The yucca plant has a starchy root that has been used as food and recommended by practitioners of traditional herbal medicine for centuries. The root, also called manioc or cassava, has a rough brown exterior and a creamy white or yellowish interior. Yucca root contains a number of phytonutrients such as saponins and resveratrol, which may be responsible for its potential health benefits.
The genus Yucca contains about 40 different species of plants, all members of the genus Agave and native to dry areas of Central and South America, and the West Indies. The root of Yucca schidigera, also called Mohave yucca, is most commonly used in traditional medicine. Yucca contains several biologically active compounds. These include chemicals called saponins, which are compounds that dissolve in both water and oil — an unusual property. Yucca also contains resveratrol and several types of yuccaols; these compounds are referred to as polyphenols because they contain ring-like chemical structures called phenol groups. Polyphenols are antioxidants that may have significant health benefits.
Some known health benefits of yucca root include:
- Cardiovascular health
- Anti-inflammatory benefits
A note of precaution: Yucca is generally considered safe and without any significant side effects, although consuming large amounts of the root may cause upset stomach or diarrhea. Yucca might interfere with absorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as vitamin A and vitamin E. Do not self-treat for any condition with yucca. Discuss its use with your doctor to decide if it might be helpful for you.