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Wild yam's medicinal benefits have long been recognized by herbalists and pharmaceutical manufacturers alike. In the 18th and 19th centuries, this herb was used to treat menstrual cramps and problems related to childbirth. The subsequent discovery of a substance contained in wild yams revolutionized the pharmaceutical industry. The tubers, or fleshy, rootlike parts, of wild yams (not to be confused with the sweet potato yam) contain diosgenin, a steroid-like substance that can be converted into the female hormone progesterone. Diosgenin has served a key role in the synthesis of hormones and the development of the birth control pill, two of the major advances in plant drug medicine this century. Wild yam continues to be used for treating menstrual cramps, and nausea and morning sickness associated with pregnancy, as well as inflammation, spasm, and other health conditions.
Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) is native to Canada and the southern United States. It is one of an estimated 600 species of yam in the genus Dioscorea, many of them wild species that flourish in damp woodlands and thickets. Wild yam is a perennial, twining vine with pale brown, knotty, woody cylindrical rootstocks, or tubers. The rootstocks are crooked, and bear sideways branches of long creeping runners. The thin reddish-brown stems grow to a length of 5 to 12 meters. The roots initially taste starchy, but soon after taste bitter and acrid.
The wild yam plant has clusters of small, drooping green-white to green-yellow flowers. The heart-shaped leaves are long and broad and long-stemmed, with prominent veins. The upper surface of the leaves is smooth while the underside is downy.
The dried rhizome with roots are used in commercial preparations.
Wild yam is used to treat the following conditions and symptoms.
This plant also produces sweat and stimulates the flow of bile to the duodenum, a part of the small intestine.
Wild yam is available as liquid extract and powdered tuber products.
How to Take It
The following are recommended doses for wild yam.
Overdosing can be potentially poisonous because a substance within wild yam can be toxic.
No harmful drug interactions have been reported.
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