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Dioscorea bulbifera Linn.


Dioscorea sativa Thumb auct. non L, Dioscorea versicolor Buch.Ham ex. Wall. [1]

Vernacular Names:

Malaysia Ubi Angin, Ubi Atas, Akar Kemili Hutan, Ubi Kastela, Ubi China, Memali Hutan, Hubi Kapor, Tolegn (Semang)
English Potato Yam, Bulb-bearing Yam, Air Potato, Dog Yam
Indonesia Jebubug Basu, Jebubug Endog, Gembolo (Java); Huwi Blichik, Huwi Buwah (Sunda)
Thailand Man Nok, Man Khamin
India Vaaraahi, Vaaraahikanda, Grshti, Banaalu, Suraalu, Raktaalu [Ayurveda]; Baraahikand [Unani],; Kodi-kilangu, Pannu-kilangu [Siddha/Tamil]
China Huang Yao Zi

General Information


Dioscorea bulbifera Linn. is a member of the Dioscoreaceae family. It is characterized by the presence of large numbers of round brown flattened bulbils (aerial tubers) in each plant. The bulbils appear in the axil of a leaf and measures more than 7.5cm across. The stem is stout, cylindrical and has no hairs or spines. The leaf is simple, large, glabrous and spineless. It is light green, herbaceous, ovate, cordate, acuminate, measuring 7-15cm long and 7-12cm wide. The petiole is 10cm long and slender. The base of the petiole is enlarged into two auricles encircling the stem. Flowers are white with sepals narrow, linear, lanceolate and acute. The stamens are 6 in number. The female flowers are in spikes fascicled or panicled, 10-25cm long. The capsules are oblong, 2.5cm long with large wings. [2] [3]

Plant Part Used

Tubers. [1] [5]

Chemical Constituents

(+)-catechin; 1-(tetracosanoyl)-glycerol; 1,7-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1E,4E,6E-heptatrien-3-one; 2,3'-di-hydroxy-4',5'-dimethoxybibenzyl; 2,4,6,7-tetrahydroxy-9-10-dihydrophenanthrene; 3-O-beta-D-glucopyranosyl-beta-sitosterol; 5,3,4-trihydroxy-3,7-dimethoxyflavone; 7-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl) -4E, 6E-heptadien-3-one; 14-diene-17,12;18,2-diolide; 15,16-epoxy-6alpha-O-acety1-8beta-hydroxy- 9-nor-clero-13; adenosine; auroxanthin; bafoudiosbulbins A 1, and B 2; behenic acid; beta-sitosterol; cyrptoxanthin; caryatin; demethyl batatasin IV; diosbulbins A-D; diosbulbisides A, B, C; diosbulbisins A-G; diosbulbinoside G; diobulbinone A; diosgenin; D-sorbitol; docosyl ferulate; enolglycoside; kaempferol-3,5-dimethyl ether; lucein;  mono-arachidin; myricetin; myricetin-3-O-galactopyranoside; myricetin-3-O-glucopyranoside; neoxanthine;  protocatechuic acid; quercetin-3-O-galactopyranoside; stigmasterol; tetracosanoic acid; trans-tetracosanylferulate; tristin; violaxanthin; zeaxanthin. [2] [8-17]

Traditional Used:

Traditionally D. bulbifera is believed to be nutritive, tonic, aphrodisiac, rejuvenative, diuretic, antispasmodic and analgesic. The Chinese believed that it could dissipate binds and disperse goiter, clear heat and resolve toxins, cool blood and stanch bleeding. The leaves are considered febrifuge.


In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to revitalize the body, sustain age, detoxifies morbid factors and tonic to the whole body. It is easily digestable. Sushruta prescribe it with milk and honey for rejuvenation. The wild tubers contain nearly 83% starch and posses hunger-suppressing property. It is both male and female reproductive tonics. It aids in relieving impotency, increasing semen and other hormonal secretions in males and  treats infertility and increase milk production in the female. [1] [6] 

Inflammatory diseases

Dried and pounded tubers are used for treating swellings, abscesses and ulcers while the roasted tubers are used for venereal sores. It is also used in the treatment of snake bites. [1] [5] [7] 

