Make Your Own Yucca Hair Cleaner

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    These Yuccas looks exactly like the yuccas on our property. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. The Yucca* (yucca elata) is a perennial plant that is known as the soap tree. It is native to southwestern United States and grows in abundance on my four-acre property. It’s a pretty plant and puts out a tall stem from the center of a nest of spiky leaves. The spike is laden with edible white flowers that form seed pods when mature. The root is where most of the soapy properties are concentrated. Luckily, the yucca is not endangered so uprooting it is not a problem.

    Eat foods you enjoy. Instead of worrying about what you “should” or “shouldn’t” eat, choose foods you find satisfying. Deprivation, both physical from not eating enough and psychological from restricting foods or food groups, leads to overeating, binging and usually eating more of the foods you’re trying to restrict.

    The substance in the roots is known as saponin. A little research informs me that saponins are a subclass of terpenoids, which is the largest class of plant extracts. Saponins are both water and fat soluble, which gives them their soapy properties.

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    She combs the beautiful hair of her companion using a hairbrush made from stiff grasses.

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    A Native American’s hair shines. By Edward Curtis courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. Did you ever wonder why the Navajo, Hopi and Zuni women had such shiny hair in old pictures? They kept their lustrous hair clean with yucca hair cleanser. I’m calling it hair cleanser because after having processed some roots myself and having used the liquid to clean my own hair I think it would be more accurate to call it that and not call it shampoo. We associate shampoo with voluminous amounts of suds. Hair cleaner made from yucca does not produce a lot of suds. It’s a light sudsy liquid. It’s not thick and syrup-y like modern shampoo. Also, it has a very earthy, natural scent and is not laden with artificial perfume. Because of this I’m going to postulate that it is very good for people with sensitive scalp like mine. I didn’t need conditioner after I used it.

    Avoid Processed Junk Food (Eat Real Food Instead). All the processed junk foods in the diet are the biggest reason the world is fatter and sicker than ever before. These foods have been engineered to be "hyper-rewarding," so they trick our brains into eating more than we need, even leading to addiction in some people.They are also low in fiber, protein and micronutrients (empty calories), but high in unhealthy ingredients like added sugar and refined grains.

    To make yucca shampoo first dig up a yucca root.

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    Dig up the yucca root. Photo by Renee Benoit.

    Then remove the pokey leaves from the root. I used a machete. Lay the yucca plant on a board so your machete doesn’t hit something hard which will dull the blade right away. Wear gloves and hack away. It won’t take long but be careful!

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    It turns out that the thinnest root on the right yielded the best material. It’s the youngest and softest. Not as fibrous as older larger plants. Photo by Renee Benoit.

    Next hose the root with cold water to remove dirt. Then peel or cut the outer skin off the root. A sturdy paring knife and peeler will work.

    Know your limits. The healthiest version of ourselves lies somewhere between giving ourselves grace while still having challenging goals. A good place to start is by being honest with yourself about what works for you and what doesn’t.

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    I used a paring knife to cut away most of the "bark" and a peeler to get it clean. Photo by Renee Benoit.

    Now you’ve got the beautiful white inner root. Using a chef knife chop the root into small pieces one-inch square or smaller.

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    The quarter on the right shows how small I made the pieces. Photo by Renee Benoit.Caption:

    Pulverize the pieces to a pulp. I found that a heavy mortar and pestle works best. Mine is made out of granite so it’s heavy and unbreakable. Native Americans use a stone metate. (meh-tah-tee).

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    The pieces to be mashed on left. The mashed pieces on right. Photo by Renee Benoit.

    You can use it right away or dry the pulp and use it later. To dry it place the pulp in a pan and set them out in the sun or bake them in oven at low temperature until they’re is dry and crackly. Store the dried yucca in a cool, dry place.

    Be a fiber fanatic. Eating more fiber allows you to feel more satisfied while stabilizing blood-sugar levels, helping to fight off hunger and cravings. Diets high in fiber have been linked back to lower bodyweight, decreased disease risk and improved longevity. Aim for a minimum of 25 grams per day.

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    Soaking these pieces will make a light sudsy liquid. Photo by Renee Benoit.

    Make the Hair Cleaner

    Add a cup or more of pulp to a basin filled with about 4-5 cups of water. Smoosh the pulp with your hands to release the saponin properties. Do this for about 5 minutes. Then stir vigorously with a wire whip. Do suds form? Smoosh more until it does. Then strain it through a sieve or cheesecloth to remove the pulp. Get as much of the valuable liquid out as you can. I like cheesecloth because I can wring it. Put the leftover pulp in your compost bin.

    No folly in folic acid. Folic acid should be taken regularly by all pregnant mums and people with a low immunity to disease. Folic acid prevents spina bifida in unborn babies and can play a role in cancer prevention. It is found in green leafy vegetables, liver, fruit and bran.

    To wash bend your head over a catch basin and pour the sudsy liquid over your head a cup or two at a time until all your hair is very wet. Scrub it around a bit to get your scalp clean and then rinse with clean water.

    When I did this my hair felt clean and I did not use conditioner. After it dried my hair was not at all fly away. To compare, the next time I used modern shampoo I did not apply conditioner and my hair was very static-y and very dry. The air around here has only 5% humidity. Very dry!

    Deep heat. Sun rays can burn even through thick glass, and under water. Up to 35% of UVB rays and 85% of UVA rays penetrate thick glass, while 50% of UVB rays and 75% of UVA rays penetrate a meter of water and wet cotton clothing. Which means you’ll need sunscreen while driving your car on holiday, and water resistant block if you’re swimming.

    I wish that it was not such a laborious process to make yucca hair cleaner because it is much preferable to the over processed and expensive hair products we are now addicted and accustomed to. When I make yucca hair cleaner next time, I am going to make a whole bunch and store it for later use.

    *yucca (yuck-a) is NOT yuca (yoo-ka). Yuca can be found in grocery stores and is also known as cassava or malanga. Properly cooked yuca is a foodstuff and to my knowledge cannot be made into shampoo.

    Renée Benoit is a writer, artist, ranch caretaker and dedicated do-it-yourselfer who homesteads a small ranch in the southeast corner of Arizona near the Mexican border. Connect with Renée at RL Benoit, andread all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS.

    Don’t forget dairy. Foods like fat-free and low-fat milk, cheese, yogurt, and fortified soy beverages (soymilk) help to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.

    Originally Published: 6/8/2021 9:55:00 AM