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Parts Used & Where Grown
This desert tree grows primarily in the southwestern United States and is related to the Joshua tree. The stalk and root are both used in herbal medicine.
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3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
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Yucca contains saponins, which appear to block the release of toxins from the intestines that inhibit normal cartilage formation. In doing so, yucca may reduce osteoarthritis symptoms.
According to arthritis research, saponins found in the herb yucca appear to block the release of toxins from the intestines that inhibit normal formation of cartilage. A preliminary, double-blind trial found that yucca might reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.1 Only limited evidence currently supports the use of yucca for people with osteoarthritis.
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Yucca, a traditional remedy, is a desert plant that contains soap-like components known as saponins. Yucca tea is often drunk for relief of rheumatoid arthritis symptoms.
Yucca, a traditional remedy, is a desert plant that contains soap-like components known as saponins. Yucca tea (7 or 8 grams of the root simmered in a pint of water for 15 minutes) is often drunk for symptom relief three to five times per day. The effects of yucca in the treatment of people with RA has not been studied.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Native Americans used the soapy leaves from yucca for numerous conditions. Poultices or baths were used for skin sores and other diseases as well as for sprains. Inflammation of all sorts, including joint inflammations and bleeding, were also treated with yucca. It is also reported that Native Americans washed their hair with yucca to fight dandruff and hair loss.
How It Works
How It Works
The saponins from yucca are the major constituents in the plant. They have both a water- and fat-soluble end and therefore act like soap. One preliminary trial reportedly found benefit for patients with osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.2 The authors of the study speculate that yucca saponins may block release of toxins from the intestines that inhibit normal formation of cartilage. This has yet to be proven in human pharmacological studies. An extract of one species of yucca has been found to fight melanoma cells in test tube studies.3 Clinical trials are lacking to prove whether yucca may be useful for treating cancer in humans.
How to Use It
Although the exact dosage of yucca for arthritis is unclear, some sources suggest up to 2 grams of yucca root in capsules per day.4 Alternatively, 1/4 ounce (7 grams) of the root can be boiled in a pint (500 ml) of water for 15 minutes. Three to five (750–1250) cups of this tea may be taken each day.5
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
Interactions with Medicines
Yucca can cause loose stools at higher amounts (several times higher than the recommended amounts).6 Yucca and other saponins can cause red blood cells to burst (known as “hemolysis”) in test tubes. The level to which this occurs when the saponins are taken by mouth, if it occurs at all, is unknown. However, yucca is approved for use in foods as a foaming agent (particularly in root beer). Since there have been no reports of problems with hemolysis in root beer drinkers, yucca herbal supplements are believed to be generally safe.7 Use of yucca for more than three months consecutively is not recommended as it may interfere with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.8
1. Bingham R, Bellow BA, Bellow JG. Yucca plant saponin in the management of arthritis. J Appl Nutr 1975;27:45-51.
2. Bingham R, Bellew BA, Bellew JG. Yucca plant saponin in the management of arthritis. J Appl Nutr 1975;27:45-50.
3. Foster S, Duke JA. A Field Guide to Medicinal Plants: Eastern and Central North America. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1990, 18, 228.
4. Foster S. 101 Medicinal Herbs. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1998, 216-7.
5. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989, 134-5.
6. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989, 134-5.
7. McGuffin M, Hobbs C, Upton R, Goldberg A. American Herbal Products Association's Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1997, 124.
8. Moore M. Medicinal Plants of the Desert and Canyon West. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1989, 134-5.
Last Review: 05-12-2015
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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2017.
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