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Wild Yam (Wild Yam, Wild Sweet Potato)

January 15, 2021
Wild Yam (Wild Yam, Wild Sweet Potato) Properties and benefits

Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), also known as wild yam or wild sweet potato , is a climbing plant native to North America1 , whose tuberous roots have a long history as a food and natural treatment for different ailments. Native Americans and early settlers are said to have used this tuber for the natural treatment of diverticulosis, biliary colic, rheumatoid arthritis, menopausal hot flashes, and fertility problems, among other health conditions. Due to its expansion, it currently grows wild throughout the Caribbean region and South America; In countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia it is not only recognized for its medicinal value, but it is also an important food source.

Keep reading below to know in detail what are the properties of wild yam, how it is prepared and what are the main side effects or contraindications to consider.

Properties and benefits: What is wild yam good for?

Like the other species of yam , wild yam serves as food. It is a tuber with high nutritional value, generally consumed by farmers and rural populations. It is rich in starchy carbohydrates, fiber, protein, essential minerals (iron, calcium, phosphorus) and vitamins (A, C, group B). Its consumption helps maintain a good nutritional state, raises energy levels and strengthens the immune system.

However, these are not the only benefits attributed to it. As we mentioned earlier, its use in natural medicine dates back several centuries, and has managed to reach our days.

After various investigations, the bulb and roots of the wild sweet potato have been found to contain a chemical called diosgenin , which appears to influence the production of several human hormones, such as estrogen and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA).2 3 . In addition to these findings, it is known that it is a phytoestrogenic food, that is,its plant compounds have an effect on the body similar to estrogen. Precisely, everything indicates that the healthy benefits of wild yam are due to these properties, although the scientific community insists that more information is still required to support these claims.

Current scientific evidence suggests that the consumption of this yam helps:

  • Regulate blood sugar levels. According to notes from the United States National Library of Medicine4 , Wild sweet potato can help regulate blood sugar levels thanks to a substance calleddioscoretin, which is found in the yam plant, including wild varieties. After studying the possible effects of dioscoretin, the researchers reported that this substance offers positive results in the control of blood glucose.5 6
  • Reduce the proliferation of cancer cells. During a study in Japan, it was observed that wild yam could reduce the risk of cancer due to a compound present in the rhizome of this plant. It is dioscin , a substance known for its anti-proliferative effects on leukemic cells7 On the other hand, an investigation published in theAmerican Journal of Chinese Medicinediscovered that “wild yam extract can act as a phyto-estrogen and reduce the proliferation of MCF-7 human breast carcinoma cells.8
  • Improve cholesterol levels. According to a study published in the Journal of Lipid Research , the diosgenin found in wild yams contributes to raising HDL (“good” cholesterol) levels and lowering LDL (“bad” cholesterol) levels.9  Another animal study suggests that wild yam supplementation may be beneficial in controlling hypercholesterolemia.10
  • Relieve diverticulosis. Wild yam can help treat the intestinal disorder known as diverticulosis (formation of small pockets in the wall of the colon). The resulting inflammation in the intestine causes the person to experience pain, constipation, diarrhea and even fever11 . Some studies have reported that being a good antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory agent, wild sweet potato can help reduce abdominal pain and cramps around the inflamed area.12
  • Reduce photo-aging. Studies indicate that the disogenin found in wild yam extract may have depigmenting effects, which could help with health conditions such as melasma, melanodermatitis, and solar lentigo. These problems can ultimately cause hyper-pigmentation, a condition that although usually harmless and quite common, can cause frustration due to the presence of dark spots and premature aging of the skin.13
  • Relieve symptoms of menopause . Without a doubt, this is the best known medicinal use of wild yam. In many regions it is a popular alternative to estrogen hormone replacement therapy for treating menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, and mood swings. However, so far there is little scientific evidence to support such use. During a study dedicated to investigating the effects of wild yam cream for treating hot flashes in 23 women with postmenopausal symptoms, a reduction in daytime symptoms was observed, but no significant differences were actually found between the placebo group and the group with active treatment.14 Short-term treatment with topical wild sweet potato extract appears to have little or no effect on menopausal symptoms. (It should be noted that the cream not only contained wild yam, and that there was also a significant dropout rate by the participants)

Another study that examined hormone levels in postmenopausal women after ingesting yam extract also showed no appreciable changes in their hormone levels. 15

Note: despite the limited evidence, there are numerous testimonials from women who claim to have noticed relief in menopause after using wild yam supplements, or through its consumption as part of a regular diet.

Other uses and possible benefits

The website suggests that compounds in wild yam might also be helpful in treating other conditions, including:

  • The vaginal dryness , especially during and after menopause
  • The premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  • The dysmenorrhea (painful periods) and other menstrual disorders
  • the endometriosis
  • Bone weakness ( osteoporosis )16
  • Neuritis and rheumatoid arthritis
  • the asthma
  • The lack of sex drive in men and women
  • Gallbladder problems
  • The nausea of pregnancy
  • Fertility problems (many women take wild yam to get pregnant, and even to increase the chance of having twins)

More studies are still required to confirm its effectiveness.

How to take wild yam

Although its tuberous roots are a traditional food in many regions, wild yam is widely used as a supplement . We can find it in the form of a liquid extract, dry herb, powder, or in the form of capsules and pills. The liquid preparation (extract) is usually diluted to take as a tea or infusion. There are also wild yam creams for topical use.

