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Yucca

Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects & More

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Updated April 24, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

Yucca
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Yucca is a natural substance long used in herbal medicine. Sourced from the root of the yucca tree, it's also consumed as a food. Proponents claim that taking yucca in supplement form or applying yucca to the skin can help treat a variety of health problems.

Uses for Yucca

When consumed in supplement form, yucca is said to help treat the following conditions:

In addition, yucca is thought to stimulate circulation, improve digestion, reduce inflammation, and relieve pain.

When applied directly to the skin, yucca is typically used to treat dandruff and promote hair growth.

Health Benefits of Yucca

To date, few scientific studies have tested the health effects of yucca. Still, there's some evidence that yucca may offer certain benefits. Here's a look at some key findings from the available research on yucca:

1) Arthritis

A 2006 report published in the Journal of Inflammation suggests that yucca shows promise as a natural remedy for arthritis. According to the report, a number of antioxidants found in yucca may help alleviate arthritis by reducing inflammation. However, there is currently a lack of clinical trials testing yucca's effectiveness against arthritis.

2) High Cholesterol

In a 2003 clinical trial published in Archives of Pharmacal Research, daily ingestion of a combination of Yucca schidigera and the herbal extract Quillaja saponaria for four weeks decreased total and LDL cholesterol levels in patients with high cholesterol.

3) Oxidative Stress

Preliminary research indicates that yucca may help fight oxidative stress. In a 2003 study published in Nutrition, for example, laboratory tests revealed that compounds extracted from yucca bark may help protect against oxidative stress by slowing up the production of free radicals in blood platelets. According to the study's authors, this finding suggests that yucca may help strengthen the body's defense against cardiovascular disease.

It should be noted that most yucca supplements contain extracts from the root of the plant, rather than yucca bark.

Is Yucca Safe?

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of yucca. However, there's some concern that yucca may trigger a number of side effects (including nausea).

It's important to note that self-treating a chronic condition with yucca and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering the use of yucca in treatment of a chronic condition, make sure to consult your physician.

Learn more about using dietary supplements safely.

Alternatives to Yucca

If you're seeking a natural treatment for osteoarthritis, a number of other remedies may be beneficial. For instance, studies show that glucosamine, chondroitin sulfate, and avocado/soybean unsaponifiables may each help manage osteoarthritis. In addition, practicing yoga, taking up tai chi, and/or undergoing acupuncture may help curb arthritis pain.

For help in fighting oxidative stress, make sure to load up on foods high in antioxidants. Increasing your intake of antioxidant-rich substances like green tea, vitamin C, resveratrol, cocoa, and turmeric may also help combat oxidative stress.

Where To Find Yucca

Often sold in powder form, yucca is widely available for purchase online and in natural-foods stores.

Sources

Cheeke PR, Piacente S, Oleszek W. "Anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic effects of Yucca schidigera: a review." J Inflamm (Lond). 2006 Mar 29;3:6.

Kim, S. W., Park, S. K., Kang, S. I., Kang, H. C., Oh, H. J., Bae, C. Y., and Bae, D. H. Hypocholesterolemic property of Yucca schidigera and Quillaja saponaria extracts in human body. Arch Pharm.Res 2003;26(12):1042-1046.

Olas B, Wachowicz B, Stochmal A, Oleszek W. "Inhibition of oxidative stress in blood platelets by different phenolics from Yucca schidigera Roezl. bark." Nutrition. 2003 Jul-Aug;19(7-8):633-40.

VanderJagt TJ, Ghattas R, VanderJagt DJ, Crossey M, Glew RH. Comparison of the total antioxidant content of 30 widely used medicinal plants of New Mexico. Life Sci. 2002 Jan 18;70(9):1035-40.

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