Medicinal Uses

Wild yams have been eaten by humans ever since the Aztecs. It was said that the Aztecs would eat the plant to help during pregnancy. This is very likely since some doctors still recommend wild yams as a part of a regular diet. Within the rhizome are sapogenins known as diosgenin. This diosgenin helps women to regulate menstrual cycles, relieve cramping, and to make pregnancy less painful. Some companies also produce creams that are supposed to have the same effects. However, the overall consensus is that the actual plant would be better to eat.Wild yam photo taken by Zell

Dioscorea villosa L. has made a huge impact in the medicinal in the last century, and not many people give the wild yam its due respect for it. During November of 1941, Russell Marker discovered that the sapogenins in the rhizome could be chemically modified to created natural progesterone. This cheap source of natural progesterone was all that industries needed to then make birth control pills affordable. To this day, a large amount of birth control pills are still made from the sapogenins from Dioscorea villosa L.
Note: The progesterone produced from wild yam sapogenins can be called natural progesterone because it has the exact same chemical structure. It does not mean that wild yams contain natural progesterone. All together, this means wild yams cannot stop pregnancy and you should not believe anything that says wild yams can be used as a contraceptive. The realistic uses for wild yam rhizomes are listed at the top of the page.

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