Herbal Remedies: Yucca

Last week, when I was researching for a home and garden article on yucca plants, I discovered that yucca is a traditional herbal remedy. As a relative newcomer to the South and Southwest, I am always happy to learn more about the native plants of this region. These desert plants have long, sword-shaped leaves and creamy white flower spikes. The roots have a tough outer bark and soft core.

photo by John Evans 2009

Here are a few of the traditional medicinal uses of yucca:

Yucca root appears to have anti-inflammatory and anti-rheumatic properties. In his book Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West, herbalist Michael Moore notes that yucca root is an important traditional remedy for arthritis. Before it can be used medicinally, the root is split down the middle and dried. To prepare a tea, Moore recommends boiling 1/4 ounce of the root core in 2 cups of water for 15 minutes, and dividing the tea into 3 or 4 dosages during the day.

Herbalists traditionally use yucca root as a blood purifier. In other words it is used to detoxify the blood and promote the excretion of waste from the kidneys and liver. This medicinal property makes yucca a popular remedy for skin eruptions. It is also used as a laxative.

The roots contain a substance known as saponins, which produce soap-like suds. In fact, you can produce a shampoo by boiling chopped yucca root in water. Herbalists recommend this shampoo as a remedy for dandruff.

Although yucca has been used as a natural remedy for centuries, clinical research on its medicinal properties is inconclusive. Some herbal remedies may interact with prescription medications or cause allergic reactions. Before you try any natural remedy, consult a health care professional.

There are so many plants in our everyday landscape that we can take for granted. Take the time to learn about the gifts offered by plants in your local area — you’ll be blessed!


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