Yucca  by J. Zane Walley

The Yucca, (Yucca spp.) commonly known as Amole, Soaproot, Spanish Bayonet, or Dagger, has an extensive accounting of uses by Native Americans. It was used in the cleansing ceremony before Hopi weddings. The Tewas at Hano used it as a ceremonial plant at rituals of adoption, name giving, and death. Among the Yavapais, the mother and newborn child were washed in suds made from the plantís root.

Medically, Indians used Yucca salve for skin disorders, eruptions, and slow-healing sores. They also used the roots as a poultice on breaks and sprains, and for rheumatism and arthritis.

Dr. Jill Stansbury, in her book, Botanical Considerations In The Treatment Of Arthritis writes: "Yucca appears to be of use in both osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis, taking anywhere from 3 days to 3 months to note improvements." Dr. Lucinda Jack, of The University Of Maryland Foundation, finds that Yucca is anti-inflammatory. In addition, it is a starter material for steroids effective in arthritis, menopause, and PMS. Yucca research has been conducted in labs around the word, but the leading breakthrough occurred in Japan. The faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Tokushima University, discovered not one, but twelve active steroid compounds in Yucca.

These laboratory findings, along with many others, support the folk-use of Yucca to help relieve symptomatic arthritis and rheumatism pain and swelling in certain individuals. It is potent because of the plantís high content of the steroids, saponins, forerunners to cortisone.

To use as a poultice, dig the roots of mature plants, pound to a fine pulp and soak in hot, not boiling, water. Bind to the affected area with gauze and leave in place two hours. A soak may be made for the hands and feet by using the pulped root in a stainless steel container. Use 50% water, 50% root. Heat to a comfortable temperature, (Do not boil!) and immerse the affected appendage until the water cools. Repeat as often as necessary. Both the poultice and soaking solution may be refrigerated and reused for up to a week.

A tea of the roots often eases arthritis and rheumatism pain. (If it works for you, the relief may last for days!) Make the tea by boiling one-fourth ounce of dried inner root for 15 minutes in a pint of water. Cool and drink in four doses during the day. If you experience intestinal cramping and a strong laxative effect, but note improvement in your arthritis; simply decrease the amount of root used. The dose may be upped to one-half ounce of the root. Do not use daily over a long period as it can slow the body's absorption of fat-soluble vitamins.

The black pods will be hanging ripe on the stalk and ready for harvest as Fall approaches. Pick the pods just as they are turning shiny black. Boil for about a half-hour or until they are easily peeled. Drain, cool, peel, and seed. Mash the pulp and cook to the consistency of jam. Add a touch of honey to sweeten. Use as a spread, filling for pies or spread on a baking pan to sun, or oven dry. The resulting sheet can be used as a quick energy food or soaked in water to make a peerless Yucca syrup.

For a dish similar to asparagus, pick mature flower stalks before the buds have opened and boil well in salted water. The flower petals can be cooked or eaten raw. I use them in stir-fry or salads after soaking an hour in cold water to remove the soapy taste.

Remember Yucca-Doo Shampoo? It contained natural soap from the plantís roots. It's easy to make your own. Dig the root any time of the year. Split lengthwise leaving the bark on. Scrub soil from root's cracks and crevices with a stiff brush. Boil in equal parts of water until suds appear. This produces a gentle shampoo that will clean your hair without stripping it of beneficial oils. The shampoo may be stored in your refrigerator for up to a week. It also makes an excellent detergent for washing woolens and delicate items.

The root may also be used as soap by simply smashing, and using it directly. It smells great and the fibrous root makes a natural scrubber, which looks like a tan Brillo pad. Adding water as you scrub produces a generous lather of white suds.

"This we know: the earth does not belong to man; man belongs to the earth. This we know. All things are connected like the blood which unites one family. All things are connected. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. Man did not weave the web of life: he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself."

- Seattle, Chief of the Duwamish, Suquamish and allied Indian tribes