The yucca plant grows primarily in the southwestern deserts of the United States, and has a long history of medicinal and practical use among Native Americans. Although there are several species of this plant, it is easily identified by its long, spiky leaves, which resemble those of the aloe plant. Yucca
has been used to treat a wide variety of conditions that cause pain and inflammation, including premenstrual syndrome, arthritis, and chronic headache. It has also traditionally been used to treat skin conditions, such as skin cancer, and to promote the healing of wounds.
There are many different species of yucca plant, and not all of them have been the subjects of clinical testing. However, researchers have isolated and studied yucca saponins, the active phytochemical in all yucca plants. In one study this extract helped relieve joint pain and stiffness for about half of the participants, all of which suffered from arthritis. Other studies indicate that certain species of yucca may help reduce headache pain and promote cardiovascular health by improving circulation and lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels.
Yucca is also sometimes used to treat gout and is thought to promote normal digestion and liver function. However, it is important to watch your dosage, as too much yucca saponins may cause diarrhea in some individuals.
Yucca is available in standardized capsules at your local health food store. You can also try making your own extract from dried yucca root, or consume ¼ cup fresh yucca roots daily. People suffering from arthritis may benefit from topical application of yucca extract as well; simply rub the extract directly on to the affected areas.