Yacon - Medicinal Properties
Yacon is the name of a herbaceous plant native to the Peruvian Andes. It belongs to the family Asteraceae (daisy family). It has edible tuberous roots that find use in dietetics. Its leaves are used to prepare a herbal tea used as medicine.
In Spanish, yacon is known as yacón, jacón and arboloco. In Quechua (the language of the Incas) it is known as yacuma. In Aymara (other Amerindian language of the Andes), it is called aricoma and ancona.
Its scientific name is Smallanthus sonchifolius.
In pre-Hispanic times, yacon was routinely consumed by the Andean Amerindians. After the Spanish invasion, its consumption was progressively reduced to almost nothing. Today, yacon consumption is gaining popularity again as a non-caloric sweetener, not only in Peru but also abroad. Yacon is well received in Japan and other countries.
Yacon is used as a non-assimilable dietary sweetener and hypoglycemic agent.
The tuberous root of yacon is sweet, but the sugars it contains (inulin and inulinic sugars) have the particularity of being non-assimilable by the human body. This means that they pass through the digestive tract without undergoing any processing, and so they are eliminated. Therefore, this root is used to impart a sweet taste to food for people who want to lose weight and for diabetics.
From its leaves, a tea with hypoglycemic properties can be prepared. This means that it helps reduce the concentration of glucose in the blood.
How It is Used
Traditionally, yacon is consumed raw, as if it were a fruit. To peel it is all what is needed. Some have defined its texture and taste like an apple, others say it tastes like a cucumber. Also traditionally, the tuberous root of yacon is often grated or shredded, and the resulting mass is squeezed with the help of a cloth to extract all the juice. This juice is then drunk directly or concentrated by heat until a kind of syrup, which can sweeten almost anything, is obtained. Because the juice is easily oxidized, it will turn dark very quickly if a stabilizer is not added.
Inulinic sugars can be commercially extracted from this tuberous root in order to be used as sweeteners for the elaboration of dietetic products, as well as products for diabetics.
From the leaves, an infusion or tea can be prepared. Teabags of yacon leaves can be found commercially under the name of yacon tea.
The tuberous root of yacon contains inulin and inulinic sugars.