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Wild Yam

Medically reviewed on Jun 7, 2018

What is Wild Yam?

See also: Orencia

Dioscorea villosa is a twining vine native to the central southeastern US and found less frequently in the Appalachian region. It has inconspicuous white to greenish-yellow female flowers and smooth, heart-shaped leaves. There are more than 500 species of Dioscorea worldwide.

Scientific Name(s)

Dioscorea villosa

Common Name(s)

Wild yam root is also known as colic root, yuma, devil's bones, rheumatism root, China root, and Mexican wild yam.

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Wild yam was popularized by the Eclectic medical movement in the 19th century for its supposed antispasmodic properties and prescribed for biliary colic and spasm of the bowel. It was also promoted for the relief of nausea in pregnancy and for menstrual disorders and cramps. Wild yam has been used for urinary tract infections, rheumatoid arthritis, cholera, nervous excitement, and gas.

General uses

Clinical trials are generally lacking for topical formulations of Dioscorea for menopausal symptoms. Chinese yam polysaccharides have been evaluated in laboratory studies for potential as prebiotics, with varying results. Dioscorea oppositifolia tubers have been used as a saliva substitute.

What is the recommended dosage?

There are inadequate clinical trials on which to base dosing guidelines.


Contraindications have not yet been identified.


Information regarding safety and efficacy in pregnancy and lactation is lacking.


None well documented.

Side Effects

A clinical study evaluating the daily consumption of wild yam reported no adverse events. Topical preparations of wild yam extract are relatively free from adverse effects. Based on a single study in rats, oral D. villosa should be avoided in people with compromised renal function.


Topical D. villosa (with an upper limit of 3.5% diosgenin) was found to not be toxic.


1. Wild Yam. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; July 2011.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.