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Wild Yam - Uses and Benefits - Dosage and Side Effects of Wild Yam

Taxonomic Class

Dioscoreaceae

Common Trade Names

Mexican Wild Yam, Natrol Wild Yam, Wild Yam Extract, Wild Yam Root.

Common Forms

Available as a cream, liquid extract, powder, tincture, tea, and topical oil.

Source

Wild yam, Dioscorea villosa L., grows wild in the damp woodlands of North and Central America. A deciduous perennial vine that often climbs to 20', it is characterized by heart-shaped leaves and tiny green flowers.

Chemical Components

Wild yam contains steroidal saponins, diosgenin, dioscenin, DHEA, phytosterols (beta-sitosterol), alkaloids, and tannins. It is most noted for its component DHEA.

Actions

Wild yam was historically the sole source of raw materials for manufacturing contraceptive hormones, cortisone, and anabolic hormones. Wild yam contains large amounts of dioscin, which has anti­inflammatory activity.

DHEA, a constituent of wild yam, is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal gland in humans; it is the most abundant adrenocorticoid hormone in the body. DHEA is believed to be useful in several conditions, including AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, cancer, CV disease, hypercholesterolemia, multiple sclerosis, obesity, psychological disorders, and systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

In a double-blind study, patients with SLE who were given DHEA for 3 months showed marked improvement compared with placebo . Wild yam itself has not been proven to promote anabolic effects in humans.

Uses and Benefits of Wild Yam

Wild yam is claimed to be useful in treating abdominal cramps, adrenal exhaustion, spasmodic asthma, biliary stones, diverticulosis, dysentery, gallstones, intermittent claudication, menopausal symptoms, muscle cramps, ovarian and uterine pain, inflammatory rheumatism, and rheumatoid arthritis and as an antispasmodic and a diaphoretic.

Recommended Dosage of Wild Yam for Best Results

The average dose is 2 to 4 g or its fluid equivalent P.O. t.i.d.

As a food supplement, DHEA dosage should not exceed 50 mg/ day; medical approval is required for higher doses. DHEA doses over 25 mg/day should be avoided in women because of reports of irreversible voice changes and hirsutism.

Liquid extract: 2 to 4 ml in water P.O. t.i.d., or 5 to 30 gtt P.O. t.i.d.

Tincture (1:5 in 45% alcohol): 2 to 10 ml in water P.O. t.i.d.

Oil: external use only.

Tea: Yo tsp to 1 cup of boiling water, steep 15 minutes; 1/2 to 1 cup P.O. t.i.d.

Powder: 0.5 to 2 g P.O. t.i.d.

Adverse Reactions or Side Effects for Wild Yam

CNS: headache.

GU: menstrual irregularities, potential for stimulating growth of prostate cancer.

Skin: acne, hair Joss, hirsutism, oily skin.

Interactions

None reported for wild yam itself, but a few interactions may be relevant for the DHEA component in wild yam. The following list comes from reports of drugs and their potential effect on endogenous DHEA or DHEA-S serum levels. The absolute effect on serum DHEA or DHEA-S levels mayor may not be similar when exogenous DHEA is ingested in combination with the interacting drug.

Alprazolam: May increase serum levels of endogenous DHEA. DHEA-S levels are not changed. Evaluate need for combination therapy.

Calcium channel blockers: Increased serum levels of endogenous DHEA and DHEA-S 1 in obese, hypertensive men. Monitor the patient.

Carbamazepine: Decreased serum levels of endogenous DHEA-S. Monitor the patient.

Dexamethasone: Decreased endogenous levels of DHEA-S. Monitor the patient.

Insulin (exogenous): Decreased serum DHEA and DHEA-S levels in men. Monitor the patient.

Insulin-sensitizing drugs (metformin, other oral hypoglycemics): May increase serum DHEA and DHEA-S levels. Monitor the patient.

Although not specifically documented, DHEA may interact with other exogenous androgen or estrogen hormone therapies. Monitor the patient if used together.

Contraindications and Precautions

Avoid using wild yam in pregnant patients because of the possibility of fetal masculinization. Use cautiously in patients with hepatic disease because of hepatic damage with high doses in animal models. Also avoid its use in patients with a family history of hormone-induced cancer, including breast, ovarian, prostate, and uterine cancer.

Special Considerations

  • Advise the patient to acquire DHEA, or any other natural product, only from the most reliable sources to ensure quality, purity, and strength.

  • Advise women to avoid using wild yarn during pregnancy.

  • Inform women that irreversible voice changes and hirsutism may occur if more than 25 mg of DHEA is taken daily.

Commentary

The majority of interest surrounding wild yam is in regard to its naturally occurring neurosteroid hormone, DHEA. DHEA in wild yam is touted to be useful for several conditions, but data are lacking about the proper dose and long-term effects. Many claims for DHEA use are based on in vitro and animal studies. Larger and more comprehensive trials are needed to determine a role for DHEA, the primary focus of investigators of wild yam.

   

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