Wild Yam

wild_yam,dioscorea_villosa
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dioscorea villosa-Wild Yam

Other names: Dioscorea cliffortiana Lam, Dioscorea hexaphylla Raf, Merione villosa (L.) Salisb.

Habitat: Eastern N. America – New England to Minnesota and Ontario, south to Virginia and Texas. Borders of bogs, swamps, marshes, river and lake margins, creek bottoms, sandy or rocky soils, moist or dry woods, hammocks, thickets, limestone or talus slopes, roadsides, sea level to 1500 m.

hazardsmallEdible species of Wild yam, have opposite leaves whilst poisonous species have alternate leaves. Side Effects of Wild Yam of use the fresh plant can cause vomiting and other side effects. Known to cause headaches, menstrual irregularities & acne. May cause hair loss & oily skin. Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid in patients with cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate & uterus.

Wild yam roots, and the roots of many other members of the genus, contains diosgenin. This is widely used in modern medicine in order to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. These are used as contraceptives and in the treatment of various disorders of the genitary organs, such as the menopause as well as in a host of other diseases such as asthma and arthritis. The roots are anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, cholagogue, diaphoretic and vasodilator. They are also a visceral relaxant. This plant affords one of the best and fastest cures for bilious colic, it is especially helpful in treating the nausea of pregnant women and has been used to ease the pain of childbirth. It is also taken internally in the treatment of arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, gastritis, gall bladder complaints, painful menstruation etc . Caution is advised in the use of the this plant, when taken fresh it can cause vomiting and other side effects. The root, harvested in September, is used to make a homeopathic remedy, it’s main use is in the treatment of infant colic.

Wild_yam,Dioscorea_villosa
By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Wild Yam:

Dioscorea villosa; Wild Yam is a PERENNIAL CLIMBER growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). 
It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. Needs full sun. It prefers moist soil.

Cultivation of Wild Yam:

An easily grown plant, succeeding in a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position or light shade. Prefers a rich light soil. Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. Plants produce tubercles (small tubers that are formed in the leaf axils of the stems), and can be propagated by this means. A climbing plant that supports itself by twining around the branches of other plants. This is a highly polymorphic species, some botanists dividing it up into several species. Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation of Wild Yam:

Seed – sow March to April in a sunny position in a warm greenhouse and only just cover. It germinates in 1 – 3 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for their first year. Plant out in late spring as the plant comes into new growth. Basal stem cuttings in the summer. Division in the dormant season, never when in growth. The plant will often produce a number of shoots, the top 5 – 10 cm of the root below each shoot can be potted up to form a new plant whilst the lower part of the root can possibly be eaten. Tubercles (baby tubers) are formed in the leaf axils. These are harvested in late summer and early autumn when about the size of a pea and coming away easily from the plant. They should be potted up immediately in individual pots in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant out in early summer when in active growth.

Collection: The root is harvested in the autumn and dried for later use. The root should not be stored for longer than 1 year, since it is likely to lose its medicinal virtues.

Culinary uses of Wild Yam:

Wild_yam,Dioscorea villosaMedicinal uses of Wild Yam:

Actions: Anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, hepatic, cholagogue, diaphoretic.

Part Used: Dried underground parts.

Indications: Wild Yam is a valuable herb that was at one time the sole source of the chemicals that were used as the raw materials for contraceptive hormone manufacture. In herbal medicine Wild Yam is a remedy that can be used to relieve intestinal colic, to soothe diverticulitis, ease dysmenorrhoea and ovarian and uterine pains. It is of great use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, especially the acute phase where there is intense inflammation. Wild Yam Menopause may be useful due to steroidal substances but check packaging carefully to make sure that it contains the correct active ingredient as there have been fraudulently packaged goods in the past.

Preparations & Dosage of Wild Yam:

Decoction: put 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the herb in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

Wild Yam Supplement : take 60mg twice a day

Other uses of Wild Yam:

None known.

Esoteric uses of Wild Yam:

None known but if you use this herb for any purpose please let us know!

The Chemistry:

Constituents: Steroidal saponins, based on diosgenin: dioscin, dioscorin, and others.