Wild Yam: Is it a Scam?
A Possible Cure For Premenstrual Syndrome?The symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS) are familiar to many women - hypersensitivity, depression, anger and agitation are among them. Almost all women experience breast tenderness, bloating and some weight gain prior to their period; carbohydrate cravings are also common. More severe symptoms may include rashes, fatigue, hot flashes, joint and muscle pain, insomnia, irritability and tension. By now, it is common medical understanding that PMS is attributed to low levels of progesterone during your menstrual cycle, but for years women have not had a lot of options for relieving PMS, especially naturally. So it's no wonder that women are keen to try out new products, especially if they tell you that they are re-balancing or enhancing your body's natural resources in a gentle and healthy way
Wild Yam Product's ClaimsThere has been a general increase over the last few years in the marketing and sales of Wild Yam creams and tablets for the relief of PMS. There are a variety of brands available, containing variable amounts of Wild Yam often claiming confusing or contradictory properties and effects. Some of the products claim they can soothe or eradicate the common symptoms of PMS, some claim that they can increase the body's depleted level of progesterone in a natural way, while others claim that Wild Yam is a great source of natural progesterone. So what are the facts about Wild Yam?
The Facts About Wild YamWild Yam (Dioscorea villosa), also known familiarly as Colic Root or Rheumatism Root, has been widely used within the herbal tradition, primarily for its spasmolytic properties. This means it is effective at decreasing spasms, particularly in the large intestine and uterus. The plant itself is devoid of oestrogen and progesterone, though until recently it was the principle raw material used in the manufacture of oral contraceptives.
It was in the 1930's that scientist, Dr. Russell E. Marker, developed a process for producing progesterone from the fats and oils of Wild Yam. The active constituents of Wild Yam are primarily steroidal saponins based on diosgenin. The science starts with diosgenin and takes three steps to convert it to progesterone. Once the extract is converted it is an exact chemical match for the molecule that is produced by the ovaries.
Although diosgenin may be converted into progesterone in the laboratory, there are no enzymes in the human body, which can produce this transformation. Neither can ingestion or absorption of Wild Yam increase the body's natural production of progesterone.
The Truth About Wild YamWhen you come across products that describe themselves as 'natural progesterone' applications, it should be remembered that these are not simply Wild Yam mixed in an aqueous base, but do in fact contain products, manufactured from Wild Yam. If diosgenin has been converted and added to the product, then your label should note the inclusion of 'progesterone USP' or 'natural progesterone'. If the label claims progestins or progestogens, then these are synthetic, laboratory produced hormones. If your yam cream does not mention progesterone at all then in probably contains none.
If progesterone is not included in the cream this does not necessarily mean it is of no value to sufferers of PMS, this is due to its properties as an adaptogen. Adaptogens tend to normalize the body's functions and are then either eliminated or incorporated into the body without side effects.
Watch out for products containing wild yam, marketed for action against pre-menstrual and pre-menopausal symptoms that may be misleading in one of two ways. They may suggest that their product works because of its Wild Yam content and there is no progesterone included, in which case the product will add to or stimulate the body's natural production of progesterone. These products may have incorporated progesterone, but do not clarify that this is the active ingredient.
It is important to be wary of products claiming that their Wild Yam extracts have the same molecular basis as natural progesterone, and that users will find the same benefit as they would with USP natural progesterone. Such claims are blatantly false. There is no current clinical research or experience to support this claim. While Wild Yam appears to be free of any major adverse affects, no pharmaceutical interactions have yet been found, and it may help to relieve some of the minor symptoms of PMS, it has to be said that the plant is not a source of natural progesterone.