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Wild yam (dioscorea)
What is wild yam? What is it used
Wild yam is indigenous to the southern U.S. and Canada. The
plant has small, greenish-yellow flowers, with a pale brown,
cylindrical rhizome similar in size and shape to a potato.
The rhizome and accompanying roots contain medicinal properties
and are used in several herbal remedies.
The active compound in wild yam is diosgenin, an anti-inflammatory.
Traditionally, wild yam has been used for rheumatic conditions,
dysmenorrhea and cramps. Animal studies suggest that another
wild yam compound, dioscoretine, may reduce blood sugar and
intestinal inflammation, increase bile production and raise
levels of HDL, or "good," cholesterol. It may also
protect liver cells and, in some anecdotal studies, act as
a form of "natural" progesterone, a female hormone.
How much wild yam should I take?
Some practitioners recommend 2-4 grams of wild yam root daily.
Other providers recommend 2-3ml of a wild yam tincture taken
up to four times daily.
What forms of wild yam are available?
In addition to dried root, wild yam is also available in
capsules, tinctures and liquid extracts
What can happen if I take too much
wild yam? Are there any interactions I should be aware
of? What precautions should I take?
Extremely large amounts of wild yam may cause nausea in some
individuals. In addition, there is some evidence that wild
yam may enhance the effect of estrogen-containing drugs. Patients
taking estrogen-containing drugs or who are on hormone replacement
therapy should consult with their health care provider before
taking wild yam supplements.
Other Resources :
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- Araghiniknam M, Chung S, Nelson-White
T, et al. Antioxidant activity of dioscorea and dehydroepiandrosterone
(DHEA) in older humans. Life Sci 1996;11:14757.
- Bertram T. Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine.
Dorset, England: Grace Publishers, 1995, 454.
- Dollbaum CM. Lab analyses of salivary
DHEA and progesterone following ingestion of yam-containing
products. Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients Oct
- Gruenwald J, Brendler T, Jaenicke C (eds.)
PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics
Company, 2000, p. 817-818.
- Iwu MM, Okunji CO, Ohiaeri GO, et al.
Hypoglycaemic activity of dioscoretine from tubers of dioscorea
dumetorum in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. Planta