Wild Yam’s History Around the Globe

Wild Yam has along, turbulent history with the rest of the world. Its scientific name is Dioscorea villosa, but it has a long list of names and jargons. Wild yam is recognised in the traditional medicine of countries in Central America, North America, China, and Japan. Today, it is still widely recognised as one of the herbal pillars of the woman’s reproductive health.

Wild Yam in Central America

Countries in Central America, particularly the long-gone civilisations of Aztec and Mayans, treat it as a pain reliever. As a pain-reliever, Aztecs and Mayans used it to relieve menstrual pains, and labor pain. Most of the wild yam patch flourish in areas that are subtropical or tropical in climate. So, it is just apt for wild yams to grow in warmer regions like the Central America.

Wild Yam in North America 

Wild yam is native in North America and China, but then it hit Africa, India, Peru, and some states in America. For these countries, they believed that wild yam is rich in inflammatory properties, which is why it is fondly referred to as the colic root or the rheumatism root. In North America, the wild yam is referred to as the Mexican yam as it is abundant in Mexico. Wild yam is also used to treat digestive problems, colic, dysmenorrhea, diverticulitis, and more.

Wild Yam in Asia

For two millennia, the wild yam root is amongst the most sought-after root medicine of the Chinese people. In China, wild yams are referred to as shan yao. Shan Yao in China is used to bring heat to the ovary. The traditional Chinese medicine also refers to it as the “chi” giver or an energy giver.

Sometimes, it is used as an herbal ornament to Chinese houses and some special events. The Shan Yao or wild yam is included in the “Pill of Eight Ingredients.” The “Pill of Eight Ingredients” are herbs and plants that are believed to treat various bodily disorders. These disorders include high blood sugar, nephritis, and hyperthyroidism.

In Asia, the root is cooked in stews and vegetable soups. These vegetable soups are believed to treat several illnesses, including flu and pain. Wild yam is also believed to relieve fatigue, loss of appetite, and sudden weight loss. The Chinese believed that it could regulate urination, thirst, and sweating. Now, the treatment of wild yam as an edible vegetable has long been gone. Most of the folks now use it for medicinal purposes only.

Diosgenin is a type of plant hormone that is abundant in the roots of the wild yam. A Japanese scientist first discovered this plant hormone in the wake of 1936. The diosgenin discovery in the wild yam root paved the way to a newfound path of wondrous medicinal discoveries.

The diosgenin leads the way for the production of engineered human hormones like the progesterone. Hormonal creams like cortisone (treatment for allergies) was conceived from the diosgenin discovery. The discovery of diosgenin also paved the way for the production of contraceptive pills (hormonal prevention of ovulation) to start.


Today, the medicinal discoveries of wild yam did not stop where it once began. The medicinal discoveries of wild yam keep on evolving and evolving each year.These changes are essential because it shows the effort of organic science in refining its ways for safer usage.

More herbalists today, are taking advantage of wild yam’s hormonal activities in the human body. Today, wild yam is available in different forms like liquid, tinctures, serums, capsules, gels, creams, and more. Some even infuse wild yam in deodorants, lotions, and general body hygiene-related products.Currently, wild yam is believed to be a cure and supporting agent for menopausal symptoms and the general reproductive health of women.

The Medicinal Anatomy of Wild Yam

The wild yam has many names. People refer to it as the yuma, rheumatism root, devil’s bones, colic root, shan yao or simply wild yam. It is identified within the family of Dioscoreaceae. Some of the key components of wild yam are tannins, starch, saponins, diosgenin, dioscin, phytosterols, and alkaloids. The prominent components of wild yam are diosgenin and dioscin.

The medicinal parts of wild yam can be sectioned into three parts. These parts are the root, the rhizome, and the outer bark of the roots. It has a vine that can extend up to 20 feet. Its leaves are tiny and heart shaped. Its flowers are delicate and green. However, the most venerated part of the wild yam plant is its root.


The rhizome of the wild yam is pale brown. It comes in a cylindrical shape and is almost twisted in form. Saponin is located in the rhizome of the wild yam. The saponin found in the rhizome can be manufactured into several synthetic human hormones like estrogen, cortisone, and progesterone. Diosgenin, which is a kind of Saponin is not a natural human sex hormone, although some claims it to be. The body can’t simply turn diosgenin into a sex hormone, but labs use it to help engineer a sex hormone.

Outer Bark of the Wild Yam Root

Saponins are also abundant in the outer bark of the wild yam’s root. This time though, dioscin and diosgenin are present in the yam’s bark. Aside from its hormonal powers, all the mentioned properties help together in soothing muscles, especially in the pelvic part (abdomen and uterus). These properties are also anti-inflammatory. Meaning, people with rheumatic symptoms might get a little help from wild yam.

The anti-inflammatory properties of the bark are also good for pains experienced after surgery (especially in the pelvic part). The muscle-relaxing activities of these properties help to alleviate the pain from menstrual cramps too.

The Root of the Wild Yam

The root of the wild yam is arguably the most famous part of the wild yam. The root of the wild yam is abundant in properties that can regulate cholesterol in the blood.Lowering cholesterol in your blood is such a huge help in preventing gallstones, obesity, cardiac problems, fatty liver, and more. 

Your Takeaway

Many herbs and plants grow here on Earth. All of them has a key role to play in the ecosystem.It is believed that herbs are here for a reason. So, let them flourish. Let’s take advantage of their medicinal benefits.

Let us not forget however that herbs, when mixed with other herbs, can create a powerful mixture of medicinal goodness. So, don’t shy away from products that have a mixture of chasteberries, wild yams, or motherwort.

These herbal wonders can only be good enough if we make a conscious effort to take our health seriously. Take time to eat a whole balanced diet, live a proactive life, and adhere to your doctor’s advice. All these will contribute to the effectivity of the herbal supplements.

Your body is a living wonder of biological miracles, so let us try to take care of it everyday. Choosing the best herbal alternative for you has consequences for your body. Although years of long tradition and study has proved wild yam to be a good herbal companion for human, being cautious is still a must.