Wild yam, also known as Dioscorea villosa, has widely been used as a hormone-influencing herbal supplement for women, according to the National Institutes of Health. Some of its benefits have been documented by medical studies, and others are based on traditional folklore. Because side effects may include skin irritations, respiratory problems and gastrointestinal discomfort, talk to your doctor before taking wild yam supplements to ensure it’s right for you.
Yam extract supplements may help reduce symptoms of menopause like nocturnal sweating, according to a 2001 research study on the supplement’s effects on female sex hormones published in the “Climacteric” medical journal. Researchers noted that the positive effects were small and stated that more research may be necessary.
A 2005 clinical study in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” concluded that wild yam may “significantly” decrease total cholesterol levels by almost 6 percent and may also affect low-density lipoprotein, which is known as the bad type of cholesterol. The researchers specifically noted that this may have a positive reduction result on the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The 2005 study in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” also found an increased level of sex hormones in women after taking wild yam supplements. The researchers concluded that this may reduce the risk of contracting breast cancer. It may also enhance the libido.
Anecdotal evidence supports the effectiveness of topical creams formulated with wild yam to relieve the symptoms associated with vaginal dryness, according to the National Institutes of Health. The institutes note that this use hasn’t been studied by medical trials but has been supported by the claims of “many women.”
Wild yam extract contains diosgenin. The University of Cincinnati Wellness reports that diosgenin trials on animals found that the active chemical enhanced the growth of breast tissue and the same may be true for humans.
Wild yam has traditionally been prescribed to help prevent against osteoporosis in post-menopausal women due to its hormone enhancing effects, reports the University of Maryland Medical Center. The center says that many commercially prepared wild yam extract supplements contain synthetic progesterone, which may aid this effect.
About this Author
Joshua Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist who has been writing since 2000. His work has appeared in various national and international magazines, including “Honolulu Magazine.” Duvauchelle graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and he earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.