Herb: Alpine Dock

Latin name: Rumex alpinus

Family: Polygonaceae (Buckwheat Family)

Medicinal use of Alpine Dock:

The root is astringent and laxative. It has a regulatory effect on the digestive system, similar to but weaker than rhubarb (Rheum rhaponticum). It can act either as a laxative or a cure for diarrhoea according to dosage. The root is harvested in early spring and dried for later use.

Description of the plant:


120 cm
(4 feet)


Habitat of the herb:

Along the banks of streams and by the sides of roads, it is also found near human habitations, in hilly areas.

Edible parts of Alpine Dock:

Leaves - raw or cooked. They can also be dried for later use. A strong flavour, the leaves can be used in salads in late autumn to the spring, but are better cooked like spinach. The fresh leaves can be available for most months of the year, only dying down for a short period in severe winters. The leaves often become bitter in the summer. In taste trials, this has proved to be a very popular autumn and spring cooked leaf, making an excellent spinach.

Other uses of the herb:

Dark green to brown and dark grey dyes can be obtained from the roots, they do not need a mordant.

Propagation of Alpine Dock:

Seed - sow spring in a cold frame. The seed can also be sown as soon as it is ripe when it will germinate rapidly and will provide edible leaves from early spring the following year. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Division is easy at almost any time of the year, though the plants establish more rapidly in the spring. Use a sharp spade or knife to divide the rootstock, ensuring that there is at least one growth bud on each section of root. Larger divisions can be planted out direct into their permanent positions. We have found it best to pot up the smaller divisions and grow them on in a lightly shaded position in a cold frame, planting them out once they are well established in the summer.

Cultivation of the herb:

Along the banks of streams and by the sides of roads, it is also found near human habitations, in hilly areas.

Known hazards of Rumex alpinus:

Plants can contain quite high levels of oxalic acid, which is what gives the leaves of many members of this genus an acid-lemon flavour. Perfectly alright in small quantities, the leaves should not be eaten in large amounts since the oxalic acid can lock-up other nutrients in the food, especially calcium, thus causing mineral deficiencies. The oxalic acid content will be reduced if the plant is cooked. People with a tendency to rheumatism, arthritis, gout, kidney stones or hyperacidity should take especial caution if including this plant in their diet since it can aggravate their condition.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.