natural healers have used Burdock, particularly the roots, for many centuries, as a diuretic, a diaphoretic, and for blood purification. It is especially common in Chinese traditional medicine. As an interesting side note, the burrs of this plant, and their tenacious ability to attach themselves to socks and pets, provided instrumental inspiration for the invention of Velcro.

Young, tender leaves of Yellow Dock can be eaten with a salad. But be careful, the leaves contain high levels of oxalic acid, which can cause stomach aches and other digestive problems. Older leaves are generally too rough and tough bitter to enjoy in a salad.

For medicinal purposes, the root is the most important part of the Yellow Dock plant. It is typically used to relieve pain and inflammation. People also take Yellow Dock root for infections and constipation. Yellow Dock contains anthraquinones which work as a laxative.

Like Burdock, Yellow Dock also has purifying properties and can be effective for liver detox. This makes the herb useful in treating skin conditions related to poor digestion and liver toxicity.

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PHOTO CREDIT: Yellow Dock with curled leaves and flowers (Wikipedia)

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