Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)
Wild Yam is a perennial vine which twines around thickets and hedges and over bushes and fences. The stem grows from 5 to 18 feet long. The slender, tuberous rootstock is crooked and laterally branched. Broadly ovate and cordate, the leaves are from 2 to 6 inches long and about three-fourths as wide, with fine hairs underneath. They are usually alternate, but the lower leaves sometimes grow in twos and fours.
The small greenish-yellow flowers bloom during May through August, the male flowers in drooping panicles, the female in drooping, spicate racemes. The fruit is a three-winged capsule containing winged seeds.
Family Dioscoreaceae (Yam family)
Other Names: Colic root, Rheumatism root, China root
Flowers: May – August
Parts Used: Root and rhizome
Habitat: Wet woods. Connecticut to Tennessee; Texas to Minnesota.
History: In 1943 the scientist Russell Marker astonished the world when, on a shoestring budget, he made two kilos of the female hormone progesterone from the wild Mexican yam (Dioscorea mexicana). Until 1970, diosgenin, derived from the wild yam, was the sole source of the hormonal material used to make the contraceptive pill.
Constituents: Dioscin, Trillin, Diosgenin, Phytostrols, Dioscorine, Tannins, Starch.
Properties: Antispasmodic, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Expectorant.
Main Uses: Rheumatoid arthritis, colic, threatened miscarriage, menstrual cramps.Wild yam has traditionally been used for easing menstrual cramping and for threatened miscarriage. Its antispasmodic action makes it good for flatulence and colic caused by muscle spasm. The herb also promotes the flow of bile and so is sometimes used to ease the colic of gallstones. Wild yam is anti-inflammatory (because of its steroidal saponins) and herbalists prescribe it for the inflammatory stage of rheumatoid arthritis. This herb also has a diuretic effect which, combined with its antispasmodic property, makes it benefit painful conditions of the urinary tract. Its antispasmodic action also makes it useful for treating poor circulation and neuralgia.Wild yam may help to lower high cholesterol. It has been reported that it raises serum HDL (good cholesterol) levels.
Preparation And Dosages:
Infusion: Steep 1 teaspoon root in 1 cup water for 30 minutes. Take 1 cup in the course of the day, a mouthful at a time.
Tincture: Fresh root (1:2), dry root (1:5) in 60% alcohol. Take 30 to 60 drops up to 4 times a day.