Information on Wild Yam

Latin NameDioscorea villosa
Other NamesMexican yam
Part UsedRhizome
Herb FormsTincture, capsule, cream, bulk herb.
AffectsEndocrine system, Digestive system
CautionsNone noted, although large doses of the tincture have been reported to produce nausea.
Botanical InfoA vine in the Lily family with heart-shaped leaves and greenish-yellow flowers grown for their tubers.
DescriptionWild yam relieves spasms and inflammation, especially of the digestive tract and uterus and is used for colic, nausea, morning sickness, and gastroenteritis. It is particularly suitable for chronic flatulence. Wild yam is also considered a relaxant and is useful for hysteria, dysmenorrhea, and menstrual cramps. It contains diosgenin, which is used in the synthesis of progesterone through a series of synthetic chemical steps, utilizing a number of solvents. This is the basis for numerous claims made for this herb--that it contains "natural progesterone," that it contains anabolic compounds that can help weight-lifters put on more muscle mass quickly, and that as a natural birth-control herb, it can prevent pregnancy. None of these claims has any basis in fact, according to scientific literature or traditional use. Wild yam is not effective as an anabolic herb, and it neither increases testosterone levels in men, nor is it very effective as a birth-control herb. Some women who were using it subsequently got pregnant! As to whether it has any effects on progesterone levels in women who are taking it, that remains to be seen. There is little or nothing in the historical record about the herb's popular uses that would indicate that Dioscorea villosa has these effects, though they should perhaps not be discounted altogether. Manufacturers of products, such as topical creams and other preparations that claim to be effective hormone regulators, relieving undesirable symptoms that can occur with PMS and menopause, have been known to add synthetic progesterone to increase effectiveness. These products do use wild yam, soybeans, or other sources of raw compounds to synthesize progesterone, but that hardly means that they contain "natural progesterone." For all the chemical solvents that touch the natural material, and all the steps of purification, it might as well be synthetic progesterone. Proper hormone balance comes from general health, and a number of herbs may help by providing a mild hormonal regulation, such as the herb vitex. Time will tell what action wild yam tincture or other whole-plant extracts have on the human hormonal system.

Wild Yam has a taste of SWEET, ACRID and a temperature of COOL.


Decoction1-2 cups tea 2-3 x daily
Tincture10 drops - 2 droppersful 2-3 x daily

Ailments Treated by Wild Yam

AilmentTreatment SupportApplication
Colic, adultintestinal antispasmodictea, tincture, capsule
Intestine, knottedantispasmodictincture, tea
Motion sicknessantispasmodictincture, capsule
Gastroenteritisanti-inflammatorytincture, tea
Morning sicknessanti-nauseanttincture, tea


McGuffin, M. et al. 1997. Botanical Safety Handbook. Boca Raton: CRC Press.
Felter, H.W. and J.U. Lloyd. 1983. (1898). King's Dispensatory. Portland, OR: Eclectic Medical Publications.
Wren, R.C. 1988. Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs. Essex: C.W. Daniel Co. Ltd.
Fox, W. 1932. Family Botanic Guide. Sheffield: William Fox and Sons, Ltd.
Sherman, J. 1979. The Complete Botanical Prescriber. Corvallis: Corvallis Naturopathic Clinic.