Wild Yam Root [1 oz.]
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Wild yams have been used as medicine for centuries. The Native Americans used them for ailments like colic and rheumatism. Not to be confused with the orange, potato-like vegetable we eat, wild yam is used as a supplement for its health benefits.
Although historically used for a variety of disorders, wild yam is most often discussed today for its ability to help with female hormones and hormone-related conditions.
Here's more about this herb, the potential benefits of wild yam, and how to use it.
What Is Wild Yam?
Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) is a perennial vine that grows most often in woodlands and thickets. It has heart-shaped leaves and produces small, green-yellow flowers. Of the over 600 species of Dioscorea, only 12 are edible.
One species of wild yam is native to North America and others are native to China. There is also an ornamental variety called Dioscorea batatas.
Certain varieties of wild yam produce edible roots or tubers. Unlike sweet potatoes, the roots are much drier and narrower. The inner flesh is usually white and has a starchy, bitter taste.
The roots of wild yams are the part used medicinally. They are dried and sometimes powdered before being sold as a supplement. You can also find wild yam root in herbal tea blends and in creams for topical use.
Wild Yam and Hormones
Much of the interest currently surrounding wild yam centers around a chemical called diosgenin.
Diosgenin is what's known as a phytosteroid or a plant-based steroid. It can be used to make steroids that humans need, especially progesterone, cortisone, pregnenolone, and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone).
For this reason, wild yam is often used to make creams designed to help women with bad PMS or menopausal symptoms due to unbalanced hormones.
Although it's been used as part of natural estrogen therapy for centuries, there's confusion in scientific studies over how it works. The diosgenin in wild yam can be converted to hormones like estrogen and progesterone in a laboratory, but the human body cannot actually convert it into anything.
In spite of this, wild yam does have the potential to have an estrogen-like effect on the body. Many herbalists will recommend it for certain hormone-related health issues.
Here's more about the different benefits of wild yam and ways to use it.
Benefits of Wild Yam
May Help Menopausal Symptoms
Because of its potential to have an estrogen-like effect on the body, wild yam can be beneficial for women going through menopause.
Estrogen levels drop as women reach menopause. Low estrogen can be responsible for symptoms like vaginal dryness, hot flashes, mood swings, and decreased bone density.
Hormone replacement therapy is a common recommendation for women approaching menopause, but it can come with side effects like an increased risk of cardiovascular disease or breast cancer.
Wild yam is often a recommended herb for a natural approach to easing menopausal symptoms. In the few scientific studies done on wild yam for menopause, taking it orally is more effective than using a topical cream.
May Relieve PMS and Menstrual Symptoms
The estrogen-like activity of wild yam can also be beneficial for relieving symptoms of PMS.
It's traditionally been used especially to treat dysmenorrhea (menstrual cramps). Wild yam is thought to have an anti-spasmodic effect on the uterine muscles and has also shown anti-inflammatory properties.
Wild yam has most often been prescribed by herbalists for internal use for PMS symptoms. Today, you'll also find topical wild yam creams that are meant to raise low progesterone levels, which can help ease PMS.
May Enhance Fertility
Given wild yam's hormone-like effects, it's no surprise that it can have benefits for fertility. There are many factors involved in infertility issues, but hormone imbalances can be a major one.
Wild yam may help to optimize estrogen levels as well as soothe oviductal and fallopian tube spasms that can prevent conception.
Although wild yam isn't often used on its own for fertility issues, it can be used with other herbs to balance h