In 1942 chemist Russel E. Marker discovered that he could use the Mexican wild yam to produce a synthetic form of the hormone progesterone. It was an immediate success and this plant became famous, yet the synthetic use of this natural plant came with side effects such as increased risk of cancer, birth defects and permanent infertility. Today herbalists are helping the world to see the value of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) in its pure, whole form, As a natural herb, wild yam actually prevents the problems that the synthetic version creates. Wild yam has been shown to prevent cancer, relieve rheumatism and menstrual problems and prevent miscarriage.
Wild yam (Also known as Colic Root, Rheumatism Root, Chinese Yam, Bitter Yam) has historically been used to treat a variety of problems, such as cancer, diarrhea, colic, muscle spasms, painful menstruation and rheumatism- In large doses it has been used as a diuretic and an expectorant. Historically it was also used to ease the passage of small gallstones.
A Female Glandular Tonic
Wild yam is a winding vine with a starchy yellow rhizome similar to a potato. It grows in Mexico, Canada and the United States. Wild yams contain a sapogenin called diosgenin. Diosgenin is a precursor to the hormone progesterone. Yams do not. actually contain progesterone, but they do contain "plant estrogen" which does produce estrogenic effects which have been shown to be valuable in relieving female problems.
Wild yam extract has been shown to reduce the fatigue, inflammation, pain and stress related to menstruation. Wild yam is a valuable antispasmodic, therefore is also helpful in relieving menstrual cramps.
In pregnant women, it is prompt in relieving the nausea associated with morning sickness and can help prevent miscarriage. It has also been used to relieve the after pains of childbirth. Wild yam has been used by some as a natural contraceptive. When taken over a long period, it causes a temporary sterility that ends when the women discontinues wild yam supplements. Caution should be used when using wild yam as a contraceptive because it may not be effective in preventing pregnancy.
Helps Inflammatory Conditions
Historically, wild yam was used to help reduce inflammation. Scientific studies show that diosgenin found in wild yam has an anti-inflammatory effect in animals. In humans, this winding vine has proven very helpful in calming the inflammed joints that accompany rheumatism. It also relieves abdominal pain by soothing the inflammed tissues of the stomach and intestines. Wild yam has been used to stop diarrhea and to clear out the gas and obstructions associated with colic. Wild yam may also prevent spasmodic asthma.
Recent Scientific Findings
With the use of wild yam in commercial products, there have been many recent scientific studies of the plant and its medicinal values. Wild yam has been shown to have an anti-cancer activity in animals. In vitro, it acts as an anti-fungal. Wild yam has also been shown to lower blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels.
Yam has long been used to nourish, balance and support the female glandular system. Laboratories use Mexican wild yam (which contains diosgenin) to make DHEA, progesterone and other hormones. Today, more than 30 million plants are harvested annually in Mexico alone.That's why Rosemary Gladstar said in her book, Herbal Healing for Women, "wild yam is the most widely used herb in the world today." (Simon & Schuster, 1993)
Many wild yam products do not contain the quality or species of wild yam most nourishing to the female glandular system. Nature's Sunshine ensures that only the very best wild yam root and proper species (Dioscorea villosa) is used.