WILD YAM

OTHER NAME(S):

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 japonica, Dioscorea macrostachya, Dioscorea mexicana, Dioscorea opposita, Dioscorea tepinapensis, Dioscorea villosa, Dioscorée, Igname Sauvage, Igname Velue, Mexican Yam, Mexican Wild Yam, Ñame Silvestre, Natural DHEA, Phytoestrogen, Phyto-œstrogène, Rheumatism Root, Rhizoma Dioscorae, Rhizoma Dioscoreae, Shan Yao, Wild Mexican Yam, Yam, Yuma.

Overview

Overview Information

Wild yam is a plant. It contains a chemical called diosgenin. This chemical can be converted 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. However, while wild yam does seem to have some estrogen-like activity, it is not actually converted into estrogen in the body. It takes a laboratory to do that. Sometimes wild yam and diosgenin are 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.

Wild yam is most commonly used as a "natural alterative" to estrogen therapy for symptoms of menopause, infertility, menstrual problems, and other conditions, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these or other uses.

How does it work?

Wild yam contains a chemical that can be converted into various steroids in a laboratory. But the body can't make steroids such as estrogen from wild yam. There may be other chemicals in wild yam that act like estrogen in the body

Uses

Uses & Effectiveness?

Possibly Ineffective for

  • Symptoms of menopause. Applying wild yam cream to the skin for 3 months doesn't seem to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats. It also doesn't seem to affect levels of hormones that play a role in menopause.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Memory and thinking skills (cognitive function). Early research shows that taking wild yam extract daily for 12 weeks might improve thinking skills in healthy adults.
  • Use as a natural alternative to estrogens.
  • Postmenopausal vaginal dryness.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS).
  • Weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis).
  • Increasing energy and sexual desire in men and women.
  • Gallbladder problems.
  • Increasing appetite.
  • Diarrhea.
  • Menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
  • Infertility.
  • Menstrual disorders.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of wild yam for these uses.

Side Effects

Side Effects & Safety

When taken by mouth: Wild yam is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth. Large amounts may cause vomiting, upset stomach, and headache.

When applied to the skin: Wild yam is POSSIBLY SAFE when applied to the skin.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There isn't enough reliable information to know if wild yam is safe to use when pregnant or 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, do not 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. One patient with protein S deficiency and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) 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 is best to avoid using wild yam until more is known.

Interactions

Interactions?

We currently have no information for WILD YAM Interactions.

Dosing

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.

View References

REFERENCES:

