What Is It?
The Aztecs and Mayans were the first to recognize healing properties in the root of the wild yam (Dioscorea villosa),a climbing vine. They used it to relieve pain. Years later, Native Americans and early colonists made such a practice of treating joint pain and colic with this native North and Central American plant that it was, for a time, popularly referred to as “colic root.”
Recently, wild yam has been promoted as an herbal alternative to hormone replacement therapy for menopausal symptoms. This claim is based on the inaccurate belief that the plant is a natural source of the female hormone progesterone. Although wild yam does contain diosgenin, a substance that can be converted into progesterone in a laboratory, it is not possible for the human body to make this chemical transformation.
There is no sound scientific evidence to indicate that rubbing wild yam cream into the belly, thighs, or any other soft areas will relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or menopause. In studies done so far, a dummy cream worked just as well. (If you want to try a natural progesterone cream that can be effective for menopausal symptoms, look for products that are certified to contain 400 mg of USP-grade natural progesterone per ounce.) Wild yam in other forms does appear to relax muscles and reduce inflammation, however. These properties, in part the result of substances it contains called alkaloids, explain why it seems to provide some relief from menstrual cramps, endometriosis, and digestive problems.
Although the wild yam plant produces large tubers that resemble potatoes, it bears no relation to sweet potatoes or true yams.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with wild yam.
Take wild yam pills or tincture with food to decrease the risk of stomach upset. Very high doses can result in nausea and diarrhea.
Pregnant women should avoid wild yam.
Endometriosis 1/2 tsp. liquid extract twice a day
Kidney Stones Acute: Drink 1/2 tsp. liquid extract mixed in warm water every 15 minutes until relieved. Discontinue when pain-free, or when the stone has passed. Take no more than 8 doses in a 24-hour period.
David Edelberg, MD