Wild Yam extract benefit Dioscorea Villosa plant - Ray Sahelian, M.D.
Feb 12 2014

Wild Yam root extract is an extract of the rhizomes of the wild yam, Dioscorea villosa. Wild yam extract contains glycoside and steroidal saponins, diosgenin, alkaloids, tannins, phytosterols, and starch.

Wild yam and DHEA
Some websites claim that Mexican wild yam contains DHEA precursors and has been shown to help support healthy hormone production. Mexican wild yam does not have DHEA. Furthermore, the human body does not have the enzymes necessary to convert wild yam saponins or other substances into DHEA or other hormones. How does wild yam or diosgenin influence hormone levels?

Does wild yam cream help menopause symptoms?
I am familiar with only human study evaluating the role of wild yam cream for symptoms of menopause.

Am J Chin Med. 2009. Estrogen activities and the cellular effects of natural progesterone from wild yam extract in mcf-7 human breast cancer cells. We studied the estrogenic activity and cellular effect of wild yam extract in MCF-7 human breast cancer cells. The extract increased the activity of the progesterone receptor and pS2 genes at the mRNA levels in human breast cancer MCF-7 cells, although the effects were not as prominent as those of 17beta-estradiol (E(2)). Western blot analysis showed that the level of estrogen receptor alpha protein was down-regulated after treatment with E(2) or wild yam extract. Wild yam extract also inhibited proliferation of MCF-7 cells. These data indicate that wild yam extract acts as a weak phytoestrogen and protects against proliferation in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells.

Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women.
Climacteric. 2001. Komesaroff PA, Black CV, Cable V, Sudhir K. Baker Medical Research Institute, St Kilda Central, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.
Many women seek alternatives to hormonal therapies for the management of menopausal symptoms. Among the treatments currently popular are extracts of wild yam, which are applied topically in the form of a cream. These preparations are known to contain steroidal saponins, including diosgenin, which has been claimed to influence endogenous steroidogenesis. We conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of the effects of a wild yam cream in 23 healthy women suffering from troublesome symptoms of the menopause. After a 4-week baseline period, each woman was given active cream and matching placebo for 3 months in random order. The average age of the subjects was 53 years and average time since last period 4 years. At baseline, the average body mass index was 27, cholesterol level 5.7 mmol/l and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level 74 IU/l; estradiol levels were undetectable in the majority of cases. After 3 months of treatment, no significant side-effects were reported with either active treatment or placebo, and there were no changes in weight, systolic or diastolic blood pressure, or levels of total serum cholesterol, triglyceride, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, FSH, glucose, estradiol, or serum or salivary progesterone. Symptom scores showed a minor effect of both placebo and active treatment on diurnal flushing number and severity and total non-flushing symptom scores, and on nocturnal sweating after placebo, but no statistical difference between placebo and active creams. This study suggests that short-term treatment with topical wild yam extract in women suffering from menopausal symptoms is free of side-effects, but appears to have little effect on menopausal symptoms.

Wild yam benefit
Claims abound on the internet or magazine articles that "Wild yam offers health benefits. It is believed by some that wild yam can stimulate the ovaries to produce a balance of progesterone and estrogen, making it a popular alternative to synthetic hormones for women who experience symptoms of PMS or menopause."
   Thus far there does not seem to be much research to support the above claims regarding the role of this plant for easing symptoms of menopause. However, this does not mean that wild yam supplements don't have other health benefits.

Side effects of wild yam root extract
Wild yam root extract does not appear to have any noticeable side effects.

Wild Yam root research
"Bust enhancing" herbal products.
Obstet Gynecol. 2003. Fugh-Berman A.Department of Health Care Sciences, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC,
"Bust enhancing" herbal products are widely advertised. No clinical trials have been published. These products contain a variety of ingredients, including grains, hops, saw palmetto, dong quai, chaste-tree berry, wild yam, kava, fennel, black cohosh, and fenugreek. Several of these herbs are hormonally active; for example, hops contain 8-prenylnaringenin, a phytoestrogen that is more potent than other dietary phytoestrogens. Many bust-enhancing dietary supplements contain substrates for Fusarium, a fungus that produces zearalenone, a potent estrogen that has been associated with breast enlargement in humans and other species. The use of bust-enhancing products should be discouraged because of lack of evidence for efficacy and long-term safety concerns.

