Wild yam is an herbal supplement most often taken by women as an alternative treatment to help manage menopausal symptoms. However, that does not mean that men can't benefit from taking it. The supplement may also help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation caused by arthritis and promote bone health. Talk to your doctor before adding any herbal supplements to your diet.
Good for Your Heart
Thirty-one percent of men in the United States have high cholesterol, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High cholesterol increases your risk of heart disease. Although studies have shown mixed results, the active ingredient in wild yam, diosgenin, may help your body prevent the absorption of cholesterol, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. However, research on the wild yam has been inconsistent, so you shouldn't rely on it to improve your cholesterol levels. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the keys to heart health.
Inflammation and Arthritis
Wild yam also has anti-inflammatory properties, and it has been used as a form of alternative treatment for people with rheumatoid arthritis. A study published in "BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine" in 2013 investigated the effects of a wild yam extract on pain and inflammation in mice. The research found that the extract helped improve both pain and inflammation in the mice without any toxic effects. This study shows promise for men suffering from rheumatoid arthritis, but clinical trials are needed before claims can be made.
The National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases reports that millions of men are at risk of developing osteoporosis. Results of a test-tube study published in 2005 in "Molecular Pharmacology" found that diosgenin, a compound found in wild yam, may help promote bone growth and the healing of fractures by stimulating a bone-growth factor called vascular endothelial growth factor-A. More research and clinical trials are necessary, however, to assess how wild yam may benefit your bones.
Estrogen in Wild Yam
You may worry about taking wild yam because it is a natural source of estrogen. However, MedlinePlus reports that while wild yam does have estrogen activity, your body does not convert it to estrogen. According to the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, some wild yam creams do contain progesterone, but these hormones are synthetic and added by the manufacturer. The center notes that you should not take wild yam if you have any hormone-related illnesses. Always check with your doctor before starting any dietary supplement, including wild yam.
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center: Wild Yam
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Wild Yam
- BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Bioassay-Guided Evaluation of Dioscorea Villosa – An Acute and Subchronic Toxicity, Antinociceptive and Anti-Inflammatory Approach
- Molecular Pharmacology: Diosgenin Induces Hypoxia-Inducible Factor-1 Activation and Angiogenesis Through Estrogen Receptor-Related Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase/Akt and p38 Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinase Pathways in Osteoblasts
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: High Cholesterol Facts
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: Osteoporosis in Men
- MedlinePlus: Wild Yam
Jill Corleone is a registered dietitian and health coach who has been writing and sharing her love of food, nutrition and health with anyone who'll listen for almost 20 years. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Diabetes Self-Management and Working Mother.