If you’re in New Mexico, like our dental office, or another part of the American Southwest, you are probably familiar with the yucca plant with its spiky leaves and towering blooms. You may have also eaten at restaurants where “yucca” is served in forms similar to white potatoes — fried, mashed, or baked. But did you know that the ornamental plant and the commonly consumed root are completely different? Both have unique medicinal and nutritional properties, and it’s important to understand the difference and learn how they can benefit your health — and your teeth — in different ways.
What Is Yucca?
The yucca plant (pronounced yuh-kuh)is commonly found in the arid climate of New Mexico and consists of a group of 40-50 different shrubs with a tall stalk of white flowers and large saw-like leaves. It is most commonly used today as an ornamental plant, but Native Americans have traditionally used the plant’s fruit, flowers, seeds, leaves, and bark for its medicinal properties as well as for practical uses.
What Are the Benefits of Yucca?
The plant’s sap can be made into a poultice to treat skin conditions, stop swelling, or bleeding. In northern New Mexico, yucca is brewed as a tea for easing ailments like headaches and asthma. The long and fibrous leaves have been used for everything from natural dental floss to sturdy rope. It’s also becoming common to find supplements of yucca extract made from the leaves and bark of the plant in some health food stores as an anti-inflammatory for arthritis and joint pain relief. The resveratrol found in yucca is said to relieve high blood pressure, help prevent blood clots, and lower LDL cholesterol. Yucca also has high levels of saponins that act as natural foaming agents that can be used in the making of soaps, shampoos, and even toothpaste. It is even said that the Apache people used to use yucca as an anti-dandruff remedy in this way.
What Is Yuca?
Yucca is often confused with the yuca root (pronounced yoo-kuh), more commonly known as cassava or manioc. Despite its similar name, it looks nothing like the yucca plant which has an inedible root. Yuca is a tuber native to Latin America and the Caribbean and is similar to a potato, but with a much better nutritional profile. It contains high levels of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals and its nutrient-dense profile makes it a much healthier option that is lower glycemic than the starchy, sugary white potatoes common in the American diet.
What Are the Benefits of Yuca?
The minerals found in yuca include calcium, phosphorus, and potassium, all of which are necessary components for maintaining bone density and fortifying the teeth. It also contains manganese which is needed for building and fortifying connective tissues around the bones and teeth. A serving of yuca root contains 70% of the daily recommended dose of vitamin C and the plant’s young leaves contain vitamin K which plays a role in fortifying bone density.
Whether you reap the medicinal benefits of the yucca plant as a supplement or include yuca root as a regular part of your diet, both have beneficial properties that can ease inflammation and illness, and improve your digestive and musculoskeletal health, including your teeth and gums. Contact us at Las Cruces Dental Solutions in southern New Mexico for more health and dental tips!
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