Wild Yam herb emails
Q. Does wild yam cream have progesterone?
   A. No. Wild yam cream itself does not have progesterone, and rubbing it on one's skin will not increase blood or skin progesterone levels.

Q. I read somewhere that taking wild yam root, wild yam extract, or rubbing wild yam cream leads to breast enlargement. Is this true?
   A. I have not seen any studies that support the use of wild yam cream for breast enlargement.

Q. I have read that wild yam is good for the stimulation of natural progesterone production. Do you agree with this?
   A. Wild yam is not converted into progesterone. We have not come across research as to whether wild yam stimulates natural progesterone release.

I have a question regarding wild yam. I am not seeking medical advice, just an opinion of the possibities of taking this herb. Can it possibly trigger ovulation and menstruation in a post-menopausal woman who has not had a menstrual cycle in four years? And who has undergone thyroid radiation / ablation and has been on a synthetic thyroid hormone (Levoxyl) for about two years? This is in addition to taking a resveratrol, flaxseed oil, omega-3, a multi-vitamin, C with rose hips, cinnamon, D, selenium, and a mega dose of calcium. Again, Iím not asking as a patient but information seeker.
    It's difficult to say since there are so many variables involved including thyroid hormone use and the use of several other supplements. As a general rule, wild ham is very weak effect on hormone levels, if any, compared to estrogen hormone or progesterone.

Do you happen to sell yam hormonal creme for women?
    Not at this time.

I am a peri-menopause woman who on the advice of a physician and after talking to other women, decided to try a wild yam progesterone product to see if it would help my peri-menopause symptoms. At the time, I was having 3 full periods per month, a feeling of internal dryness throughout my entire body, anxiety, developing unreasonable paranoia's and fears that had not existed before, some shakiness and nerve related problems and appeared to be going "insane". The symptoms became so bad I could not handle day to day existence, as I was so physically uncomfortable and so anxiety ridden. I bought an over the counter all natural progesterone product derived from wild yams. I made sure the product was perfume free (I have multi-chemical sensitivity) and as free of junk ingredients as possible. The results were almost "instant" and incredibly remarkable. I found taking a very small amount (size of a small raindrop or smaller) for 3 days in a row, one time a day to be miraculous ! I did make the mistake of taking it on a 4th day in which my body got too much, and that resulted in headache and other undesired effects, such as aggravating my "Trigeminal Neuralgia". Too much progesterone increases my sensitivites to allergens and chemical sensitivities. Overall, my periods normalized, my anxiety disappeared, a peace and relaxation returned to my body, my mental focus improved greatly as well as other mental functioning and with all of this I became a believer in the wild yam product. I was able to only take it "as needed" whenver symptoms would reappear, and I found that I only needed to take a minute dosage, smaller than a raindrop. The wild yam produced hormones seem to remains stable within the body for an extended period of time. I found what eventually worked best for me was to take a toothpick and get a very little amount on the toothpick and rub that into the fat of my inner arms. I usually just used the left arm. I think the first year I did not use it more than 3 times maximum, and then I was good for a year, with some slight return of symptoms but not enough to warrant another application of the wild yam. I believe in being careful with steroids of any type. I made the mistake of using my same product after a year, in which the ingredients had apparently broken down and this produced some unpleasant effects in the brain and body. I bought a new container produced by the company K.A.L and found that once in 6 months or so would be all that I really needed. Unfortunately you cannot just buy a small tube of this substance, and you have to buy a larger bottle which the majority is thrown away. But the results were amazing, and I will be glad to answer any questions you may have about my personal experiences with this type of product.

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