The Benefits of Cassava

Uses, Health Benefits, and More

Cassava harvest
Cassava harvest. Inga Spence/ GettyImages

Cassava (Manihot esculenta) is a plant sometimes used as an herbal remedy. The root of the plant is also used to make tapioca, a starch found in puddings and other foods. Taking cassava in dietary supplement form is said to offer a variety of health benefits, including enhanced fertility.

The root of the cassava plant contains significant amounts of several nutrients, including calcium and vitamin C.

The plant's leaves, meanwhile, have been found to contain protein, carotene, and lysine.

Native to South America, cassava is one of the world's most widely consumed sources of carbohydrates.

Uses for Cassava

In alternative medicine, cassava is used for a variety of conditions. Along with enhanced fertility, health claims for cassava include prevention of cancer and treatment of the following conditions:

Cassava also is purported to reduce inflammation and increase stamina.

In folk medicine, the roots of the cassava are applied directly to the skin (often in the form of a poultice) to promote the healing of wounds and sores.

Additionally, cassava root starch is sometimes used as an ingredient in vitamin C supplements.

Health Benefits of Cassava

Preliminary research suggests that linamarin (a compound found in cassava) may have cancer-fighting properties.

In a 2002 study from the Journal of Gene Medicine, for example, tests on rats determined that linamarin may help destroy tumors.

However, clinical trials testing the anti-cancer effects of cassava are currently lacking, and overall research on the plant's potential health benefits is very limited.


The cassava plant can release cyanide (a potentially lethal substance) when consumed in whole form.

Although proper preparation of cassava eliminates the presence of cyanide, incorrect preparation can lead to cyanide poisoning. Signs of cyanide poisoning include headache, agitation, and convulsions.

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of longterm or regular use of dietary supplements containing cassava. 

Keep in mind that supplements haven't been tested for safety and dietary supplements are largely unregulated.

In some cases, the product may deliver doses that differ from the specified amount for each herb. In other cases, the product may be contaminated with other substances such as metals. 

Also, the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get further tips on using supplements safely here.

Alternatives to Cassava

Although scientific support for the use of natural remedies in treatment of infertility is fairly limited, some preliminary studies suggest that such herbs as maca may have fertility-boosting effects.

In addition, undergoing acupuncture may help improve fertility. While research on acupuncture and fertility has yielded mixed results, a 2011 report published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine found that "most of the existing studies suggest a positive effect of acupuncture in infertility treatment."

For help in preventing cancer, it's important to avoid smoking, limit your alcohol consumption, follow a balanced diet (including a high intake of fruits and vegetables, as well as food sources of antioxidants and healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids), maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, and limit your sun exposure.

There's also some evidence that certain natural substances may have cancer-fighting benefits. These substances include green tea, resveratrol, garlic, and turmeric. Additionally, some studies show that maintaining optimal levels of vitamin D may help protect against some forms of cancer.

Where to Find Cassava

Often sold in capsule or powder form, cassava can be purchased in some natural-foods stores and stores specializing in herbal products. Dietary supplements containing cassava also are available for purchase online.

Using Cassava for Health

Given the lack of supporting research behind cassava's purported health benefits, it cannot currently be recommended as a standard treatment for any condition. it should be noted that self-treating a condition with cassava and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious health consequences.


American Cancer Society. "Cassava." November 2008.

Castellanos R, Altamirano SB, Moretti RH. "Nutritional characteristics of cassava (Manihot esculenta Crantz) leaf protein concentrates obtained by ultrafiltration and acidic thermocoagulation." Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 1994 Jun;45(4):357-63.

Cortés ML, García-Escudero V, Hughes M, Izquierdo M. "Cyanide bystander effect of the linamarase/linamarin killer-suicide gene therapy system." J Gene Med. 2002 Jul-Aug;4(4):407-14.

Huang DM, Huang GY, Lu FE, Stefan D, Andreas N, Robert G. "Acupuncture for infertility: is it an effective therapy?" Chin J Integr Med. 2011 May;17(5):386-95.

Jørgensen K, Morant AV, Morant M, Jensen NB, Olsen CE, Kannangara R, Motawia MS, Møller BL, Bak S. "Biosynthesis of the cyanogenic glucosides linamarin and lotaustralin in cassava: isolation, biochemical characterization, and expression pattern of CYP71E7, the oxime-metabolizing cytochrome P450 enzyme." Plant Physiol. 2011 Jan;155(1):282-92.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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