Wild Yam

What Should I Know About It?

Dioscorea villosa, Dioscoreaceae, Wild Yam, habitus. The root is used in homeopathy as remedy: Dioscorea villosa (Dios.)
H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

What is Wild Yam?

Other names: Dioscorea villosa

Wild yam is a plant native to North America, Mexico and Asia.

The part used medicinally is the root. The active compound is believed to be diosgenin.

Wild yam is available in oral and topical forms.

Uses for Wild Yam

In folk medicine, wild yam was used to help with coughs, morning sickness, digestive upset and nerve pain.

  • Menopause - Although wild yam creams and other preparations are marketed as "natural progesterone", wild yam doesn't contain progesterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or estrogen and cannot be converted to these hormones in the body. It requires a chemical conversion that can only take place in the lab.

Caveats

Large doses of wild yam may cause nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. 

Wild yam may effect hormone levels. People with hormone dependent conditions, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids or cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus or prostate shouldn't take wild yam. Pregnant or nursing women or children should not take wild yam.

Using Wild Yam for Health

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend wild yam for any health condition.  Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that 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 tips on using supplements here, but if you're considering the use of wild yam, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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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