What Is the Yucca Root?


The yucca root is a starchy root vegetable that originates in the tropics, in temperate areas of South America, Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. It is a woody shrub and perennial. The yucca root is harvested for its leaves and its root, and consists of an abundance of starch and low protein. It is also commonly known as cassava and manioc. The yucca root contains saponins, which have a soapy texture, and also function as medicinal agents.


The yucca root is rich in vitamins A, B and C. It also has calcium, potassium, iron, phosphorus, copper and manganese, which means it offers nutritional support to the body's structure (joints, bones and muscles).


The yucca root is a key crop and staple food in some parts of the world (such as central and western Africa). It can have either a sweet or bitter flavor, depending on the variety. It must also be thoroughly washed, then peeled and cooked before consumption. This is necessary to get rid of a toxic and poisonous milky substance that is similar to latex. The toxic substance is just under the bark. When it is cut, it contains a dangerous acidic juice (with acetone, glucose and prussic or hydrocyanic acid) that can wreak havoc on the digestive system's enzymes, which can result in illness and sometimes even death.


The yucca root is full of carbohydrates. It is often served as a side dish, similarly to potatoes. It is also often an ingredient in stews and soups. It has an absorbent texture, and offers more potassium and fiber than potatoes. The leaves are also often eaten as a vegetable green.

Other Names

Some other common names for the Yucca root include manioc yucca, manihot, manioc, eddoes and mandioca. The yucca root is commonly mistaken for a plant simply called yucca, which is non-edible and part of the Agave family.


The yucca root contains saponins (glycosides that have foaming properties) which are similar to the natural cortisone that is made by the adrenal glands. Because of its saponins, it is a well-known natural remedy for various types of inflammation, such as rheumatism, arthritis, colitis and bursitis. It is also believed to operate as a blood cleanser, commonly as yucca root tea.

Keywords: yucca root, cassava, mandioca

About this Author

Isabel Prontes is a freelance writer and traveler residing in Manhattan, NY. She has traveled to five continents and counting. Her work has appeared on a number of websites, such as Travels, eHow.com and "Happy Living Magazine." Prontes has a professional background in public relations; she received a bachelor's degree in communication studies from Pace University.