#14 Guarding the Gates with Yellow Dock

I find myself sitting amongst the family of Yellow Dock who have made me their own. I have caressed their insect punctured chemically wounded leaves as they tell me the stories of the land and their resilience.  I struggled with these Docks. I was bothered by their imperfection. Their ugliness. What they revealed to me about the state of the land. The evidence made clear in their embodiment.  These Yellow Dock don’t lie like a pedicured lawn. I experienced shame. Tried to turn away and not look too closely as she did the labor of purifying what had been poisoned. Increasing the potentiality of the land to foster life while completing her own divine cycle. I didn’t wanna see it. Be accountable to it. I almost missed my lesson. Almost missed my blessing. 

In the previous essay we explored Yellow Dock’s affinity for the bowels and the relationship between the elimination system, the respiratory system and grief. This month, we center Yellow Dock's capacity for healing not only the body but the land itself. Nestled within this exploration is an elaboration of Docks ability to build and shield the blood. 

Yellow Dock in the Wild



Yellow Dock in Our Body

The iron in our body builds our blood and our breath. After it is absorbed from our small intestines, it passes from our blood plasma into our bone marrow where it is used to make hemoglobin molecules. These molecules give blood its redness along with the capacity to carry oxygen. 98.5 percent of the oxygen in our body is transported from the lungs by heme iron. Without iron, we cannot breath. We cannot accept the nourishment of oxygen. It no surprise that Yellow Dock, a plant that mobilizes iron is found in soils that are suffocating. Yellow Dock works the body like it works the land. As a hepatic, liver loving herb, Yellow Dock can release the iron that is stored in our liver making it available to our bloodstream. In the stomach, Yellow Dock like all bitter digestive herbs makes the iron in our food more available. It increases the secretion of stomach acids, bile and enzymes which lower the pH of the stomach environment making acidic loving minerals more available for assimilation. Where there is excess iron, Yellow Dock also helps to move it out through the feces by evoking gentle peristalsis and easing bowel movements in general. Ironically, synthetic iron supplements stop the flow of our cycles and can lead to constipation. 

Yellow Dock, The Blood Guardian

Yellow Dock has the capacity to build the blood in its relationship to iron and shield the blood by removing harmful substances. Our blood is responsible for bringing oxygen, nutrients, protection and messages to every cell in our body. Blood also transfers metabolic waste to various organs like the lungs, liver and kidney for removal. 



Besides scavenging for heavy metals, Yellow Dock scavenges free radicals reducing oxidative stress, unwanted inflammation and is active against certain cancers [8]. Yellow Dock builds the blood by increases the capacity of the blood to transport oxygen via iron liberation and heme formation. Dock shields the blood by decreasing substances that cause the body harm via its action on the liver, heavy metal chelation, free radical scavenging and many ways we are yet to learn. Yellow Dock is the great guardian of our blood. 

Making Remedies with Yellow Dock

In making  food and plant remedies we acknowledge the ways that poison and medicine are intertwined; often the same substance only varying in degree. There are few principles of ironwork that I want to elucidate. Substances like oxalic acid as mentioned above are chelators which means that it binds to a variety of minerals. An over abundance of oxalic acid could lead to mineral deficiencies, particularly iron, zinc and magnesium. In nutrition we call oxalic acid  an anti-nutrient because it makes the nutrients in the food we eat unavailable. Paradoxically, people who consume mainly plant based diets are at greater risk of depleting their stores of minerals not because the minerals are not in the plants, but because those minerals are bound up with anti-nutrients that take care and culture to be deactivated. Oxalic acids like those found in Yellow Dock, chard, spinach, and many other plants are resolved by consuming them with foods that are rich in calcium. Food culture is our greatest teacher. Saag, for example, a yummy Indian spinach dish is often accompanied  by paneer, a fresh cheese. In Ethiopia, Gomen, a collard green rich dish, is consumed with ayib, a fresh cheese. When we consume the leaves of Yellow Dock then, we do so cooked and with a source of calcium. Plant based sources of calcium can be exemplified in the West African dish Egusi Stew. In this dish, bitter leaf or spinach is combined with egusi (pumpkin seeds) to supply the calcium. I like to add a little bit of yellow dock leaves into all of these dishes. They tend to be tart (vitamin c rich) and slimy (anti-inflammatory mucilage) so I prefer them in stews rather than sautéed. 

