Dioscorea villosa

 

Dioscorea villosa

Synonyms

No documentation

Vernacular Name

Dioscorea , colic root, rheumatism root, china root, devil’s bones, yuma, yam, wild yam

Description

Traditional usage of the Dioscorea villosa ranges from women’s health to rheumatic inflammation. During the 1950’s the phytoestrogen, diosgenin, was isolated from the D. villosa rhizome and within a decade was used to make the first contraceptive pill. This identification of the phytoestrogen has encouraged the marketing of D. villosa as a source of progesterone in a topically applied cream. Scientific evidence supporting the internal or topical application of D. villosa as a hormonal therapy is lacking. The estrogenic activity of the plant is very mild if present. A similar species of D. villosa is native to China and has similar use reports.

The thin, woody, many-branched roots yield a reddish-brown stem that grows to be roughly 5m in length.  The cordate leaves borne of the stem are roughly 5-10cm in length, roughly 3cm in width glabrous on the topside, and pubescent on the underside. Between the months of June and July, small, green or greenish-yellow flowers grow from the vine.

Origin / Habitat

D. villosa, is a tuberous vine native to North America growing readily across the eastern half of the North American continent. The plant grows best in marshy, damp areas such as river and lake margins and creek beds. It requires a moderate amount of sunlight to survive.

Chemical Constituents

Isoquinuclidine alkaloids, Pyrridinal alkaloids, Saponins,  Ascorbic acid, beta-carotene, dioscin, dioscorin, diosgenin, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Niacin, Phosphorus, Potassium, Riboflavin, Selenium, Sodium, Thiamin, Zinc.[1],[2],[3],[4],[5]

Plant Part Used

Root/rhizome

Medicinal Uses

General

Symptoms of Menopause

Peri-menopause

Pre-menstrual syndrome

Muscle cramps

Intestinal cramps

Rheumatic pain

Morning sickness

 

Most Frequently Reported Uses

Symptoms of Menopause

Peri-menopause

Pre-menstrual syndrome

Dosage

Dosage Range 

Tea: 1-2 tsp. dried root to 1 cup boiling water up to three times per day.

Tincture: 40-100 drops 3 times a day.

Topical Creams: Contain 10-15% of wild D. villosa extract.

 

Most Common Dosage 

The majority of product available is in cream form for topical use and is dosed depending upon the formulation of the cream.

 

 

Standardization Dosage 

There is no current standardization for D. villosa oral or topical products

Pharmacology

Pre-clinical

D. villosa is a source of the saponin diosgenin, a steroid used in the manufacturing of contraceptives and other hormonal treatments.[6] In its raw form, D. villosa is used in many over the counter topical preparations as a treatment for menopause.  However, there is controversy over its effectiveness and in general, there is no evidence to support its use as a natural product for this purpose. The chemical constituent, diosgenin, must be converted into progesterone therefore the marketing of D. villosa as a source of progesterone is erroneous.

In a laboratory setting, one study determined that D. villosa exhibits mild antiestrogenic activity.[7] D. villosa has been found to demonstrate moderate calpain regulating potential in a laboratory setting in ovariectomized rats.[8] A separate study indicated that an extract of this plant demonstrated mild phytoestrogenic effects on mcf-7 human breast cancer cells.[9]

 

In a laboratory analysis, over 350 natural plant extracts were examined for their tumorcidal activity against neuroblastoma of malignant origin. Of the scores of plants examined, most demonstrated no activity. Of those that did demonstrate activity, tumorcidal effect of D. villosa was the strongest leading researchers to suggest that it may hold potential for future drug development.[10]

Clinical

In a human study using D. villosa extract, 23 menopausal women were treated for menopausal symptoms but there was no significant difference between the placebo group and the group using the extract.[11]

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Drug interactions have not been reported, but due to the phytoestrogenic properties of the herb, it should not be taken in combination with any hormonal therapies including contraceptives.

Not to be used by those taking medication for kidney or liver disease.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

D. villosa is generally considered to be safe and free from side effects when used as directed for short-term use.[2],[11]

Oral use in large doses may result in vomiting and diarrhea.

 

D. villosa contains the phytoestrogen, diosgenin and should be avoided by anyone with hormone dependent conditions. This includes breast, uterine and cervical cancer; uterine or breast fibroids; endometriosis.

Pregnancy

Not to be used by pregnant or nursing women

Age limitation

Not to be used with children.

Adverse reaction

Not to be used by patients with kidney disease or renal complications, or those taking medications that may further stress kidney function.[12],[13]

Read More

  1) Native America Herbs

References

  1. Duke, James A. Handbook of phytochemical constituents of GRAS herbs and other economic plants. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press; 1992.
  2. Tada Y. Novel effects of diosgenin on skin aging. Steroids. Jun2009;74(6):504-511.
  3. Yoon KD. Preparative separation of dioscin derivatives from Dioscorea villosa by centrifugal partition chromatography coupled with evaporative light scattering detection. J Sep Sci. Jul 2008;31(13):2486-2491.
  4. Chao-Chin H. A Spirostanol Glycoside from Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) Extract and Its Cytostatic Activity on Three Cancer Cells. JFDA. 2007;15(3):14.
  5. Hayes PY. Complete (1)H and (13)C assignments of the four major saponins from Dioscorea villosa (wild yam). Magn Reson Chem. Nov 2007;45(11):1001-1005.
  6. Rosser A.The day of the yam. Nurs Times. May 1985:1-7;81(18):47.
  7. Rosenberg. Effects of natural products and nutraceuticals on steroid hormone-regulated gene expression. Clin Chim Acta. Oct 2001;312(1-2):213-219.
  8. Hsu KH. Effects of yam and diosgenin on calpain systems in skeletal muscle of ovariectomized rats. Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. Jun 2008;47(2):180-186.
  9. Park MK. Estrogen activities and the cellular effects of natural progesterone from wild yam extract in mcf-7 human breast cancer cells. Am J Chin Med. 2009;37(1):159-67.
  10. Mazzio EA. In vitro screening for the tumoricidal properties of international medicinal herbs. Phytother Res. Mar 2009;23(3):385-398.
  11. Komesaroff PA. Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women. Climacteric. Jun 2001;4(2):144-50.
  12. Wojcikowski K. Dioscorea villosa (wild yam) induces chronic kidney injury via pro-fibrotic pathways. Food Chem Toxicol. Sep 2008;46(9):3122-3131.
  13. Wojcikowski K. An in vitro investigation of herbs traditionally used for kidney and urinary system disorders: potential therapeutic and toxic effects. Nephrology (Carlton). Feb 2009;14(1):70-79.