Yucca: the Desert Miracle
Mojave yucca or Yucca schidigera – one of the plants traditionally used in folk medicine - belongs to the Yucca genus, which includes more than 40 species. They are usually placed either in the lily family (Liliaceae) or the agave family (Agavaceae).
Yucca schidigera is a shrub or tree-like plant with either single or clumped erect strong stems ranging in height from 4 to 9 meters. Its leaves form a large rosette. They are stiff, sword-like, and quite long (up to 150 cm) with coarse marginal fibers. The latter can easily be separated from the leaf like strands of threads.
Yuccas are notable for their beautiful erect terminal clusters of whitish flowers (up to 130cm tall). Yucca shidigera blossoms in early spring and develops seeds in summer. Individual flower consists of six fleshy creamy or white petals. Its seeds are ovoid, thick, and black.
The plant is characterised by the unusual method of pollination, which requires a special Yucca moth. This insect pollinates the flower while laying its eggs inside it. Larvae grow together with seeds feeding on them.
Yuccas are native to the deserts (Mojave Desert) of North America. Most often they occur from southern California and northern Mexico to north-western Arizona and southern Nevada.
These slow-growing and long-lived plants prefer dry, rocky and sandy places with much winter rains and dry summer. They also grow best in the full sun, like all desert plants.
Yucca schidigera can tolerate a wide temperature range: from 50 degree Fahrenheit in the winter nights and up to 100 degree Fahrenheit during the summer days. It is possible to say that yuccas are among the most enduring plants in the world.
Some sources say that the whole yucca plant, including flowers, seeds, and stem, were used in the folk medicine. More often, however, the stalk and the root are enumerated as the parts used for medicinal purposes. Still, yucca leaves are said to possess healing properties as well.
Most often one can find yucca extracts or standardized capsules with dried yucca powder.
As any plant, yucca shidigera contains a large number of different constituents, the quantities of which vary. The plant has quite a large amount of vitamins A, C, and B complex, considerable amount of iron, calcium, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, and copper.
The main active components of yucca are considered to be such phytochemicals as saponins, which are also called “natural detergents” due to their combination of water-soluble and fat-soluble components. Correspondingly, herbalists state yucca has cleansing properties beneficial for the human body.
Their action can be beneficially used for the treatment of protozoal diseases, say herbalists and scientists. Yucca’s saponins can improve and protect intestinal flora by eliminating harmful bacteria and poisons from the small and large intestines, while promoting the growth of “good” or beneficial ones.
Saponins are also said to aid digestion and absorption of fats, thus they may be helpful for preserving liver health and fighting gout.
Yucca’s saponins are called “steroidal saponins” due to their chemical structure; thus, they act as natural cortisone, promoting joints health and relieving arthritis symptoms (e.g. swelling, pain, and inflammation).
Steroidal saponins are also said to interfere with reabsorption of bile acids and cholesterol, inducing their exertion from the body. They may possess anti-stress, antioxidant, antiviral, and antibiotic properties, state the scientists.
A great deal of different diseases may be fought with the help of yucca shidigera. It has traditionally been used to relieve rheumatism and arthritis, migraines, gonorrhoea, premenstrual syndrome, skin disorders, and promote wound healing.
Latest research proves a number of traditional uses of yucca extracts. Furthermore, modern science is on its way to discovering new powers of the healing desert plant. Meanwhile, data available from different sources confirms that such diseases as cancer (especially colon cancer), high cholesterol, hypertension, intestinal, skin, and liver conditions.
Yucca’s saponins are valuable ingredients of the cosmetic industry, which are added into creams, lotions, etc. to promote skin health. Furthermore, some data states that surprisingly yucca extracts can help in quitting smoking. No doubt, we still do not know all the benefits yucca can offer our bodies!
You did not even mention New Mexico, there are so many yucca here especially in southeastern NM.
One of the best plants in the world. A cleaning compound made of the yucca is produced in Baja Calif. and is combined with aloe for a water-cleaning mix.Is used in Japan,Canada, and other parts of the world to purify water and remove ammonia in lthe livestock industry.
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