Gastrointestinal disease

The roasted tuber of D. bulbifera is used in the treatment of dysentery and haemorrhoids. It is sweet, nourishing and tonic to the whole body, easy to digest and aids in treatment of cachexia. [1] [5] [6] [7]

Pre-Clinical Data


Antidiabetic activity

Extracts of the tuber of D. bulbifera proved to be potent inhibitors of alpha-amylase and alpha-glucosidase rendering it a potential drug for the control of hyperglycaemia. [18] 

Anti-ischaemic activity

It had been established that D. bulbifera hydroalcoholic extract could ameliorate myocardial ischaemia and reperfusion injury by improving ventricular function and inhibition of cardiomyocyte necrosis and apoptosis. Pre-treatment with D. bulbifera extract for 30 days had shown that myocardial infarct sized was reduced and there was also improvement in ventricular function (aortic flow, coronary flow, LVDP, LVmax dp/dt). [19] 

Antioxidant activity

The flavonoid-rich fraction (FRF) of D. bulbufera exhibited a strong free radical scavenging activity. Pre-treatment with the FRF for 35 days in rats prior to exposure to isoproterenol was able to maintain creatinine kinase-MB activity upon, ameliorated lipid peroxidation by increasing the reduced glutathione content and the activity of antioxidant enzymes. There was also an enhancement in the activities of enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. These were seen in the mitochondria of the heart tissue of ISO induced rats. The results suggest that FRF has cardioprotective effects in ISO induced MI in rats. [20] 

Antinociceptive, Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory

The methanol extract of bulbils of D. bulbifera exhibited significant antinociceptive effects in pain induced by Complete Freund’s Adjuvant (CFA), on neuropathic pain induced by Partial Ligation of Sciatic Nerve (PLSN) and acute Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced pain. It is believed that this happens through the ability of the extract to activate the NO-cGMP-ATP-sensitive potassium channels pathway. The aqueous and methanol extracts could significantly reduce oedema induced by histamine, serotonin and formalin and could ally pain. There is a possibility that these is as a result of inhibition of inflammatory mediators such as histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins. 

Antimicrobial activity

A compound identified in a bioassay-guided fractionation of aqueous methanolic extract of D. bulbifera bulbs, 8-epidiobulbin E acetate, exhibited broad-spectrum plasmind curing activity against multidrug-resistant (MDR bacteria. This compound could reverse the bacterial resistence to various antibiotics. It was found to be effective against vancomycin-resistant enterococci, Enterococcus faecalis. Escherichia coli, Shigella sonnei and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. [23]

The methanol extract, fractions of the extract and six compounds (bafoudiosbulbin A, B, C, F, G, and 2,7-dihydro-4-methoxyphenanthrene) isolated from these extracts of D. bulbifera exhibits antibacterial activities against Mycobacteria sp. and Gram-negative bacteria with MDR. [24]

Anticancer activity

Anticancer studies have shown that D. bulbifera contains compounds active against a number of cancer cell lines. Compounds extracted by petroleum ether from hydrophobic constituents were effective against HepA cells by direct toxicity on the cancer cells. Two 3-O-trisaccharides of diosgenin spirotanes were found to have moderate cytotoxic activity against human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. The ethanol and ethylacetate extracts of D. bulbifera were found to have the ability to decrease tumour weight in S180 and H22 tumor cells bearing mice. The compound diosbulbin B was isolated and was found to have the anti-tumour effects in a dose dependent manner. [25-27]


There had been evidence to show that D. bulbifera is toxic to the liver in rats and mice. A number of studies had shown that D. bulbifera has hepatotoxic effects due to the presence of furano norclerodane diterpenoid, disobulbin-D. Pathological changes include fatty degeneration and increased glycogen in liver cells. There were also decreased activity of G-6-P and SDH in liver cells. The toxic mechanism was postulated to be damage to the mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum membrane directly resulting in decreased activity of G-6-P and SDH and subsequently affecting the metabolism. Further studies showed that the pathology was a consequence of oxidative stress injury to the liver cells. [28-33] 

There was also evidence that the extracts also affect the kidneys in mice. The pathological changes in the kidney include degeneration and necrosis of the epithelia of uriniferous tubules with higher BUN. [28]

Teratogenic effects

No documentation

Clinical Data

Clinical Trials

No documentation

Adverse Effects in Human:

