Plant Family: Dioscoraceae
Botanical Name: Dioscorea villosa
Common Names: Wild Yam Root, Colic root, rheumatism root
Medicinal Uses: This plant is used in many creams and dietary supplements. Other purposes have been cancer prevention, a treatment for Crohn’s disease, and for whooping cough. An issue though is that there is so support or evidence for this being safe or beneficial as stated by the American Cancer Society. Russian herbal medicine also used this plant for a variety of health benefits such as an anticoagulant, antisclerotic, antispasmodic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and a vasodilator. Outside of Russian medicinal practices, other noted uses have been for aphrodisiac, dysmenorrhea, and menopause.
Folklore/History: A scientist, Russell Marker, made the female hormone progesterone from the Mexican Wild Yam in 1943. Up until 1970, diosgenin derived from this was the main ingredient for the birth control pill. There have also been suggestions that its properties played a role in fertility and sex magic.