Wild Yam is a plant that has been used in alternative medicine for centuries, mainly to treat symptoms in menopause, rheumatoid arthritis, diverticulosis, muscular and gastro-esophageal cramps and more. It is said that there are over 600 species of wild yam and only 25 of them are considered edible as the rest have a rather bitter taste.
The roots and bulbs of wild yam contain a substance, diosgenin, which seems to relieve these symptoms. One thing to keep in mind is that although wild yam has estrogenic effect, our body does not convert diosgenin into estrogen, but it is the laboratory process that deals with it. This is how DHEA, a hormone that is normally produced in our body, tends to reduce over time. In particular, it is a precursor hormone that our body converts to either progesterone or estrogen (1).
Wild Yam and female hormones
One of the primary uses of wild yam has to do with its connection with female hormones, as it is often used for menopausal problems, premenstrual syndrome, libido, and fertility. However, this is about laboratory DHEA, which you can have through supplementation rather than eating wild yam.
DHEA and Menopause
Often, DHEA is used in menopause to help with symptoms like hot flashes, vaginal dryness, decreased sexual desire. There is still evidence that it can improve bone density, which is often reduced after menopause, thereby helping to prevent osteoporosis. However, further investigations are needed.
DHEA and Fertility
DHEA is often used by fertility specialists to increase the chance of conception. Researchers at Tel Aviv University had better results in treatments for infertility when combined with DHEA supplementation, with the chances of conception being increased three times (2). Other research on giving DHEA to women with limited ovarian reserve (DOR) has shown that it improves ovarian function and increases the chances of pregnancy (3).
Many women swear in it, but there are currently not many studies to support DHEA. As with all hormones, there are points that need attention, and DHEA is no exception. So you need to be careful about the dosage and the nature of the problem, so it is advisable to consult a specialist.
Wild Yam and Diverticulosis
Wild yam seems to be able to help in the case of diverticulosis. It is a condition often found in people over 50, with 30-40% possibility, and is often associated with a high refined carbohydrate and low fiber diet.
The deviations are essentially small “sacks” on the wall of the colon. When inflammation occurs in them, we are talking about diverticulosis, where abdominal pain, fever, and defecation disorders are observed.
Wild yam can help in this case, thanks to its antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory properties. As an antispasmodic it can help reduce the pain caused by abdominal cramps in the inflammatory area. Wild yam extract is often used in combination with valerian, peppermint, cramp bark (symptom of snowflake) to relieve symptoms (4).
DHEA is best avoided by people with hormonal disorders and in cases of hormone-dependent cancers, such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers, and those who are at increased risk for them. It is also not indicated for psychiatric disorders and depression, and those on medication should consult their physician first.