No documentation

Used in Certain Conditions

Pregnancy / Breastfeeding

No documentation

Age Limitations

Neonates / Adolescents

No documentation


No documentation

Chronic Disease Conditions

No documentation


Interactions with drugs

Caution should be exercised by diabetic patients on medication. The antidiabetic activity detected in the plant can lead to hypoglycaemic attacks. [18]

Interactions with Other Herbs / Herbal Constituents

No documentation



Patients with history of compromised liver and/or kidney should avoid this plant less it may lead to further damage. [28]

Case Reports

No documentation


1. Khare CP., Indian Medicinal Plants: An Illustrated Dictionary Springer-Verlag, Berlin 2007 pg. 215 - 216
2. Onwueme, IC., Charles WB., Tropical Root and Tuber Crops: Production, Perspectives and Future Prospects Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome 1994 pg. 54
3. Ridley HN., Flora of the Malay Peninsula Volume 4 L. Reeve & Co. Ltd. London 1924 pg. 315
4. Burkill IH., A Dictionary of Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula Volume 1, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Kuala Lumpur 1966, pg. 828 – 830
5. Zhou J., Encyclopedia of Traditional Chinese Medicine Volume 5 Springer-Verlag, Berlin pg. 428
6. Khare CP., Indian Herbal Remedies: Rational Western Therapy, Ayurvedic and Other Traditional Usage, Botany, Springer, Berlin 2004 g. 192
7. Tirha SS., The Ayurveda Encyclopedia: Natural Secrets to Healing, Prevention and Longevity Ayurveda Holistic Centre Press Bayville 1998 pg. 110 – 112
8. Yonemitsu M, Fukuda N, Kimura T, Komori T. Diosbulbin-B from the Leaves and Stems of Dioscorea bulbifera: 1H-1H and 13C-1H COSY NMR Studies. Planta Med. 1993 Dec;59(6):577.
9. Li SS, Iliya IA, Deng JZ, Zhao SX. [Flavonoids and anthraquinone from Dioscorea bulbifera L]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2000 Mar;25(3):159-60.
10. Gao H, Kuroyanagi M, Wu L, Kawahara N, Yasuno T, Nakamura Y. Antitumor-promoting constituents from Dioscorea bulbifera L. in JB6 mouse epidermal cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002 Sep;25(9):1241-3.
11. Teponno RB, Tapondjou AL, Gatsing D, Djoukeng JD, Abou-Mansour E, Tabacchi R, Tane P, Stoekli-Evans H, Lontsi D. Bafoudiosbulbins A, and B, two anti-salmonellal clerodane diterpenoids from Dioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa. Phytochemistry. 2006 Sep;67(17):1957-63. Epub 2006 Jul 28.
12. Wang G, Liu JS, Lin BB, Wang GK, Liu JK. Two new furanoid norditerpenes from Dioscorea bulbifera. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2009 Jun;57(6):625-7.
13. Liu H, Chou GX, Wu T, Guo YL, Wang SC, Wang CH, Wang ZT. Steroidal sapogenins and glycosides from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. J Nat Prod. 2009 Nov;72(11):1964-8. doi: 10.1021/np900255h.
14. Wang G, Lin B, Liu J, Wang G, Wang F, Liu J. [Chemical constituents from tubers of Dioscorea bulbifera]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2009 Jul;34(13):1679-82.
15. Liu H, Chou GX, Guo YL, Ji LL, Wang JM, Wang ZT. Norclerodane diterpenoids from rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. Phytochemistry. 2010 Jul;71(10):1174-80. doi: 10.1016/j.phytochem.2010.04.002. Epub 2010 May 7.
16. Kidyu K, Thaisuchat H, Meepowpan P, Sukdee S, Nuntasaen N, Punyanitya S, Pompimon W. New clerodane diterpenoid from the bulbils of Dioscorea bulbifera. Nat Prod Commun. 2011 Aug;6(8):1069-72.
17. Liu H, Tsim KW, Chou GX, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT. Phenolic compounds from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. Chem Biodivers. 2011 Nov;8(11):2110-6. doi: 10.1002/cbdv.201000279.
18. Ghosh S, Ahire M, Patil S, Jabgunde A, Bhat Dusane M, Joshi BN, Pardesi K, Jachak S, Dhavale DD, Chopade BA. Antidiabetic Activity of Gnidia glauca and Dioscorea bulbifera: Potent Amylase and Glucosidase Inhibitors. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:929051. doi: 10.1155/2012/929051. Epub 2011 Jul 9.
