WILD YAM ROOT
The story of Wild Yam root is shrouded in misconception and urban mythology. Wild Yam is often touted as a natural birth control or sold for menopausal problems. Unfortunately there is no evidence for either use. Back in the 1940s a scientist by the name of Dr. Russel Marker was searching for plants that could be useful as raw materials for the synthesis of hormone-like substances such as cortisone or progesterone. Saponines have proven useful in this respect, and so he went searching for saponine rich plants. He happened upon a Mexican species of Dioscorea, which incidentally had traditionally been used for labour pains, infertility and birth control, albeit in conjunction with other herbs. It was this Mexican species which eventually led to the development of the first contraceptive pills. However, the transformation that had to take place in order to convert diosgenin to progesterone took some 37 steps in the laboratory and is not a process that can naturally occur within the human body. What's more, the North American Wild Yam species, Disocorea villosa is not the same as the Mexican species and does not contain these saponines in any meaningful quantities. Yet, by some careless fluke Mexican Yam and North American Wild Yam have been confused in the literature and their use have been wrongfully described as pretty much equal. Unfortunately, this is based on fiction rather than fact and North American Wild Yam has traditionally never been used for birth control or as an infertility remedy.
Native American women have used Wild Yam root to ease the pain of labour, though only extremely experienced healers, after close observation of each individual case, dared to administer the remedy. Self-treatment for this purpose is not recommended. Native Americans also used Wild Yam internally and externally to treat rheumatic pain. It is traditionally used for liver and gallbladder problems. The white settlers mostly used this herb to treat colic, which is why they called it colic root. It is indicated for intestinal cramps, colic and diverticulitis. Do not use during pregnancy.
There are no traditional magical uses associated with this herb, but its properties suggest a role in fertility and sex magic.
Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.