Yucca is an ancient food that has been grown and consumed by various subtropical populations since the dawn of human agriculture. It boasts an impressive slew of nutrients and medicinal plant compounds that have been studied in labs and clinical settings. The research shows that yucca supplementation can help prevent and reduce inflammation, lowering the risk of arthritis. It also plays a role in treating arthritis by delivering protective antioxidants and inhibiting the body’s inflammatory response. Yucca is also shown to help lower cholesterol, improve blood sugar levels and support the immune system.
Yucca root, also known as cassava, is a starchy vegetable grown in tropical climates. Not to be confused with the yucca plant, which is a shrub that has white yucca flowers, this root vegetable is used in Hispanic and African cuisines. While it is rich in carbohydrates, it’s much more than a “white starch.” Yucca contains a load of fiber. It’s also packed with a surprisingly large amount of nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin C, manganese, thiamine, copper, and potassium .
In addition to being a nutrient powerhouse, yucca root is also a medicinal plant. It’s used to relieve arthritis pain and inflammation, improve diabetes, boost your immune system, lower cholesterol and provide antioxidant support. It’s also great to eat as a replacement food for other starches if you’re trying to lose weight. To get the health benefits of yucca root, you can cook it, use it in grain-free baking recipes as a flour, or find it in a supplement form as capsules.
1. Helps Prevent Arthritis
Historically, yucca root has been used to relieve arthritis pain, and it’s still used for that purpose today. It’s been proven to have effective anti-inflammatory properties that help reduce pain in cases of arthritis. Arthritis can be caused by chronic inflammation, so taking yucca root regularly could have a preventative effect as well.
According to a 2006 medical review published in the Journal of Inflammation, several studies show that yucca contains anti-inflammatory polyphenols, including resveratrol, which is the plant compound that has linked red wine to anti-aging and longevity. Another anti-inflammatory polyphenol found in yucca is called yuccaol, which has been found to inhibit nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide is an inflammatory agent found in increased amounts when tissues are inflamed . It plays a critical role in the development of both osteoarthritis  and rheumatoid arthritis , as well as other diseases. By lowering reducing the amount of nitric oxide released in the body when inflammatory responses are activated, yucca root can prevent and reduce chronic inflammation, and play a role in disease prevention as a result.
Yucca root also reduces inflammation through its antioxidant content, as it’s a great source of vitamin C. Oxidative stress triggers an inflammatory response in the body, but antioxidants reduce oxidative stress and prevent inflammation as a result . One study even suggested that low antioxidant levels are directly linked to rheumatoid arthritis. Among 40 rheumatoid arthritis patients and healthy controls, the arthritis patients tested as having lower antioxidant levels. The researchers in this study suggested that antioxidants could prevent the tissue damage associated with arthritis, thereby lowering one’s risk of developing the disease .
Yucca root is an excellent source of manganese, which is often used as an adjunctive therapy for arthritis. According to a study, manganese supplementation reduces the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis for elderly women .
2. Soothes Arthritis Pain
Yucca root improves arthritis pain through its ability to reduce inflammation with active compounds like resveratrol, yuccaol, and antioxidants. However, it also contains a special compound called saponin. Saponins suppress the growth and activity of intestinal protozoa, which are a common parasite associated with joint inflammation and pain. These anti-inflammatory and protozoa-suppressing actions combine work to improve arthritis symptoms and potentially reduce the amount of pain medication arthritis patients need .
In a study on 165 people of various ages with arthritis, participants were given either yucca extract tablets or a placebo for five months. Sixty percent of the subjects who took yucca root experienced improvements in their arthritis symptoms, compared to only 21 percent of those who took a placebo. None of the participants had side effects, while those who saw improvements had less swelling, pain, and stiffness.
The study noted that yucca is more effective in helping people who have chronic headaches and gastrointestinal problems in association with their arthritis. This may be the result of yucca’s ability to suppress protozoa and reduce the production of toxins in the gut, which trigger an inflammatory response .
3. Supports Healthy Immune Function
Yucca root can help build up your immune system with its host of beneficial compounds, including vitamin C and other antioxidants. Vitamin C is known to boost the production of white blood cells, which are the “fighter” cells that kill viruses and other infections. By protecting against oxidative stress, the antioxidant content of yucca helps unburden the immune system and protect against cell mutations and damage.
As a rich source of vitamin C, yucca root can help prevent and shorten the duration of common colds, flus, and other viruses. According to a medical report published in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism, vitamin C helps you get over respiratory infections sooner, including the common cold and even pneumonia. It also improves intestinal infections . Meanwhile, the antioxidants in yucca are shown to protect the immune system and keep it strong by preventing oxidative damage to your immune cells .
4. Lowers High Cholesterol Levels
The saponins in yucca root can help lower high cholesterol levels, which are linked to heart disease. In one study, yucca root extract lowered LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol within just four weeks. Yucca’s saponins bind to cholesterol in the digestive tract and pull it through to be excreted rather than deposited in blood vessels where it does harm .
5. Improves Skin Health
Yucca extract is used in cosmetic products to improve skin health, and studies show it’s able to prevent sun damage better than some commercial sunscreen products. The antioxidants in yucca extract can also help protect skin from other types of environmental damage that cause oxidative stress. When used in lotion, the vitamin C from yucca extract boosts your skin’s production of collagen–the main structural protein component of skin that keeps it firm and prevents sagging. Vitamin C also suppresses melanin production, helping to prevent dark spots from forming on the skin. The folate content of yucca extract also nurtures the skin and improves its moisture retention .
6. Helps Treat Diabetes
In spite of being rich in carbohydrates, yucca can help people with diabetes. When taken as a yucca extract supplement, the active compounds in yucca regulate metabolic disturbances and improve blood sugar levels. One study on diabetic rats showed that yucca extract lowered blood glucose levels compared to controls . Chronic inflammation often plays a role in the progression of diabetes. By countering inflammation and regulating blood sugar, yucca could help prevent diabetes.
7. Benefits Weight Loss Efforts
Eating a lot of yucca root may not help you lose weight, but taking yucca supplements and replacing other starchy carbohydrates such as pasta, bread, and potatoes with yucca, you can improve blood sugar levels and feel full for longer. Yucca is very high in fiber and has a stringy consistency like pumpkin and squash. Increasing your intake of dietary fiber is linked to better weight management, as high-fiber foods create a feeling of fullness in the digestive tract and slow down digestion. This can help you take in fewer calories if you’re trying to lose weight.
By stabilizing blood sugar, yucca supplementation can help prevent blood sugar spikes and crashes that make you want to eat more. Yucca has a glycemic index of 73, which is lower than most other starches. By eating yucca in place of potatoes and other starches, you can keep your blood sugar under better control .