Wild Yam is a type of herbal plant that has only twelve edible species from a total of nearly 600 different species. Wild Yam was in news recently for its active chemical component known as diosgenin.
This chemical is used in the laboratories for making steroids like estrogen and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). Diosgenin can be extracted from the roots and the bulb of the Wild Yam plant.
What is Wild Yam?
Wild Yam is botanically known as Dioscorea villosa. Other common names of Wild Yam include the following – China Root, Devil’s Bone, Yuma and Rheumatism Root.
In herbal science, the dried rhizomes of the plant are used to prepare medicines. As a plant, Wild Yam is a perennial vine with green colored leaves and greenish-yellow colored flowers. The herb has a pale brown rhizome and a reddish brown colored stem. Wild Yam is native to the Southern parts of the USA, Canada and can be seen in some parts of Asia as well. To grow, the herb requires temperate, tropical and subtropical climatic conditions.
How does it work?
Wild Yam contains the following – Saponins (diosgenin), Isoquinuclidine alkaloids (dioscorin) and Pyrridinal alkaloids (dioscorine). Wild Yam displays the following medicinal actions in the human body – antispasmodic, mild diaphoretic, anti-inflammatory, biliary cholesterol elimination, cholagogue and estrogenic.
Following are some of the health related benefits of using Wild Yam:
The chemical diosgenin has extreme estrogenic actions. Wild Yam is often promoted as a natural alternative to estrogen. The herb is therefore used during estrogen replacement therapies.
This also means that in women, the herb can be used to solve the following conditions – vaginal dryness in menopausal women, premenstrual syndrome, menstrual cramps and for breast enlargement. Women also use wild yam cream topically to reduce hot flashes. The effect of Diosgenin on the mammary epithelium of rats was studied in one clinical test. In rats, the usage of the herb showed significant increase in mammary development activities.
In an animal based study conducted using rats, it was found that the chemical diosgenin could decrease intestinal inflammation. The herbal extract is also used for solving the following inflammatory conditions –irritable bowel syndrome, gallbladder issues, ulcerative colitis, rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease.
Wild Yam is also used as an herbal remedy for solving spasms such as gallbladder colic, intestinal cramps, spasmodic asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, diverticulosis and muscle cramps.
The optimum dosage of Wild Yam would be approximately one to two teaspoons of the dried herbal extract (rhizome and root) taken thrice daily.
Wild Yam is considered safe in optimum dosage. However, over dose of the herb may lead to vomiting. It is not yet clear whether the herb can be used during pregnancy and breastfeeding. To be safe, avoid wild yam during such times. Avoid the herb, if you are suffering from any hormone sensitive condition or have protien S deficiency.
Wild Yam creams and supplements may not be as effective as it is claimed by some pharma companies. Science says, wild yam does not contain estrogen or progesterone. In the market, some wild yam creams have synthetic progesterone and yet are labeled as natural progesterone. Avoid buying wild yam supplements labeled as natural DHEA.
Wild Yam might interact with indomethacin and drugs containing estrogen.