Mexican wild yam

Dioscorea villosa


Wild yam has a long history of use as a “woman’s” herb. The Aztecs and the Mayans were among the first people to use wild yam medicinally for its contraceptive effects and its ability to relieve menstrual cramps and other pain. European settlers subsequently used it to treat colic and joint pain. Although part of a large family of yams, Mexican wild yam is not related to the common sweet potato Ipomoea batatas .

Parts used

The tuber or root of the plant.


Dioscorea villosa contains diosgenin, a steroid substance with a progesteronic effect. The roots are also rich in phyto-hormones, other steroid saponins, alkaloids, tannins, phytosterols and starch.

Medicinal uses

  • Helps to ease pain.
  • Relieves cramps and spasms in the digestive system, including abdominal colic, irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
  • Relieves menstrual cramps and dysmenorrhoea .
  • Has an oestrogen-modulating effect and is useful in the treatment of menopausal symptoms, including hot flushes.
  • Relieves inflammation and joint pain of rheumatoid arthritis.
  • May lower blood cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
  • May help overall liver health.
  • May ease nervousness, restlessness and other nervous conditions.


Talk to your medical practitioner before taking any herbal supplements.
Mexican wild yam is well tolerated, although some patients have reported stomach discomfort. Avoid it if you have a known allergy to wild yam or any other member of the Dioscoreaceae family. May interact with anti-inflammatory drugs, hormone replacement and birth control medication. Not to be taken by children or pregnant or breastfeeding women. Always consult your medical practitioner before embarking on a course of natural remedies.

Flora Force Products containing Mexican wild yam

Domestic & culinary uses

Although related to other yams, Dioscorea villosa’s tubers are not edible.


Mexican wild yam is a perennial twining, tuberous vine native to North America. Its roots are dry, narrow, and crooked, and bear horizontal branches of long creeping runners. It bears heart-shaped leaves and clusters of small, greenish-white and greenish-yellow flowers. It is not generally grown in South Africa.

Photo credits

  1. Photo by Phyozome. [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Information in our herb library is intended only as a general reference for further exploration. It is not a replacement for professional health advice and does not provide complete dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription medicines. Accordingly, this information should only be used under the direct supervision of a suitably qualified health practitioner such as a registered homeopath, naturopath or phytotherapist.