Dioscorea villosa

Botanical Name :Dioscorea villosa
Family: Dioscoreaceae
Genus: Dioscorea
Species: D. villosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Dioscoreales

Common Names: Wild Yam Root , Colic root, rheumatism root

Habitat : Dioscorea villosa  is native to  Eastern N. America – New England to Minnesota and Ontario, south to Virginia and Texas. It grows in  borders of bogs, swamps, marshes, river and lake margins, creek bottoms, sandy or rocky soils, moist or dry woods, hammocks, thickets, limestone or talus slopes, roadsides, sea level to 1500 m.

Description:
Dioscorea villosa is a perennial climber growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). It is a species of a twining tuberous vine.

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It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from Sep to October. The flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required)The plant is not self-fertile.

Cultivation:   
An easily grown plant, succeeding in a fertile well-drained soil in a sunny position or light shade[200]. Prefers a rich light soil . Plants are hardy to at least -15°c. Plants produce tubercles (small tubers that are formed in the leaf axils of the stems), and can be propagated by this means. A climbing plant that supports itself by twining around the branches of other plants. . This is a highly polymorphic species, some botanists dividing it up into several species.  Dioecious. Male and female plants must be grown if seed is required.

Propagation :   
Seed – sow March to April in a sunny position in a warm greenhouse and only just cover. It germinates in 1 – 3 weeks at 20°c. Prick out the seedlings as soon as they are large enough to handle and grow on in a greenhouse for their first year. Plant out in late spring as the plant comes into new growth. Basal stem cuttings in the summer. Division in the dormant season, never when in growth. The plant will often produce a number of shoots, the top 5 – 10 cm of the root below each shoot can be potted up to form a new plant whilst the lower part of the root can possibly be eaten. Tubercles (baby tubers) are formed in the leaf axils. These are harvested in late summer and early autumn when about the size of a pea and coming away easily from the plant. They should be potted up immediately in individual pots in a greenhouse or cold frame. Plant out in early summer when in active growth.

Edible Uses  : Tuber is cooked and eaten. Some caution should be exercised with this plant.

Constituents:  steroidal saponins (including dioscin and trillin which yield diosgenin), phytosterols, alkaloids including dioscorine, tannins, starch

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Medicinal Uses:
The plant is also known as colic root and rheumatism root in North America, indicating its use by European settlers for these conditions. Diosgenin, a breakdown product of dioscin, was first identified by Japanese scientists in 1936. This discovery paved the way for the synthesis of progesterone and of corticosteroid hormones such as cortisone. For this reason it is sometimes expensive, because pharmaceutical firms buy up large crops on the global market. This use of the root, coupled with its traditional use as an antispasmodic and antirheumatic gave rise to the saying that wild yam is a natural steroid. Indeed, it contains compounds that are similar in chemical structure to steroids, but these compounds must be digested, absorbed and processed by one’s body before becoming steroids or hormones. Eating foods such as wild yam thus provides the building blocks for many complex glandular manufacturing processes. The herb’s combination of anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic actions makes it extremely useful in treatments for arthritis and rheumatism. It reduces inflammation and pain, and relaxes stiff muscles in the affected area. It stimulated the removal of accumulated wastes in the system. Wild yam helps to relieve cramps, muscle tension, and colic. It can be an effective treatment for digestive problems, including gallbladder inflammation, irritable bowel syndrome, and diverticulitis. In large doses it is regarded as a diuretic and acts as an expectorant.

In North and Central America, wild yam is a traditional relaxing remedy for painful menstruation, ovarian pain, and labor. It is classically given for uterine pain, such as severe menstrual pain, or shooting pain beyond cramps. It’s also used for ovarian spasm and inflammation such as occurs with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). To relieve the nauseous symptoms of pregnancy, Dioscorein is the very best and is prompt in action given in small, frequent doses. It is useful as part of a natural approach to any endocrine imbalance. For extremely heavy periods wild yam root tincture, 20-30 drops taken daily for the two weeks preceding the expected onset of menses, can supply enough progesterone precursors to remedy flooding. Ointment made from wild yam roots may be the able to restore youthful moistness and elasticity to post-menopausal vaginal tissues. However, this is where a lot of misinformation and controversy occurs.

Today most USP progesterone is, in fact, extracted from soy. Neither USP nor human progesterone is present in either of the major plant sources (soybean or wild yam). Yams contain the sterol diosgenin, whereas soybeans contain the sterol stigmasterol  both of which have progesterone-like effects. The substances sold as USP progesterone is produced in the lab by hydrolyzing extracts of soy or yam and converting saponins into sapogenins, two of which, sarsasapogenin (soy) and diosgenin (yam) provide the majority of derivation of natural progesterone produced for medical purposes. While diosgenin may have some progestogenic or even phytoestrogenic action, the effect varies from one person to another. Some doctors say that the human body cannot convert wild yam or diosgenin to hormones and that conversion to progesterone must take place in a laboratory. It is possible, however, that some women’s bodies are better able to utilize plant-derived compounds than others. It is also important to remember that while the mechanism of phytogenic activity may not be clearly understood at this time, botanical supplementation continues to gain support among everywhere because it works for them. There has been a great deal of confusion pertaining to the progesterone content of various manufacturers transdermal creams. The bioavailability of the progesterone in such products is of paramount importance. The quality of a formulation and its delivery system determines the absorption and effectiveness. It’s essential that you know your product and your supplier and above all observe your body’s response to the product of your choice. Wild yam, given in combination with black cohosh, is not only common in menopause formulas but is also an effective pain-relieving remedy for rheumatoid arthritis, especially in the inflamed stages of flare-up. Solvent in water. As a primary liver tonic herb, wild yam activates and stimulates liver activity. High concentrations of steroidal saponins provide the building blocks required by the liver to synthesize sex hormones. Whenever both the liver and reproductive system are implicated as the cause of hormone imbalance, wild yam is the herb of choice to use in the formula.

Wild yam also contains beta carotene, the antioxidant that is so important to maintaining a healthy cholesterol level. Other colorful folk names include Devil’s bones, Yuma, Colic root and Rheumatism root, referring to Native Americans use of the boiled root to treat morning sickness and in childbirth, also arthritis and digestive problems.

Its fame is based on its steroid-like saponins which can be chemically converted to progesterone contraceptives; and cortisone.

Known Hazards:
Edible species of Dioscorea have opposite leaves whilst poisonous species have alternate leaves. Use of the fresh plant can cause vomiting and other side effects. Known to cause headaches, menstrual irregularities & acne. May cause hair loss & oily skin. Avoid during pregnancy. Avoid in patients with cancers of the breast, ovaries, prostate & uterus.

Disclaimer:
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Dioscorea+villosa
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_villosa
http://www.anniesremedy.com/herb_detail119.php

http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_UZ.htm

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