Wild yam is commonly indicated for feminine health, yet it has a wide range of medicinal benefits for both men and women. It grows as a vine in Asia, North America and Mexico, and its rhizome and roots are harvested for medicinal preparations. The scientific name of wild yam is Dioscorea villosa. Some of its other common names are Mexican Wild Yam, Shan-yao, China Root, Yuma, Colic Root, and Aluka.
Wild yam is a Native American herb that has been traditionally used to treat conditions, such as morning sickness and labor, as well as colic, gastritis, rheumatism and asthma. This is because wild yam has anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic and anti-spasmodic properties.
Wild Yam and Progesterone
There is a progesterone concern related to taking wild yam. Wild yam contains a precursor to progesterone, diosgenin, however, the body cannot convert this saponin into progesterone on its own. Progesterone is processed from wild yam only in a laboratory setting.
Wild yam helps to relax muscles as an anti-spasmodic agent. This property may help to provide relief from the cramps of menstruation, as well as for labor pains and other conditions that are relieved through muscle relaxation.
Blood Sugar and Cholesterol
Wild yam has positive effects on blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It contains the alkaloid Dioscoretine, which was studied for its effects on lowering the levels of blood sugar in the body. Likewise, it may boost the level of HDL cholesterol in the blood, which plays the important role of moving the other cholesterol to the liver for processing.
Digestion and Metabolism
Wild yam may also act as a digestive and metabolic aid. It may help to treat or provide relief for gastrointestinal conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome, colic and gas. It is also said to work as an agent to regulate or balance the metabolism of the body.
Other benefits of wild yam include its possible effect for nerve-related conditions, and for pain relief, uterine care, circulation, rheumatoid arthritis inflammation, kidney ailments and for treating the gallbladder.
Although wild yam cannot be converted to progesterone within the body, there is a concern about taking Wild Yam, related to certain health conditions. It contains diosgenin, a natural steroid that may have an estrogenic reaction within the body. This may be important to note to your doctor, if taking other hormone-based medications. Its safety and efficacy is also not well documented in the cases of breastfeeding and preparations for babies and young children, even though it may help with colic.