Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) is a visceral relaxant and antispasmodic which means that it can relax smooth muscle, particularly that which surrounds the gastro-intestinal tract and uterus. This makes it an ideal herb for colicky and cramping conditions of these organs such as irritable bowel syndrome, gastroenteritis and period pain.
The active chemicals in Wild yam are referred to as steroidal saponins and phytosterols. This means that they impact on the endocrine (or hormone) system. One of these chemicals dioscin, being structurally similar to cholesterol, both inhibits cholesterol absorption from the diet and improves the excretion of cholesterol made in the liver. As Wild Yam is estrogen modulating and contains a precursor to progesterone it is a wonderful herb not only for infertility and menopause but for threatened miscarriage when this is combined with it's antispasmodic action.
The steroidal saponins also have an anti-inflammatory action which means that Wild Yam can be used for rheumatoid arthritis.
1. Bone, K (2007) The Ultimate Herbal Compendium: A Desktop Guide for Herbal Prescribers. Phytotherapy Press: Warwick, Australia.
2. Mills, SY (1988) The Dictionary of Modern Herbalism: A Comprehensive Guide to Practical Herbal Therapy. Healing Arts Press: Vermont, USA.
3. Pengelly, A (2004) The Constituents of Medicinal Plants. CABI Publishing: Washington, USA.
4. Wren, RC, Williamson, EM, Evans, FJ (1998) Potter's New Cyclopaedia of Botanical Drugs and Preparations. The CW Daniel Company Ltd: Essex, UK