Herbs & Plants
Of The Southwest
Latin Name: Yucca (spp) Common Names: (Broad Leaf Yucca) Spanish Bayonet, Datil, Amole, Soapweed; (Narrow Leaf Yucca) Spanish Dagger, Palmala
Common, but not always easy to recognize plant, as it is often confused by newcomers to the desert with Century Plant, Sotol, and Beargrass. However, it can be identified by the fibers that protrude from the leaf margins. Yucca is found in a wide range of elevations. Yucca was used by ancient Native Americans as an effective shampoo, the fruit as a food source, and the fibers were used to make cordage for baskets, sandals, mats, string and rope. Yucca has multiple long spiny tipped leaves that rise from a central stem, either at ground level, or from several trunks as in the case of the Joshua tree, with a single flower stalk arising from each stem. The flowers are lily-like, either cream or yellow, and usually close in the daytime. Yucca is often confused with Agave, but Agave has broad, thick spiny leaves with frequent spines on the leaf edges and a tall branched flower stalk.
Medicinal use by the Ancient Ones was for the treatment of arthritic pain and joint inflammations, but the mechanism of action is not fully understood. The tea is sometimes effective for urethral and prostate inflammations. Juice made from the gel can be effective in lowering blood glucose levels in adult onset diabetes, similar to the way that aloe and prickly pear juice works- just make sure that the juice is obtained from the pulp and does not include the outer peel, because of the laxative effects. Can be used after drying, by preparing by splitting lengthwise and allowing to air dry, and brewing as a tea. (The easiest way to dry is to break off the leaves, put them in a paper bag and forget about them for a while!) Amounts to use are highly individualistic, and based on tolerance to the somewhat laxative effect. For convenience sake, it may be best to purchase the capsules from a health food store, until individual tolerance is determined.
Best to avoid the use of the roots, as they are toxic in large amounts and can cause cramping and diarrhea. Long term daily use can slow the intestinal absorption of fat soluble vitamins, so should not be taken on a daily basis for more than a few weeks. If you find that Yucca works well for you in the treatment of arthritic pain, you may want to consult your physician, as supplemental Vitamin A, D, E and K should be taken Decrease dose if loose stools occur.
Be sure of the identity of the plant before you use it. If a preparation makes you sick or gives you a rash, don't use it, and throw it away! If your condition does not improve, see your doctor. Be sure to let your pysician know EVERYTHING that you are taking!