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Wild Yam: uses, dosage & background

Siski Green / 19 January 2021

The roots and bulb of wild yam have long been used as a herbal remedy for hormonal issues such as menopause symptoms.

Wild Yams in a basket
Wild yam extract is often used today as a PMS remedy

Wild yam is native to the Americas, as well as a part of Asia. It is valued for its effects on hormones.

What is wild yam used for?

The roots and bulb of the plant, or extracts of it, contain plant-based steroids similar those produced in our bodies. For this reason, it has been used to treat the symptoms of menopause, infertility, problems associated with menstruation, sexual desire and osteoporosis. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory, for the treatment of symptoms of arthritis, for example.

What’s the history of wild yam?

Wild yam, also known as American yam, barbasco, China root, is a vine native to North America and part of Asia. The root and bulb have been used for centuries as a medicinal herb, and recently the plant has garnered attention as a potential plant-based treatment for various problems associated with hormones.

What’s the best way to take wild yam?

Wild yam is commonly used as an extract in creams applied to the skin, but you can also take supplements that range in strength from 100 to 400mg.

Does wild yam really work?

Proponents of wild yam point to a substance called diosgenin that the plant contains, which is a steroid. This substance can be used to produce progesterone, oestrogen and cortisone. However, research shows that ingested wild yam or diosgenin from wild yam cannot be processed into progesterone, oestrogen or cortisone, so it’s doubtful whether it works as effectively as when diosgenin is processed in a laboratory.

There have not been enough large-scale controlled clinical trials to say for sure whether wild yam works to treat symptoms of menopause or other hormone-related issues.

As an anti-inflammatory for arthritis wild yam shows promise. Research suggests that wild yam extract may help delay or slow the progression of arthritis. Taking 200mg per kilo of weight has been found to have a beneficial impact on inflammatory markers in rodent studies.

Where can I get wild yam?

Wild yam is available in supplement form from healthfood shops, as well as online.

How long does wild yam take to work?

As there haven’t been long-term clinical trials on humans taking wild yam extract it’s not possible to say how long it will take for effects to be noticed, if at all.

What are the side effects of taking wild yam?

Wild yam is generally considered safe, although there have been reports of vomiting, diarrhoea, and nausea when taken in large doses (more than 400mg per kilo of body weight).

Are there any contraindications when taking wild yam?

As it’s not certain whether or not wild yam has an impact on your hormone levels it’s important to check with your GP if you’re taking any medications relating to hormone conditions, as well as related cancers such as ovarian, uterine or breast cancer.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.