19. Vasanthi HR, Mukherjee S, Ray D, Pandian Jayachandran KS, Lekli I, Das DK. Protective role of air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) of yam family in myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury. Food Funct. 2010 Dec;1(3):278-83. doi: 10.1039/c0fo00048e. Epub 2010 Nov 15.
20. Jayachandran KS, Vasanthi HR, Rajamanickama GV. Flavonoid rich fraction of Dioscorea bulbifera Linn. (Yam) enhances mitochondrial enzymes and antioxidant status and thereby protects heart from isoproterenol induced myocardial infarction. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2010 Dec;11(8):887-94.
21. Nguelefack TB, Dutra RC, Paszcuk AF, Andrade EL, Tapondjou LA, Calixto JB. Antinociceptive activities of the methanol extract of the bulbs of Dioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa in mice is dependent of NO-cGMP-ATP-sensitive-K(+) channel activation. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010 Apr 21;128(3):567-74. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.01.061. Epub 2010 Feb 10.
22. Mbiantcha M, Kamanyi A, Teponno RB, Tapondjou AL, Watcho P, Nguelefack TB. Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Extracts from the Bulbils ofDioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa (Dioscoreaceae) in Mice and Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011. pii: 912935. doi: 10.1155/2011/912935. Epub 2010 Sep 8.
23. Shriram V, Jahagirdar S, Latha C, Kumar V, Puranik V, Rojatkar S, Dhakephalkar PK, Shitole MG. A potential plasmid-curing agent, 8-epidiosbulbin E acetate, from Dioscorea bulbifera L. against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2008 Nov;32(5):405-10. doi: 10.1016/j.ijantimicag.2008.05.013. Epub 2008 Aug 20.
24. Kuete V, Betrandteponno R, Mbaveng AT, Tapondjou LA, Meyer JJ, Barboni L, Lall N. Antibacterial activities of the extracts, fractions and compounds from Dioscorea bulbifera. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012 Nov 23;12:228. doi: 10.1186/1472-6882-12-228.
25. Yu ZL, Liu XR, McCulloch M, Gao J. [Anticancer effects of various fractions extracted from Dioscorea bulbifera on mice bearing HepA]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2004 Jun;29(6):563-7.
26. Liu H, Chou GX, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT. Steroidal saponins from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera and their cytotoxic activity. Planta Med. 2011 May;77(8):845-8. doi: 10.1055/s-0030-1250633. Epub 2010 Dec 16.
27. Wang JM, Ji LL, Branford-White CJ, Wang ZY, Shen KK, Liu H, Wang ZT. Antitumor activity of Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in vivo. Fitoterapia. 2012 Mar;83(2):388-94. doi: 10.1016/j.fitote.2011.12.001. Epub 2011 Dec 9.
28. Su L, Zhu JH, Cheng LB. [Experimental pathological study of subacute intoxication by Dioscorea bulbifera L]. Fa Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2003;19(2):81-3.
29. Tan XQ, Ruan JL, Chen HS, Wang JY. [Studies on liver-toxicity in rhizoma of Dioscorea bulbifera]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2003 Jul;28(7):661-3.
30. Wang J, Ji L, Liu H, Wang Z. Study of the hepatotoxicity induced by Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in mice. Biosci Trends. 2010 Apr;4(2):79-85.
31. Wang J, Liang Q, Ji L, Liu H, Wang C, Wang Z. Gender-related difference in liver injury induced by Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in mice. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2011 Sep;30(9):1333-41. doi: 10.1177/0960327110389926. Epub 2010 Nov 12.
32. Ma M, Jiang Z, Ruan J, Tan X, Liu J, Wang C, Zha XM, Zhang L. The furano norclerodane diterpenoid disobulbin-D induces apoptosis in normal human liver L-02 cells. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2012 Sep;64(6):611-8. doi: 10.1016/j.etp.2010.12.003. Epub 2011 Jan 5
33. Xu Y, Chen CC, Yang L, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT, Hu ZB. [Evaluation on hepatotoxicity caused by Dioscorea bulbifera based on analysis of bile acids]. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2011 Jan;46(1):39-44.

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