Wild Yam Health Benefits and Uses

Dioscorea villosa, Dioscoreaceae, Wild Yam, habitus. The root is used in homeopathy as remedy: Dioscorea villosa (Dios.)
H. Zell/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Wild yam is a plant native to North America, Mexico, and Asia. The part used medicinally is the root. The active compound is believed to be diosgenin. Wild yam is available in oral and topical forms.

Other names: Dioscorea villosa


In folk medicine, wild yam was used to help with coughs, morning sickness, digestive upset, and nerve pain.

  • Menopause — Although wild yam creams and other preparations are marketed as "natural progesterone", wild yam doesn't contain progesterone, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or estrogen and cannot be converted to these hormones in the body. It requires a chemical conversion that can only take place in the lab.
  • High cholesterol
  • High triglycerides
  • Muscle tension and pain
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Abdominal cramps


Large doses of wild yam may cause nausea, diarrhea or vomiting. 

Wild yam may affect hormone levels. People with hormone-dependent conditions, such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids or cancers of the breast, ovaries, uterus or prostate shouldn't take wild yam. Pregnant or nursing women or children should not take wild yam.

Using Wild Yam for Health

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend wild yam for any health condition. 

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. If you're considering the use of wild yam, talk with your primary care provider first. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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