I was so excited when I heard that my friend, who lives in Utah, had yucca in her yard. I immediately wanted some of the tubers so I could dry it and use it in hair care products, but of course I just had to do more research on this plant. I wanted to know all of its supposed benefits, and all the ways it is being used today. Of course a lot of that information is still stuck on my crashed computer, but I believe that I can share enough to get you interested in this wonderful plant too!
Let me begin by saying that the Yucca is a genus of about 40 species in the Agave family. For more about the agave, see this post. Agave grow in warm and dry areas of Central America, North America and the West Indies.
Before we can discuss the benefits of the Yucca root, we must explore the difference between Yucca and Yuca. These two common names refer to very different plants and confusion between the two names is quite common. Yu-CC-a is well known in the United States, especially in the central and western states. Yucca has long been used in hair and scalp treatments and arthritis and rheumatism treatments, as well as for its high content of saponins, which basically just means that it foams like soap.
Y-u-C-a root is also commonly known as manioc, cassava, or mandioca, and has the appearance of a long, tapered sweet potato. It has a rough, brown rind on the outside, and the inside, which is starchy, can range in color from white to yellow, to brown, depending on its variety. The Yuca plant is grown all over Africa and widely eaten in Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean. In fact, in many countries yuca is a dietary staple. It is usually boiled or steamed, with flour to act as a thickener, or additional ingredients to create noodles, cakes, and/or pastries. The Yuca is really quite similar to a potato, but it is much more waxy and fibrous than a potato.
Yucca supplements are available in many forms, including liquid, powder, and capsules. While Yuca supplements are also available, but they are for different purposes. A buffered Vitamin C Powder is made from the yuca root, and sold as a supplement, and as well as its starch for fillers in dietary supplement capsules, or even for use in food products.
There has actually been very little medical research done with the yucca plant, but what little there has been suggests that, since the yucca has a lot of fiber in its makeup, it could possibly be helpful in reducing cholesterol levels. One study focused on the possibility of creating a new cholesterol lowering drug that blended a partially purified yucca schidigera and the Quillaja saponaria extract. This testing resulted in a decrease of LDL cholesterol in the blood plasma, as well as a reduction of symptoms in those with gastrointestinal involvement. We also know that Yucca root has phytosterols, and some [in vitro] studies have indicated that yucca extract has anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant qualities. For sure, just like with most plants and herbs, there is plenty of room for more testing and experimentation.
Yucca root can be boiled and then flavored with herbs and olive oil for a delicious, high fiber treat, or boiled, peeled, cut into small pieces, and added to your soups. While it is sold in many grocery stores, it is not very popular here in the US.
Alexin is an extract that is obtained from the Yucca gloriosa flower. It is
an antifungal that also has steroidal properties. The Yucca schidigera is also known to be a medicinal plant, one that is native to Mexico. Many of the Yucca plants are a source of steroidal saponins, and are actually used commercially as a saponin source. The products of Yucca schidigera are also used as food additives, cosmetics and in the pharmaceutical industry. The bark from this yucca species, and many others, has phenolic compounds that have antiplatelet activity. Historically, this medicinal plant has been used as an extract, and proven itself to be an effective as an anti-arthritic and anti-inflammatory agent. This yucca plant contains several physiologically active phytochemicals, which has diverse biological effects, including anti-protozoal activity. The phenolics have anti-inflammatory activity, and the Yucca phenolics are also anti-oxidants and free-radical scavengers, which may aid in fighting cellular diseases.
In reviewing this post my memory has been triggered, and I am now thinking that I may have discussed some of this in an earlier post... I apologize if I have repeated myself too much. It is very late, or early, depending upon your view point, so I am going to stop here for now. I will review the balance of my info, as well as the old post, and edit accordingly.