Source: The Amazing Healing Powers of Nature, Reader’s Digest
Look to wild yam for a natural remedy for menopause symptoms
Wild yam, (Dioscorea villosa), is often used by menopausal women as a natural alternative to estrogen therapy. It has the potential to treat menopause symptoms as well as rheumatoid arthritis. Note that hormone creams marked ‘natural’ that are made with wild yam for rubbing into the skin may contain added progesterone, oestrogen or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA); the yam itself does not contain any of these hormones.
Does wild yam work as a menopause remedy?
The research is mixed. In a 2001 study by the Baker Medical Research Institute in Australia, 23 menopausal women who experienced hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia used a yam cream rubbed on the skin or a placebo for 6 months. While it appeared safe, the researchers concluded the yam cream had ‘little effect on menopausal symptoms.’
In a 2011 study by researchers from China Medical University and I-Shou University in Taiwan, 50 menopausal women used a wild yam product or a placebo for 1 year. The yam group saw some improvements after 6 months, reporting less anxiety, tension and nervousness as well as easing of insomnia and muscle aches.
Wild yam as an alternative to hormone therapy
In the 1990s, volunteers taking hormone replacement therapy as part of a US-funded study were found to have developed a higher risk for breast cancer and strokes. The study was paused. Inspired by claims from alternative-medicine practitioners at the time, many women then turned to wild yam as a treatment for menopause symptoms. It was then widely marketed as a drug-free menopause remedy, said to spell relief from hot flushes, night sweats and insomnia?
Risks associated with taking wild yam
Wild yam extracts should not be taken internally longer than advised, as a 2008 study at Australia’s University of Queensland found that long-term use boosts risk for kidney damage.
The future of wild yam
While the jury is still out regarding the effect on menopause, interest has grown in other possible uses for wild yam. Preliminary evidence from a 2004 test-tube study at Korea’s Kyung- Hee University suggested that the Asian wild yam Dioscorea tokoro may hold promise against rheumatoid arthritis. Compounds from this yam appeared to reduce production of inflammatory substances in cells from human joint tissue.
In a 2005 study from National Taiwan Normal University, 24 postmenopausal women who ate about 14 ounces (400 grams) of another yam, Dioscorea alata, every day for 30 days saw increases in blood levels of hormones including estradiol and sex-hormone-binding globulin. Scientists noted that these effects might reduce the risk of breast cancer and cardiovascular diseases in postmenopausal women.