Yucca – A Wonder Plant

Yucca is a succulent plant that grows throughout the Southwestern United States, Central and South America. Native people have used yucca as food and medicine for centuries.

It is considered a natural anti-inflammatory and sometimes used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. Consult your health care provider before using yucca for medicinal purposes.

Uses of Yucca

YuccaYucca, also known as cassava, is primarily consumed as a starchy vegetable. The root of the plant can be peeled and boiled much like a potato or other tuber.

It can be eaten alone or added to soups, stews and vegetable dishes. It is high in several key nutrients, including vitamin C, carbohydrates and dietary fiber. (see ref. 1)

Native American tribes traditionally used fibers from the plant to make ceremonial items such as prayer sticks and pipes.

The juice of the yucca leaf can also be used to make shampoo and soap. (see ref. 2) Additionally, herbalists use yucca extract for therapeutic purposes, such as to ease pain and inflammation.

Properties of Yucca

Several chemical components of yucca have been identified which may have therapeutic value.

It contains steroidal saponins, or natural detergents. This would account for its lathering ability and use in soaps and shampoos. It also is rich in polyphenols, or chemicals which have antioxidant properties.

The most prevalent of which are resveratrol, spirobiflavonoid and larixinol. These polyphenols are known to have anti-fungal and antibacterial effects. Lastly, yucca contains anti-inflammatory compounds which inhibit nitric oxide, a chemical used by the body during an inflammatory response. (see ref. 3)

It is this inflammatory-blocking ability that has been the subject of some recent scientific studies.

Research on Yucca

Several laboratory studies have determined yucca contains anti-inflammatory properties, such as a 2001 study published in the “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry”, a 2004 study found in “Life Sciences” and a 2006 study from the “Journal of Inflammation”.

Researchers concluded that resveratrol, yuccaol and other unique polyphenols found in the herb suppress inflammation in the body. They further recommended that yucca extract may be considered as an anti-inflammatory remedy, and could be useful in the treatment of arthritis and other chronic inflammatory conditions. (see ref. 3, 4, 5)

Types and Varieties of Yucca

There are dozens of varieties of plants which go by the general name yucca. They may also be referred to as yuca, yuca root or yucca root. Some of the most common yuccas include Spanish bayonet, Soapweed, Narrowleaf and Navajo yucca. (see ref. 6)

However, it is important to note that not all varieties are edible or used for medicinal purposes. Many yuccas are cultivated solely as ornamental plants, and have no edible parts.

Before digging up your yucca to put on the dinner table, consult your local nursery or state agriculture extension office, and familiarize yourself with the various yuccas growing in your area.

Considerations

Yucca is generally recognized as safe for human consumption by the US Food and Drug Administration (see ref. 7). However, as with any natural supplement, there may be a risk of allergic reaction or other drug interactions.

Always talk to your medical doctor before using yucca for medicinal purposes, especially if you are currently taking prescription or over-the-counter medication. Remember that natural therapies such as vitamins and herbs are meant to complement, and not replace conventional medical care.

Herbal yucca can be found in capsule, tablet or liquid extract form. Consult an herbalist or natural health professional for proper use of yucca.

REFERENCES

1.FruitsAndVeggiesMatter.gov: Vegetable of the Month: Tubers. http://www.fruitsandveggiesmatter.gov/month/tubers.html

2. Library.ThinkQuest.org: Yucca. http://library.thinkquest.org/12641/basketmaker/yucca.html

3.”Journal of Inflammation”: Anti-inflammatory and Anti-arthritic Effects of Yucca Schidigera: A Review; P Cheeke, et al.; 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1440857/

4. “Life Sciences”; Inhibition of Inducible Nitric Oxide Synthase Expression by Yuccaol C from Yucca Schidigera Roezl; S Marzocco, et al.; August 2006. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15240183

5. “Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry”; Resveratrol and Other Phenolics From the Bark of Yucca Schidigera Roezl; W Oleczek, et al.; February 2001. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11262023

6. US Department of Agriculture: Yucca glauca. http://www.fs.fed.us/database/feis/plants/shrub/yucgla/all.html

7. Botanicals Generally Recognized as Safe. http://www.ars-grin.gov/duke/syllabus/gras.htm