Before taking wild yam supplements it is important to consider what the correct dosage might be . Studies in rodents suggest that supplementation with Dioscorea villosa offers benefits when administered between 9.7 and 37.7 mg / kg of body weight. If we take this value to a human dosage range, we have that the approximate dose of wild yam ranges between 0.8 and 3 mg / kg of body weight17.

  • Dosage of wild yam capsules : 2-4 per day
  • Wild yam tincture dosage : ½ teaspoon 3-5 times daily

Keep in mind that natural products are not always safe and that excessive consumption can cause adverse effects in some people. Other factors such as age and general health are also essential when it comes to avoiding risks.

Side effects and contraindications

So far there are not enough studies to support the safety of wild yam as a natural remedy. Therefore, it is recommended to consult a doctor before using it, especially if you are pregnant , nursing , suffer from any disease or are taking medication .

The use of therapeutic doses has not been associated with negative side effects, however there are some contraindications to take into account, for example:

  • The University of Maryland Medical Center warns that wild yam extract could interact with estradiol , an active ingredient in some birth control pills and in hormone replacement therapy.18
  • Preliminary evidence suggests that wild yam is weakly fibrotic , and that prolonged consumption may cause some degree of fibrosis in the kidney19 . It is not recommended for people suffering from any type of kidney condition.
  • It has also been reported that there is a possibility of allergic reactions . Discontinue use if you experience a rash, swelling of the tongue or lips, difficulty breathing, or swelling in the throat.
  • High doses taken orally can cause stomach upset . People with peptic ulcers should avoid regular consumption of wild sweet potato.

Frequent questions

Does wild yam help increase breast size in women?

Breast augmentation is known as one of the traditional uses of wild yam. This effect is said to be due to the content of diosgenin , a hormone-acting substance that helps regulate female hormone levels naturally. Its impact on estrogen and progesterone levels appears to contribute to breast growth, in the same way that it occurs during ovulation or menstruation.

In case you want to use wild yam to enlarge your chest, you can consider different options. It is usually taken in the form of tea, capsules, extracts, or applied to the skin as a cream (stimulating massage).

Note : Always consult your doctor before using wild sweet potato to increase the size of your breasts, especially if you have an estrogen-sensitive health condition.

What is the wild yam plant like?

This plant is a herbaceous vine with slender stems that branch and entwine around adjacent vegetation and fences (climber). It belongs to the Dioscoráceas family and its origin is located in North America. Its main features include:

  • It can reach a length of approximately 3 meters.
  • The color of its stems usually varies between light green, pale yellow, reddish green and dark red.
  • It has wrinkled, bright green leaves and a pointed heart shape.
  • It develops tiny flowers , both female and male.
  • It produces a fruit in the form of a capsule, and this in turn contains the seeds of the plant.
  • Wild yams develop tuberous roots similar to potatoes or sweet potatoes , but larger (they can weigh up to 70 kg). They have rough brown skin and starchy white flesh.
  • This plant can grow in different types of habitats , preferring typical savannas, sandy savannas, forests, scrublands, wet meadows, power line spaces and railways in wooded areas.
  • It typically benefits from occasional wildfires and other types of disturbances that reduce competition from tall canopy trees.
  • For its cultivation , moist soil conditions and partial or total exposure to sunlight are recommended. Although it can survive in the shade, it is less likely to produce flowers and seed capsules. It is very resistant to common pests and diseases.

How to prepare wild yam for menopause?

One of the most common preparations to relieve hot flashes and other symptoms of menopause is wild yam tea . Although there are different recipes to do it, here we suggest a simple and effective alternative:

  1. After peeling a yam root, cut it into pieces and place them in a non-metallic container.
  2. Cover the container with water and bring to the fire to boil.
  3. Once it reaches the boiling point, bring the heat to low and let the yams cook slowly for 20 minutes.
  4. After that time, remove the pot from the heat, strain the cooking water, reserve it in a clean container and let it cool to store it in the fridge.
  5. Drink 1-2 cups of this infusion every day for noticeable relief from bothersome symptoms.

Another form of consumption is the capsules of wild yam extract , which can be purchased in health food and homeopathy stores, in pharmacies or in online stores such as Amazon. It is always recommended to opt for an organic and pure product, with a significant concentration of active compounds.

For its part, wild yam creams are often effective in treating other menopausal symptoms, especially vaginal dryness and other skin disorders caused by the drastic hormonal changes of this stage. Choose a quality cream, with a high percentage of natural extracts and free of oils, silicones, parabens or dyes.

Is wild yam good for men?

Although the most popular benefits of this tuber are associated with female health, men can also use it as a supplement. Compounds in wild yam can help raise testosterone levels , increasing vitality and sexual drive.

It also helps them fight the risk of osteoporosis, relieve symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, and treat gallbladder problems.

Are wild yam creams and natural progesterone creams the same?

No. Wild yam creams can be confused with natural progesterone creams, but they are not the same. Generally, wild yam creams are made from the root extract and have only a minimal concentration of added progesterone (low therapeutic effect). On the contrary, natural progesterone creams contain hormones synthesized from wild yam, providing a considerable hormonal dose (significant therapeutic effects).

What other names does it have?

Wild yam is known by different names depending on the region. The most common are wild yam, wild sweet potato, wild sweet potato, Mexican wild yam, and devil’s bone, among others. The common name of the species is Dioscorea villosa .



My name is Louise Hammond, and I am the creator of this website, a place to find information about tubers, bulbs and medicinal roots. In I show the properties, benefits, characteristics, photos and images, ways of growing and how to make delicious meals from starchy vegetables.

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