Many people turn to yellow-dock for Iron work, when they are experience lethargy, shortness of breath, dizziness, brittle nails, a pallor complexion and hair loss. Yellow Dock is best worked in partnership for these causes. Dock roots don’t supply very much iron at all and as we suggested above, they have an iron chelation capacity. They do supply the ability to “release” iron stored elsewhere and have been shown to increase hemoglobin production when in partnership with iron rich plants[9]. The  partnership I use to supply iron to the body is a combination of Yellow Dock root tincture and molasses, which is the blood of sugar. Molasses is a rich source of iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium and other minerals and has an affinity for the bowels. Dock releases and potentiates the iron in the molasses making it more available to the body.  Molasses itself is a folk remedy used by iron needing pregnant people for centuries. People who loose blood on a monthly basis through mensuration and people who are building bodies inside them during pregnancy or building their own body are usually in need of iron. Iron is also made more bioavailable in the presence of vitamin C, an acid. My simple remedy for an Iron Tonic then, is a combination of Yellow Dock root tincture, molasses and fresh lemon juice to taste. I prefer the remedy to be on the acidic side. 

To make a broad spectrum and more complete yellow dock tincture, I get my permissions. I harvest the root and leaf before it sends its flower stock up. I chop them both up, add them to a jar and pour 100 proof vodka over them. I let this brew macerate for at least 6 weeks in the dark  and put it to good use. This tincture takes advantage of the iron and vitamin C found in the leaf but not so much in the roots of Dock. These leaves provide the iron the root needs to direct. While I prefer this elegance of this simple preparation, Yellow Dock herself has asked me to use her in combination with other plants. And so I have obliged, staying curious and exploring. 

Calling on Yellow Dock

As I sit with you Dock, my sword and my shield I am cognizant of how many black bodies are not breathing. How much blood has been wasted or poisoned or both. Dear Dock. I pray that you protect my bloodline. Pray that you help us to release that which does not serve and protect us. Dear Dock I see you. Spine straight and head strong. Laboring on our behalf on street corners and in waste places transforming our waste to gold. You are worth your weight in gold. Dear Dock I feel you. Let me be your ally, your comforter. Let me protect the space you take up in the world. So that you may carry out your divine place in heaven.

In the next Essay, we will explore Yellow Dock through the lens of the Metal Element and the archetype of Oggun.

Resources: 

[1] Heavy metals and living systems: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3113373/

[2] Pfeiffer, Ehrenfried E. /Weeds and what They Tell Us/. Floris Books, 2016.

Harvard

Iron and Soils https://www.agweb.com/article/understanding-iron-NAA-darrell-smith

[3] Bile Acids and the Gut  Microbiome https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4215539/

[4]  Iron & The Stomach:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12801042/

[5]The Efficiency of Bio-adsorption of Heavy Metals from Pharmaceutical Effluent by Rumex crispus L. Seed: http://jphs.iautmu.ac.ir/article_535243.html

[6] Heavy Metal Chelation in Wheat Plants: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15910898/

[7]Heavy metals detoxification: A review of herbal compounds for chelation therapy in heavy metals toxicity: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/76f4/c90ee8fb96839872e3a54af9db4226699338.pdf

[8]  Yellow Dock, Antioxidant,  Anticancer: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3506869/

[9] RECOGNIZING AND WORKING WITH ANEMIA NATURALLY https://traditionalroots.org/files/2015/05/Tania-updated-Recognizing-and-Working-with-Anemia-trad-roots-2015.pdf

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