Fall is here and it's time to dig your roots! One of my favorite roots to work with this time of year is Yellow Dock (Rumex spp). We have two very common species of Dock here in New England, Rumex crispus and Rumex obtusifolius. Both are originally native to Europe and are now completely naturalized in all of North America. Although R. crispus (aka Curly Dock) is the plant most classically used as Yellow Dock, I have also found that R. obtusifolius (aka Broad-leafed Dock) also makes great medicine. These species share the exact same habitat requirements and love recently disturbed soil and places humans have been- it's one of our beloved "people plants!" Look for Yellow Dock in gardens, backyards, edges, biketrails, farms, and so on. I love working with plants like this that are so abundant that I never need fear over-harvesting.
Yellow Dock has many uses- Although the roots is the part used medicinally, its young leaves are delightfully sour and mucilagenous and one of the first greens to emerge in the spring as we wait for our later wild spring greens. It is closely related to sorrel and can easily be substituted for this fancy, gourmet green! It also makes an great digestive bitter and is an excellent alterative- greatly supporting all the eliminatory pathways in the body- helping it earn its well-deserved reputation as a spring tonic and a go-to herb anytime the body needs some extra help detoxifying. It is commonly combined with Dandelion Rt and Burdock Rt for this use. But my favorite way to work with Yellow Dock is as a blood-building syrup made with molasses. A special quality of Yellow Dock is that it greatly enhances the body's ability to absorb iron, making it an excellent blood-building herb for anemia, pregnancy, blood-deficiency, heavy menstrual bleeding, flooding in menopause, or any trauma that has resulted in excessive blood loss. An added benefit is that it is a mild laxative, the opposite of the often constipating iron supplements so commonly used. 1 tbsp/day is all you need to start re-building your iron reserves.
YELLOW DOCK IRON TONIC SYRUP
2 oz (by volume) of fresh* yellow dock (Rumex crispus or Rumex obtusifolius) *use 2/3 oz of you're using dry
2 cups water
4 oz Black Strap Molasses
DIRECTIONS: Combine the root and water and bring to a low simmer. Simmer until the water is reduced by half to one cup (ie make a double decoction). Then strain and add to the molasses. Stir well and keep refrigerated. This is an excellent source of iron and is also a great digestive aid, and can be taken before or after meals to enhance digestion. Enjoy!