Dioscorea villosa

According to many herbalists, wild yam is a good sedative that can do double duty by relieving neugalgia and gas.

Other Names: China Root, Colic Root. Devil’s Bones,Rheumatism Root, Yuma

There are upwards of 150 varieties of Dioscorea, many, like the potato, being edible.

The plant has small greenish-yellow flowers. The male flowers are in drooping panicles; the female ones in drooping spicate racemes.

Wild Yam as an Herb for Medicinal Uses

Wild YamThe medicinal part is the dried rhizome with the roots. The taste is insipid at first, then acrid. The leaves are odorless.

Wild yam is helpful to the liver and the endocrine system.

Wild Yam’s traditional use is for easing menstrual cramps. Its antispasmodic property is beneficial for any kind of muscular spasm and colic, such as intestinal and bilious colic, flatulence, ovarian and uterine pain; for poor circulation and neuralgia; for the inflammatory stage of rheumatory arthritis; and for abdominal and intestinal cramping.

Wild Yam can be very beneficial for nervousness, restlessness and other nervous conditions. As a stimulant for increased bile flow, it can help relieve hepatic congestion, bilious colic and gallstones.

Also known to have a therapeutic action on overall liver health, it is believed that wild yam root’s ability to lower blood cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure indirectly helps the liver by increasing its efficiency and reducing stress.

Its steroidal saponins are also anti-inflammatory, making it a useful herb when treating rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory conditions of the bowel. Its diuretic effect, combined with the antispasmodic action, soothes painful conditions of the urinary tract.

Valuable also in painful cholera morbus with cramps, neuralgic affections, spasmodic hiccough and spasmodic asthma.

Notable Note: Wild Yam is used industrially as an active agent in the half-synthesis of steroid hormones and for the manufacture of homeopathic preparations.

Did You Know?

Wild yam contains hormonal substances very similar to progesterone, and in fact was the sole source of the hormones used in manufacturing the Pill until 1970.


Men with prostate cancer should also avoid taking wild yam.

Pregnant women should not take wild yam because it may stimulate the uterus to contract, possibly causing a miscarriage.

Because very little information is available on how wild yam might affect an infant or a small child, its use is not recommended while breast-feeding or during early childhood.

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