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Plant Family:

Dioscoreaceae family


Habitat & Cultivation: 

Wild Yam is native to Eastern North America. This plant can be found down in Texas, and Florida, but stretches all the way up to Michigan and Ontario. In the 18th and 19th centuries, wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) to treat menstrual cramps and problems related to childbirth, as well as for upset stomach and coughs. Wild Yam was used by Native Americans and eclectic physicians for a wide variety of complaints relating to the gut and gynecologic conditions. Popular traditional uses in Appalachia include pains associated with rheumatism and arthritis, colic and intestinal cramps, proving itself a reliable antispasmodic and anti-inflammatory. In more recent history its popularity has grown due to the incorrect assumption of the plant’s ability to increase progesterone levels and treat gynecological issues (Romm, 2015). 

Parts Used/Collection: 

The root of the plant is used medicinally.

Herbal Actions: 

  • Antispasmodic

  • Anti-inflammatory

  • Anti-rheumatic

  • Cholagogue

  • Diaphoretic


  • GI- reduces inflammation and pain associated with intestinal cramping. Flatulence, diverticulitis, nausea and vomiting, inflammatory bowel disease. Gallbladder colic. Relax the gall duct – to aid the passage of gallstones and gravel. Acute pain of cholelithiasis and cholecystitis.

  • MSK- rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory disorders of the joints

  • GU- dysmenorrhea, ovarian cyst, ovarian torsion. Hormonal disorders. Improve quality and quantity of cervical mucus. Optimize estrogen.

  • Also given the antispasmodic herbal action (reduces smooth muscle spasms) - consider as possible tx strategy for frequent BH ctx. And given the anti-inflammatory herbal action - consider as possible tx strategy for cases of inflammation and/or injury.


  • Large doses reported to cause vomiting; inflammation or liver and kidneys at high doses (790 mg/kg/d) for 4 wks.

Plant Constituents: 

steroidal saponins, diosgenin

System Affinities:

  • GI

  • Smooth muscle

  • Gallbladder


  • Sweet, bitter, cooling; VP-, Ko.


  • Tincture: (1:5 in 40%) 2 - 4 mL 3x/day

  • Decoction: 1 - 2 tsp of herb in 1 cup of water. Boil, then simmer for 10-15 mins. Drink 3x/day

  • Keep in mind the relevant herbal actions for whole plant tincture and decoction, which does not include the actions that are misunderstood as pertaining to “progesteronic” effects found only in products where the diosgenin was converted to human identical progesterone in a lab.


Hoffman reports no side effects or drug interactions. This week’s powerpoint notes Dioscorea as Safety Class 1. However, vomiting and liver/kidney inflammation has been linked to large doses (over 790 mg/day).


Personal Experience:

I have used witch hazel for postpartum and hemorrhoids. It is very coolin g and healing and helps to remove the hemorrhoids. 



Frawley, D., & Lad, V. (2001). The yoga of herbs. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press


Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press: Vermont.


Mills, S., & Bone, K. (2005). The essential guide to herbal safety. Elsevier Health Sciences.


Romm, A. (2010). Botanical medicine for women's health (p.18-19). St. Louis, Mo: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.





Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa)

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