Wild yam has traditionally been used to rebalance see-sawing hormones that can trigger symptoms such as PMS and menstrual cramps. But it could also help with the menopause, from tackling hot flushes to beating low mood.
Wild yam root contains a chemical called diosgenin, a phytoestrogen; a plant substance that has weak oestrogen-type effects. This may be why wild yam is often recommended by herbalists as a natural alternative to menopause remedies.
What causes menopausal symptoms?
Hot flushes are the most common symptom of menopause, reported by three quarters of women.1 You may also experience other symptoms, including night sweats, insomnia, joint pain, vaginal dryness and anxiety.
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These symptoms are caused by a decline in ovarian function – your ovaries start to produce less oestrogen as you go through perimenopause, usually starting in your forties. This has a knock-on effect on other hormones and leads to changes in the way your body works.
How wild yam could help in menopause
The oestrogen-like compounds in wild yam may help ease menopausal symptoms. A double-blind placebo-controlled trial of 13 peri- and post-menopausal women in 1997 found that those taking wild yam combined with other herbs experienced a reduction in the number and severity of menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes, mood changes and insomnia.2
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Wild yam for a healthier heart?
After menopause, women have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease due to a drop in oestrogen, which supports your heart health. Some experts now believe another use of wild yam could be to reduce cholesterol levels, helping protect against heart disease.3
One study published in the journal Life Sciences in 1996 looking at the benefits of wild yam revealed that older people taking wild yam did have lower triglyceride levels4 – a type of fat found in the blood – but more research is needed to work out whether wild yam would be beneficial for those with high cholesterol.
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Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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1. NHS Choices. Hot flushes: how to cope. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/menopause/Pages/hot-flushes.aspx
2. Dr. Tori Hudson, N.D. Lesser known botanicals for menopause symptoms. Available from: http://drtorihudson.com/articles/lesser-know-botanicals-for-menopause-symptoms/
3. Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Health Information Library. Wild Yam. Available from: http://pennstatehershey.adam.com/content.aspx?productId=107&pid=33&gid=000280
4. Araghiniknam M, et al. Antioxidant activity of dioscorea and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in older humans. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8795709