Wild yam is believed to influence hormone balances in a way that can benefits conditions like morning sickness, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), hot flashes, menstrual cramps, vaginal dryness, low libido, and osteoporosis.
Moreover, contrary to health claims, diosgenin is not a phytoestrogen (plant-based estrogen) and interacts in no way with estrogen receptors in the body.
Hormone production and imbalance
Wild yam root contains diosgenin. It’s a plant steroid that scientists can manipulate to produce steroids, such as progesterone, estrogen, cortisone, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), which are then used for medical purposes.
Thus, some advocates assert that wild yam root has benefits similar to those offered by these steroids in your body, providing a natural alternative to estrogen therapy or progesterone creams.
Yet, studies disprove this, showing that your body cannot turn diosgenin into these steroids.
Instead, diosgenin requires chemical reactions that can only take place in a laboratory setting to convert it into steroids like progesterone, estrogen, and DHEA.
As a result, scientific evidence doesn’t currently support wild yam root’s effectiveness for treating conditions associated with hormonal imbalances, such as PMS, low sex drive, infertility, and weakened bones.
Wild yam earned the nickname “rheumatism root” in the 19th century when it was regularly used to treat joint and muscle pain, historically referred to as “rheumatism.” These health claims have persisted into the 20th and 21st centuries.
Today, many alternative practitioners believe that wild yam can effectively treat symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis (the autoimmune form of arthritis). Their contention is that wild yam exerts potent anti-inflammatory effects that can relieve swelling, pain, and inflammation characteristic of the disease. There is some evidence of this.
Higher doses of wild yam (400 milligrams per kilogram of body weight) appeared to alleviate nerve pain, while lower doses (200 milligrams per kilogram) reduced overall inflammation. No notable side effects or toxicities were found.
These findings suggest that wild yam may aid in the treatment of osteoarthritis (“wear-and-tear arthritis”), a condition characterized by chronic inflammation. Its use in treating rheumatoid arthritis is less certain given that the source of the inflammation—namely the body’s own immune system—is less affected by anti-inflammatory compounds.
Human clinical research is needed to determine whether wild yam has any effect on either of these forms of arthritis or if it can possibly aid in the treatment of nerve pain disorders.
Wild yam root is a common ingredient in anti-aging skin creams.
One test-tube study noted that diosgenin may encourage the growth of new skin cells, which could have anti-aging effects. However, overall research on wild yam root is limited.
Diosgenin has also been studied for its potential depigmenting effect. Excess sun exposure can result in small, flat, brown or tan spots on your skin, also known as hyperpigmentation — which is harmless but sometimes seen as undesirable.
Still, wild yam root creams haven’t been proven effective for this application.
Written by: Omojo Emeje