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WILD YAM

Other Names:

American Yam, Atlantic Yam, Barbasco, China Root, Chinese Yam, Colic Root, Devil's Bones, DHEA Naturelle, Dioscorea, Dioscoreae, Dioscorea alata, Dioscorea batatas, Dioscorea composita, Dioscorea floribunda, Dioscorea hirticaulis, Dioscorea japo...
See All Names

WILD YAM Overview
WILD YAM Uses
WILD YAM Side Effects
WILD YAM Interactions
WILD YAM Dosing
WILD YAM Overview Information

Wild yam is a plant. It contains a chemical, diosgenin, which can be made in the laboratory into various steroids, such as estrogen and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). The root and the bulb of the plant are used as a source of diosgenin, which is prepared as an “extract,” a liquid that contains concentrated diosgenin.

There are over 600 species of wild yam. Some species are grown specifically as a source of diosgenin for laboratories to use in making steroids. These species are generally not eaten due to a bitter flavor. Only about 12 of the 600 species are considered edible.

Diosgenin or wild yam is often promoted as a “natural alterative” to estrogen therapy, so you will see it used for estrogen replacement therapy, vaginal dryness in older women, PMS (premenstrual syndrome), menstrual cramps, weak bones (osteoporosis), increasing energy and sexual drive in men and women, and breast enlargement. Wild yam does seem to have some estrogen-like activity, but it is not actually converted into estrogen in the body. It takes a laboratory to do that.

Similarly, you will also see wild yam and diosgenin promoted as a “natural DHEA.” This is because in the laboratory DHEA is made from diosgenin, but this chemical reaction is not believed to occur in the human body. So taking wild yam extract will not increase DHEA levels in people. Individuals who are interested in taking DHEA should avoid wild yam products labeled as "natural DHEA."

Wild yam is also used for treating a disorder of the intestines called diverticulosis, gallbladder pain, rheumatoid arthritis, and for increasing energy.

Some women apply wild yam creams to the skin to reduce menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes.

How does it work?

Wild yam contains a chemical that can be made into various steroids, such as estrogen, in the laboratory. However, the body can't change wild yam to estrogen.

WILD YAM Uses & Effectiveness What is this?

Possibly Ineffective for:

  • Hot flashes and night sweats associated with menopause, when wild yam cream is applied to the skin. Using wild yam cream for 3 months doesn’t seem to help with these menopausal symptoms. It also doesn’t seem to affect levels of hormones such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), estradiol, or progesterone that play a role in menopause.

Insufficient Evidence for:

  • Use as a natural alternative to estrogens.
  • Postmenopausal vaginal dryness.
  • PMS (Premenstrual syndrome).
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis).
  • Increasing energy and sexual desire in men and women.
  • Gallbladder problems.
  • Painful menstrual periods.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis.
  • Infertility.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate wild yam for these uses.


WILD YAM Side Effects & Safety

Wild yam is POSSIBLY SAFE for most adults. Large amounts can cause vomiting.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of wild yam during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Hormone-sensitive condition such as breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids: Wild yam might act like estrogen. If you have any condition that might be made worse by exposure to estrogen, don’t use wild yam.

Protein S deficiency: People with protein S deficiency have an increased risk of forming clots. There is some concern that wild yam might increase the risk of clot formation in these people because it might act like estrogen. There is one case report of a patient with protein S deficiency and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) who developed a clot in the vein serving the retina in her eye 3 days after taking a combination product containing wild yam, dong quai, red clover, and black cohosh. If you have protein S deficiency, it’s best to avoid using wild yam until more is known.

WILD YAM Interactions What is this?

We currently have no information for WILD YAM Interactions

WILD YAM Dosing

The appropriate dose of wild yam depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for wild yam. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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Conditions of Use and Important Information: This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective, and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version. © Therapeutic Research Faculty 2009.

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