Wild yam is a vine-like plant that is indigenous to North America, specifically Mexico. This herb is also a common treatment for women in menopause who seek a more natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy (HRT). However, not all wild yam supplements contain what their manufacturers advertise and women should research their options before beginning a supplemental regimen. Keep reading to learn more about wild yams and how they can benefit you.
More than 600 varieties of this plant exist and this group is scientifically known as dioscorea villosa, dioscorea oppositifolia, or dioscorea batatas. The root of wild yam is often used in herbal remedies for a number of ailments, including rheumatoid arthritis, fatigue, asthma, and gallbladder problems. Because the plant has a bitter taste, it usually isn't eaten as a delicacy; only a handful of varieties are actually classified as edible.
As its several scientific names suggest, wild yam contains a substance called diosgenin, which can be converted into dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), progesterone, or an estrogen-like steroid in a laboratory. Many supplements containing wild yam are marketed as natural alternatives to HRT, but this claim can be misleading. While the extracts used to make the treatments do occur naturally in plants, those extracts are scientifically manipulated to act as estrogen and/or progesterone in the body.
Traditional herbalists have long lauded the wild yam for its alleged ability to cure a number of symptoms related to menopause, such as osteoporosis, loss of libido, night sweats, and vaginal dryness. This medicinal herb is also believed to cure digestive problems, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Because of its ability to relax muscles, wild yam can also relieve menstrual cramps associated with PMS.
In addition, wild yam may help increase antioxidants and lipids in the bloodstream. One study also linked it to a decreased risk of breast cancer and heart disease during postmenopause.
A word of caution: Although wild yam has traditionally been used to treat these conditions, very little research has been conducted to support its uses and wild yam supplements have not been approved by The Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The most common form of this supplement is sold as a cream that can be applied directly to the skin; however, these creams often include additives such as artificial progesterone and other medicinal herbs. Wild yam can also be taken in a capsule or liquid form or eaten as a dried root.
Recommended dosages for wild yam vary depending on your physical condition. Overdosing on wild yam can cause stomach problems, such as diarrhea and vomiting. Women who are pregnant, breast feeding or on birth control should not take wild yam.
Hot flashes, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and loss of libido are all symptoms of low estrogen levels. Click on the following link to learn more about estrogen deficiency and how to treat it.
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