Yam has a long history of usage in Central America, and
was popular amongst the Ancient Aztec and Maya people
primarily for pain relief. In both Mexico and America
Indians used Wild Yam as a birth control pill and to
prevent miscarriage. They claim that if the roots are
eaten every day for over 2 months, conception will not
occur. Ovulation and the menstrual cycle will not be
interrupted, but woman's eggs are resistant to
fertilization during the period the Wild Yam is
ingested. When the women wanted to become pregnant, she
merely stopped eating the yam and within one month, she
would be fertile again.
Shan yao has also been used medicinally for at least
2,000 years in China, Japan, and Southeast Asia. It
forms part of "The Pill of Eight Ingredients"
traditionally prescribed in Chinese medicine to treat
hypothyroidism, nephritis, and diabetes. As with many
plants, the root is also eaten as a vegetable in Asia.
Wild Yam is also known by the names Colic Root, Devil's
Bones, Bitter Yam, Barbasco, Yuma, Liver Root, China
Root, and Rheumatism Root. There is no record of how
wild yam came to be called devil's bones, but the name
makes sense. The roots of wild yam are thin, long,
twisted roots that meander along below the surface of
the soil and have a skeletal look. This plant is found
across the United States
(east and mid-west),
Latin America, China, Africa, Peru, and Indian. The
parts of this plant used medicinally are the root and
The outer bark of the wild yam root is high in saponins,
including dioscin or diosgenin, as well as such
alkaloids as dioscorin. All have anti-inflammatory and
muscle relaxant properties that seem to work on the
muscles of the abdomen and pelvis, as well as treating
arthritic and rheumatic conditions.
Diosgenin, was first identified by Japanese scientists
in 1936. This paved the way for the synthesis of
progesterone and of such corticosteroid hormones such as
cortisone. Diosgenin was also the starting point in
the creation of the first contraceptive pill, despite
the fact that there is no suggestion that the plant was
used as a contraceptive in the past.
Over 200 million-prescription drugs a year are sold that
contain derivatives of this herb in them. Wild yam is
collected in the wild and cultivated throughout Mexico
to supply the pharmaceutical industry with diosgenin,
this substance is used to treat sex hormone problems, to
produce contraceptives, menopause, premenstrual
syndrome, sexual problems, high blood pressure, prostate
hypertrophy, testicular deficiency, impotency, just to
name a few. From this herb the pharmaceutical industry
also indirectly produces cortisones and hydrocortisones
for Addison's disease, some allergies, bursitis, contact
dermatitis, psoriases, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica
and is used in the treatment of brown recluse spider
bites, insect stings etc.
Wild Yam is very relaxing and soothing to the nerves,
for people who get excited easily. Wild Yam is a
valuable anti-spasmodic used for treating abdominal
cramps, bowel spasms and premenstrual cramps.
This herb is beneficial during pregnancy for pregnancy
pain, nausea, cramping and will lessen the threat of
miscarriage. It also relieves cramps in the region of
the uterus during the last trimester.
The diosgenin in wild yam is a compound that is the
precursor to steroid hormones. In a laboratory,
diosgenin can be converted into pregnenolone.
the ultimate precursor in the human body to more than
150 adrenal steroids. Pregnenolone can participate in
every biochemical action that every steroid hormone is
party to. Thus,
anti-aging influences on cerebral function, energy
level, male hormones progesterone or testosterone, the
female reproductive cycle, immune defenses,
inflammation, mood and memory, skin health, sleep
patterns, stress tolerance, wound healing, vision,
sexual enjoyment or libido and much, much more.
Pregnant or lactating women, diabetics, hypoglycemics,
and people with known medical conditions and/or taking
drugs should consult with a licensed physician and/or
pharmacist prior to taking dietary supplements.
Little Herb Encyclopedia, by Jack Ritchason; N.D., Woodland Publishing Incorporated, 1995
The Ultimate Healing System, Course Manual, Copyright 1985, Don Lepore
Planetary Herbology, Michael Tierra, C.A., N.D., Lotus Press, 1988
Handbook of Medicinal Herbs, by James A. Duke, Pub. CRP Second Edition 2007
The Complete Medicinal Herbal, by Penelope Ody, Published by Dorling Kindersley