Wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), also known as Colic root, is a somewhat obscure but incredibly potent plant. The ancient herbal medicine has been used as a hormone regulator and a muscle and nerve relaxant for abdominal or intestinal cramping for centuries, making it a boon for women and those suffering from stomach cramps. But are wild yam benefits right for treating modern hormonal imbalances such as PMS and menopause?
Wild yam is a tuberous vine that flourishes in forested areas. It is native to both North America and China. As a perennial, the woody tubers produce large and bright green teardrop shaped leaves with clusters of small white flowers that can grow up to 30 feet tall. The plant's roots and leaves can be prepared into oils, liquid extracts, creams, and powders that can be ingested or applied topically to the skin for their healing properties.
Wild yam's medicinal properties have been utilized by traditional Chinese medicine for at least 2,00 years. The plant was first used in the West in the 18th and 19th centuries to treat menstrual cramps, stomachaches and severe coughs, and in the 20th century scientists discovered that the plant's roots contain diosgenin, which can be chemically manipulated into progesterone. Although wild yam does not produce progesterone in the human body when ingested, the diosgenin contained in the herbal remedy can balance the endocrine system and may act as protection against cancer-inducing compounds released by many modern-day petroleum products.
Wild Yam Benefits
The presence of diosgenin in wild yam, which has been shown to help balance the endocrine system and tone the liver, may also help block the absorption of cholesterol. The plant also contains natural estrogen, which can help treat the symptoms of osteoporosis, PMS and menopause, and is often combined with black cohosh (another estrogen-inducing herb) in tinctures of creams. The steroidal saponins in wild yam also create a relaxing effect, especially in the intestinal tract and stomach, helping to reduce cramps and inflammation in those parts of the body. The herb can also therefore help to alleviate stress and restlessness.
How to Use It
There are different ways to use wild yam, but be sure to consult your doctor if you are looking to ingesting the herb via a tincture or a capsule. A wild yam oil or cream can be applied to soft skin areas (face, inner arms & thighs, chest, stomach) for optimal absorption into the blood stream.
Always consult your doctor or naturopath prior to ingesting wild yam, as many herbal remedies can have intense side effects. Pregnant women, nursing mothers, and anyone with protein S deficiency are advised against using wild yam.
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