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Herb Reference Guide

Wild Yam

History

Wild yam is a vine native to North America (species: villosa) and has also been called, “Colic Root”. It became a popular ingredient in natural products (natural progesterone creams), somewhat erroneously , due to poorly interpreted science*. This irresponsible use of Wild Yam is disheartening because this plant is rare or endangered in much of its natural range in eastern North America. In the 1700’s and 1800’s wild yam was used by herbalists and Eclectic physicians for menstrual complaints, assisting with the pain of child labor, and for digestive disturbances in children and coughs. Since the plant is rich in soapy-tasting compounds called sapponins, it has a fairly bitter taste; and therefore it has not been consumed as a food source, but rather, used for supplemental purposes.

Function

*The plant does contain a chemical called Diosgenin, which can be converted to Progesterone in the laboratory, but not in the human digestive system. Fenugreek seeds also contain a fair amount of Disogenin. It would be better to follow the lead of the wise herbalists, midwives, and physicians of earlier centuries and reserve the use of this plant for addressing digestive disturbances, supporting proper kidney, liver and gall bladder function, and for supporting a proper inflammatory response during menses.

Uses of Wild Yam

Disclaimer

This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Dioscin, Dioscorin, Diosgenin

Parts Used

  • Root

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Mitchell, William A. ND; Applications of Botanical Remedies in Naturopathic Medicine. Year 2000 update, (preparatory manuscript)