Weekly Herb Review #6 – Wild Yam

Common Name: Wild Yam (Devil.?Bones, Colic Root, China Root, Rheumatism Root)

Scientific Name: Dioscorea villosa

Family: Dioscoreaceae (the potato family; named for Pedanius Dioscorides, a Greek physician and naturalist, whose first century De Materia Medica was the basis for herbal knowledge for 1500 hundred years!)

Parts Used: Root

Harvesting: Roots are harvested in the fall
Wild Yam is on the United Plant Savers .. Risk..ist. It has been severely over harvested due to the ..re for menopause..raze. So, please harvest sparingly and sustainable, or don.?use it at all if there is another option.

Constituents/Nutrition: Tannins, Polysaccharides (starches), Saponins (steroidal glycosides .?ause most of the medicinal actions. Provide the building blocks required by the liver to synthesize sex hormones; also decrease inflammation, and stop spasm.) Also high in Zinc, Cobalt, Fiber, Manganese and Sodium.

Properties/Actions: Anti-spasmodic, demulcent, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, diaphoretic, bitter, hormone regulator, liver tonic.

Uses/Indications: Spasm, especially of the GI tract and uterus; helps with passing gall stones because it relaxes the spasm and decreases inflammation; also helps in cases of threatened miscarriage, menstrual irregularities and pain, and colic; inflammatory conditions (arthritis, rheumatism, bowel inflammation, endometriosis)

Folk History/Magical Uses: Wild yam was mentioned in 25 BC in the Pen Tsao Ching (A Chinese ..assic Herbal.. A Mexican variety of Wild Yam was the main ingredient in the first birth control pills created in the 1940’s, and continued to be so until the 70.? It is also considered one of the most widely used herbs in the world today.

Cautions/Side Effects: None known.

Preparation: Tea, tincture, lotion, poultice, capsule, tablet

My Thoughts: I love seeing the beautiful, delicate vine with heart shaped leaves. It is so sweet and womanly! But, its current use frustrates the hell out of me! Because it provides the building blocks for the body to make natural steroids, it is being used by body builders to bulk up! It is also being used in menopausal progesterone creams to stop hot flashes and stuff. The problem is that it doesn.?work that way!!! There is no progesterone in Wild Yam! It has the building blocks to make steroids if you take it internally, not if you rub it on your arm as a cream. It is not a hormone replacement therapy! Let me repeat.?It is not hormone replacement therapy!

I did use Wild Yam during my pregnancy when I started having contractions at ~24 weeks and it worked wonderfully!

Bremnes, L. 1988. The Complete Book of Herbs. Penguin Group, New York.
Gladstar, R. 1993. Herbal Healing for Women. Fireside, New York.
In2Greece. Retrieved October 25, 2005 from http://www.in2greece.com/english/historymyth/history/ancient/dioscorides.htm.
Pederson, M. 1994. Nutritional Herbology. Revised Edition, Wendell W. Whitman Company, Indiana.
Skenderi, G. 2003. Herbal Vade Mecum. Herbacy Press, New Jersey.
Weed, S. 1986. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Ashe Tree Publishing, New York.

Sites to check out
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Wild Yam write up
Purple Sage More great Wild Yam info.
Herb Med Lots of medical research info

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