  • Araghiniknam M, Chung S, Nelson-White T, and et al. Antioxidant activity of Dioscorea and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in older humans. Life Sciences 1996;59:L147-L157.
  • Cayen, M. N. and Dvornik, D. Effect of diosgenin on lipid metabolism in rats. J Lipid Res 1979;20(2):162-174. View abstract.
  • Cayen, M. N., Ferdinandi, E. S., Greselin, E., and Dvornik, D. Studies on the disposition of diosgenin in rats, dogs, monkeys and man. Atherosclerosis 1979;33(1):71-87. View abstract.
  • Datta K, Datta SK, and Datta PC. Pharmacognostic evaluation of potential yams Dioscorea. Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 1984;5:181-196.
  • Huai, Z. P., Ding, Z. Z., He, S. A., and Sheng, C. G. [Research on correlations between climatic factors and diosgenin content in Dioscorea zingiberensis Wright]. Yao Xue.Xue.Bao. 1989;24(9):702-706. View abstract.
  • Hudson t, Standish L, Breed C, and et al. Clinical and endocrinological effects of a menopausal botanical formula. Journal of Naturopathic Medicine 1997;7:73-77.
  • Juarez-Oropeza, M. A., Diaz-Zagoya, J. C., and Rabinowitz, J. L. In vivo and in vitro studies of hypocholesterolemic effects of diosgenin in rats. Int J Biochem 1987;19(8):679-683. View abstract.
  • Malinow, M. R., Elliott, W. H., McLaughlin, P., and Upson, B. Effects of synthetic glycosides on steroid balance in Macaca fascicularis. J Lipid Res 1987;28(1):1-9. View abstract.
  • Nervi, F., Bronfman, M., Allalon, W., Depiereux, E., and Del Pozo, R. Regulation of biliary cholesterol secretion in the rat. Role of hepatic cholesterol esterification. J Clin Invest 1984;74(6):2226-2237. View abstract.
  • Nervi, F., Marinovic, I., Rigotti, A., and Ulloa, N. Regulation of biliary cholesterol secretion. Functional relationship between the canalicular and sinusoidal cholesterol secretory pathways in the rat. J Clin Invest 1988;82(6):1818-1825. View abstract.
  • Odumosu, A. How vitamin C, clofibrate and diosgenin control cholesterol metabolism in male guinea-pigs. Int J Vitam.Nutr Res Suppl 1982;23:187-195. View abstract.
  • Rosenberg Zand, R. S., Jenkins, D. J., and Diamandis, E. P. Effects of natural products and nutraceuticals on steroid hormone-regulated gene expression. Clin Chim.Acta 2001;312(1-2):213-219. View abstract.
  • Uchida, K., Takase, H., Nomura, Y., Takeda, K., Takeuchi, N., and Ishikawa, Y. Changes in biliary and fecal bile acids in mice after treatments with diosgenin and beta-sitosterol. J Lipid Res 1984;25(3):236-245. View abstract.
  • Ulloa, N. and Nervi, F. Mechanism and kinetic characteristics of the uncoupling by plant steroids of biliary cholesterol from bile salt output. Biochim.Biophys.Acta 11-14-1985;837(2):181-189. View abstract.
  • Zagoya JCD, Laguna J, and Guzman-Garcia J. Studies on the regulation of cholesterol metabolism by the use of structural analogue, diosgenin. Biochemical Pharmacology 1971;20:3471-3480.
  • Zakharov, V. N. [Hypolipemic effect of diosponine in ischemic heart disease depending on the type of hyperlipoproteinemia]. Kardiologiia. 1977;17(6):136-137. View abstract.
  • Accatino L, Pizarro M, Solis N, Koenig CS. Effects of diosgenin, a plant-derived steroid, on bile secretion and hepatocellular cholestasis induced by estrogens in the rat. Hepatology 1998;28:129-40. View abstract.
  • Aradhana AR, Rao AS, Kale RK. Diosgenin-a growth stimulator of mammary gland of ovariectomized mouse. Indian J Exp Biol 1992;30:367-70. View abstract.
  • Aumsuwan P, Khan SI, Khan IA, et al. Evaluation of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) root extract as a potential epigenetic agent in breast cancer cells. In Vitro Cell Dev Biol Anim 2015;51(1):59-71. View abstract.
  • Cheong JL, Bucknall R. Retinal vein thrombosis associated with a herbal phytoestrogen preparation in a susceptible patient. Postgrad Med J 2005;81:266-7.. View abstract.
  • Eagon PK, Elm MS, Hunter DS, et al. Medicinal herbs: modulation of estrogen action. Era of Hope Mtg, Dept Defense; Breast Cancer Res Prog, Atlanta, GA 2000;Jun 8-11.
  • Foster S, Tyler VE. Tyler's Honest Herbal, 4th ed., Binghamton, NY: Haworth Herbal Press, 1999.
  • Komesaroff PA, Black CV, Cable V, et al. Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women. Climacteric 2001;4:144-50.. View abstract.
  • Lu J, Wong RN, Zhang L, et al. Comparative analysis of proteins with stimulating activity on ovarian estradiol biosynthesis from four different Dioscorea species in vitro using both phenotypic and target-based approaches: implication for treating menopause. Appl Biochem Biotechnol. 2016 Sep;180(1):79-93. View abstract.
  • Pengelly A, Bennett K. Appalachian plant monographs: Dioscorea villosa L., Wild Yam. Available at: https://www.frostburg.edu/fsu/assets/File/ACES/Dioscorea%20villosa%20-%20FINAL(4).pdf
  • Skolnick AA. Scientific verdict still out on DHEA. JAMA 1996;276:1365-7. View abstract.
  • Tohda C, Yang X, Matsui M, et al. Diosgenin-rich yam extract enhances cognitive function: a placebo-controlled, randomized, double-blind, crossover study of healthy adults. Nutrients. 2017 Oct 24;9(10): pii: E1160. View abstract.
  • Wu WH, Liu LY, Chung CJ, et al. Estrogenic effect of yam ingestion in healthy postmenopausal women. J Am Coll Nutr 2005;24:235-43. View abstract.
  • Xu YY, Yin J. Identification of a thermal stable allergen in yam (Dioscorea opposita) to cause anaphylaxis. Asia Pac Allergy. 2018 Jan 12;8(1):e4. View abstract.
  • Yamada T, Hoshino M, Hayakawa T, et al. Dietary diosgenin attenuates subacute intestinal inflammation associated with indomethacin in rats. Am J Physiol 1997;273:G355-64. View abstract.
  • Zava DT, Dollbaum CM, Blen M. Estrogen and progestin bioactivity of foods, herbs, and spices. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med 1998;217:369-78. View abstract.
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  • Zhang N, Liang T, Jin Q, Shen C, Zhang Y, Jing P. Chinese yam (Dioscorea opposita Thunb.) alleviates antibiotic-associated diarrhea, modifies intestinal microbiota, and increases the level of short-chain fatty acids in mice. Food Res Int. 2019;122:191-198. View abstract.

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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.

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