Wild yam (sci. dioscorea) is a plant that, due to its effects, is sometimes called the “woman’s plant”. Wild yam was even used by Native Americans as a form of contraception. The claim that it has this effect is now widely disputed, although wild yam was indeed the model for the first type of contraceptive pill in 1942.
The history of wild yam
In principle, it is a crop plant. There are up to 800 different types of wild yam, which explains why they are often different in appearance. Wild yam is mainly found in the Tropics. In Europe, you can find only two types. The tradition of using wild yam has its roots in Asia and South America.
In its countries of origin, wild yam is often used as a staple food and medicinal plant. In this part of the world, you seldom find the root sold fresh, which is why it mainly exists only as a ready-made product. The taste is similar to that of a potato or sweet chestnut. However, when raw, the tuber contains toxic elements, and is, thus, poisonous. That is why it should always be cooked and consumed in this manner.
Wild yam as a remedy
In Chinese medicine, wild yam is used as a remedy for hormonal imbalances in women. This is because the root contains diosgenin, which has a structural similarity with the body’s own sex hormone, progesterone. So wild yam can be used to counteract estrogen dominance, which can have the following consequences:
Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
Onset of endometriosis
Development of Hashimoto's thyroiditis
Using wild yam for PMS
The plant contains a lot of vitamins and minerals, like Vitamin B, C, zinc, copper, and iron. Thanks to its combination of nutrients, wild yam can help with premenstrual complaints (PMS). Estrogen dominance can be the cause of headaches, mood swings, sleep problems, cramps, and even a feeling of tightness in the chest. The diosgenin in the root promotes hormonal balance.
Using wild yam during pregnancy
In some cases, wild yam can also have a beneficial effect during pregnancy, and prevent nausea and water retention. However, before consumption you should consult your doctor, so as to avoid unwanted side effects during pregnancy. If the dose is too high, it can result in side effects such as skin rashes or fatigue.
Using wild yam during the menopause
Wild yam is also a popular remedy to use against symptoms of the menopause. During the menopause, women develop estrogen dominance and an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. Wild yam can be consumed to counteract a dominance of estrogen. Just before the onset of the menopause, when a woman’s cycles become more infrequent, wild yam can be taken on a regular basis, so as to reduce hot flushes or sleep problems, for example.
When should you take wild yam?
Note that the capsules should not be taken throughout the entire cycle. We recommend that women take one capsule of wild yam per day during the second half of the menstrual cycle starting with ovulation (middle of cycle) until menstruation starts.
Wild yam can be bought in various forms without the need for a prescription: capsules, creams, or vaginal gel.