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Wild Yam

Dioscorea villosa, Dioscoriaceae

Wild YamNames: Colic Root, Rheumatism Root.
Habitat: Common in Eastern and Central USA and is some tropical countries.
Collection: This tropical plant is uprooted in the autumn, most stocks coming from west Africa.
Part Used: Dried underground parts.
Constituents: Steroidal saponins, based on diosgenin: dioscin, dioscorin, and others.
Actions: Antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, anti-rheumatic, hepatic, cholagogue, diaphoretic.

Indications: This valuable herb was at one time the sole source of the chemicals that were used as the raw materials for contraceptive hormone manufacture. In herbal medicine Wild Yam is a remedy that can be used to relieve intestinal colic, to soothe diverticulitis, ease dysmenorrhoea and ovarian and uterine pains. It is of great use in the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, especially the acute phase where there is intense inflammation.

Priest & Priest tell us that it is a autonomic nerve relaxant, especially for gastrointestinal conditions, vegetative neuroses and hyperaesthesia. Rheumatic syndromes arising from hepatic and intestinal dysfunction. They give the following specific indications : bilious colic, flatulence, gastrointestinal irritation. Neuralgic conditions. Dysmenorrhea, uterine pains. Nervousness. Restlessness and pains of pregnancy.

Ellingwood considered it specific for sudden spasmodic griping pain in the stomach and bowels. It is specific in bilious colic, in the pain of the passing of gall stones, in mild cases, and is valuable in spasmodic colic of any kind. In addition he recommends it for the following pathologies: neuralgic dysmenorrhea, ovarian neuralgia, cramp-like pains.

Kings Dispensatory has the following monograph: In former editions I have termed this agent an antispasmodic and solely for the reason that it cures bilious colic. I can truly say that nearly all remedies have thus been classified, not from any positive knowledge of their action, but from the results following their administration. A change of classification based upon the known action of remedies is certainly desirable and I am glad to observe that the attention of physicians has already been attracted in this direction.

In the absence of any positive knowledge concerning the action of Dioscorea, perhaps it would be better to say that it is a specific in bilious colic, having proved almost invariable successful in doses of 1/2 pint of the decoction, repeated every half hour or hour. No other medicine is required, as it gives prompt and permanent relief in the most severe cases.

In fact it is not only of value in bilious colic, but in all forms of colic and other painful abdominal neuroses and all forms of gastrointestinal irritation. If it does not relieve in one hour, the medicine should be discontinued. It has allayed the pain incident to the passage of biliary calculi when given with full doses of gelsemium. It has also proved valuable in painful cholera morbus attended with cramps, in neuralgic affections; in irritable conditions of the nervous system, especially when attended with pain or spasms, in spasmodic hiccough, obstinate and painful vomiting, gastralgia and in one case of spasmodic asthma Prof. King effected a cure with it after several other means had failed.

It will likewise allay nausea, also spasms of the bowels and combined with equal parts of the bark of Cornus sericea in decoction, is eminently beneficial in the nausea and vomiting of pregnancy. This root appears to exert an action especially upon enfeebled and irritable mucous tissues that become painful from spasmodic contractions of their muscular fibers; hence its value in bilious colic, in painful dysenteric tenesmus, in dysmenorrhoea the result of spasmodic irritation of the mucous membrane of the cervix uteri and in spasmodic irritations of the gastric mucous membrane attended with pain, nausea and vomiting. It is reputed useful in indigestion with hepatic derangement, in chronic hepatic congestion and in the chronic gastritis of drunkards. It is also useful in after-pains.

In ordinary cases the decoction of the root may be given in doses of from 2 to 4 fluid ounces and repeated every half hour until relief is obtained. By many the infusion or decoction is considered preferable to the tincture. The tincture is said to be a valuable expectorant and diaphoretic, and in large doses produces emesis. Dose of the tincture from 20 to 60 drops.

Specific Indications and Uses - Bilious colic; other forms of colic with spasmodic contractions; yellow skin and conjunctiva, with nausea and colicky pains; tongue coated, paroxysmal abdominal pain, and a stomach deranged; frequent small, flatulent, alvine passages; colic, with tenderness on pressure; sharp abdominal pain, made worse by motion.

Combinations: To relieve intestinal colic it may be combined with Calamus, Chamomile and Ginger. For rheumatoid arthritis it may be used with Black Cohosh.

Preparations & Dosage:

  • Decoction: put 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the herb in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.
  • Tincture: take 2-4 ml of the tincture three times a day.

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