When it comes to the world of holistic healing, there are a dizzying number of plants, roots, trees, flowers, etc. that we come across when looking for a natural solution to help ourselves or our pets. Some are very common and well-known… echinacea, for instance.
Want to learn the best way to use echinacea for your dog’s immune system? Check it out.
Some, you may never have heard of… gotu kola, for one.
How can gotu kola help your dog? Find out here.
And others may sound familiar, but you’re not quite sure what it does.
Natural Steroid Alternative For Dogs
Which is where the plant Yucca schidigera comes in. Native to California coastal canyons and western United States inland deserts, according to Herbs for Pets by Gregory L. Tilford and Mary L. Wulff, this sword-like plant contains healthy levels of vitamin C, beta-carotene, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, niacin, phosphorus and B vitamins. Due to its foaming action, you might recognize it as an ingredient in some carbonated beverages or even in soap. You can also cook up yucca root (which is the part most often used) just like you would a potato.
It’s possible you might already know some of this about yucca. But did you know that it is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and pain reliever?
Joints and Arthritis
Yes, if your dog is suffering from joint problems, arthritis or hip dysplasia, yucca root may be of help. In a nutshell, yucca can act as a sort of steroid alternative through the action of its steroidal saponins, which help stimulate the body in using and making its own corticosteroids and related hormones, according to Herbs for Pets. So instead of relying on synthetic steroids to help with pain and inflammation in your arthritic dog, yucca is a much safer alternative.
In the same way that synthetic corticosteroids are the go-to prescription for joint problems in dogs (and humans) to reduce inflammation, allergy sufferers are also often prescribed the drug. And in the same way that yucca can help joint inflammation, it can also help relieve the inflammatory processes surrounding allergies.
Those saponins come in handy in yet another way. According to Herbs for Pets, the saponins may also help stimulate your dog’s appetite, while at the same time increasing nutrient absorption. This can really come in handy when a dog is feeling under the weather or has a condition that reduces appetite.
Word of Caution
While yucca is definitely a safer alternative to synthetic steroids, it should be used in moderation. It should be used to treat a specific condition rather than for everyday, regular use. If it needs to be used over a longer timeframe, make sure to give your dog a couple of days off every week from yucca. Too much yucca can irritate the digestive tract and may reverse its benefits, according to Herbs for Pets. (Dosing for the dried and powdered root is a 1/2 teaspoon per pound of food. But check with your holistic vet if you are ever unsure.)
Along those same lines, you might notice that some pet food companies add yucca to their food. The reason may have something to do with yucca’s ability to reduce unpleasant urine and fecal odors. While that may sound like a benefit, we’re not sure what the effects could be of constantly interfering with our dog’s metabolic process in this way. Plus, as already mentioned, yucca shouldn’t be used as an everyday ingredient. So, our suggestion is to avoid regular feeding – especially in large quantities – of foods containing yucca.