What Is Chinese Yam?
Chinese yam (dioscorea
opposita) is an ornamental vine
that is native to Asia. It also grows in North America, but it is not related
to the sweet potatoes called yams that are a popular food in North America. Another
name for Chinese yam is cinnamon vine. It is also called shan yao.
The roots of Chinese yam contain
diosgenin. This chemical is used to produce steroids such as estrogen and progesterone
in a laboratory. In its original form, Chinese yam does not contain hormones.
Chinese yam is used in
Chinese herbal medicine. It is traditionally used to treat disorders related to
the stomach, spleen, lungs, and kidneys.
While the tuber and bulbs
of Chinese yam are edible, generally only the tuber is consumed as food.
What Does Chinese Yam Do?
As an herbal treatment,
Chinese yam is used to target the stomach and spleen. It also thought to act on
the lung and kidney. It is used to treat:
- poor appetite
- chronic diarrhea
- dry coughs
Chinese yam contains
allantoin. This is a natural compound that can accelerate the growth of healthy
tissue and reduce healing time. Topically, Chinese yam is applied to treat
ulcers, boils, and abscesses on the skin. Victims of scorpion stings and
snakebites can be treated with its leaf juices.
The roots of Chinese yam
contain diosgenin. This natural compound is a phytoestrogen, a plant-based estrogen.
When processed in a laboratory, diosgenin can be used to manufacture
progesterone. In its original form, Chinese yam does not contain progesterone
or other human hormones.
Who Benefits from Chinese Yam?
with conditions related to the stomach, spleen, kidneys, lungs, or skin may
benefit from Chinese yam.
What Are the Side Effects of Chinese Yam?
your healthcare provider before taking Chinese yam or any medication, herb, or
supplement. Because Chinese yam may have properties that enable it to act like a
mild form of estrogen, it may interact with hormone replacement therapy or
birth control pills (University of Maryland Medical Center, 2013).
large doses of Chinese yam are consumed, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can
result. Allergic reactions are rare, but can include rashes and asthma.
who are pregnant or breastfeeding should not take Chinese yam without first
talking to a medical professional.
How Is Chinese Yam Administered?
In its original
form, Chinese yam can be eaten fresh or baked, boiled, fried, or mashed. It is
also used in soups.
Chinese yam is
available as a liquid, in capsules, as a dried root, and as an extract, to be
taken orally for therapeutic purposes. Tea can be made from the fluid extracts.
Chinese yam is
also administered in creams or gels that are applied directly to the skin. In
some cases, these ointments may contain synthetic progesterone, though they may
be promoted as containing natural progesterone. Other additions to these
compounds can include vitamins, minerals, and other herbs.
What Are the Benefits of Chinese Yam?
of Chinese yam claim that it can be used as a remedy for many conditions,
- hot flashes
associated with menopause
- dry or chronic
However, there is
insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of Chinese yam for these uses
In addition to its
potential medicinal properties, Chinese yam is a nutritious food. It consists
primarily of water and starch. It is also a source of vitamin B1, vitamin C,
mucilage, amylase, amino acids, and glutamine.
What are the Risks of Chinese Yam?
Chinese yam may be safe for
most adults. People taking medication should speak to a health care provider
before consuming it, to discuss the possibility of interactions or side
Though Chinese yam does not
contain estrogen, it has properties that may cause it to act like a mild form
of estrogen. Pregnant or breastfeeding women should avoid Chinese yam. People
with hormone-sensitize disorders should also avoid Chinese yam. Hormone-sensitive
disorders include endometriosis, uterine fibrosis, and cancers of the breast,
uterus, or ovaries.
People with a protein S
deficiency should avoid Chinese yam. This condition causes an increased risk
for forming clots. The estrogen-like properties of Chinese yam may increase the
likelihood of developing clots when a protein S deficiency exists.
What Are the Results of Taking Chinese Yam?
Chinese yam and other wild
yam extracts are often promoted to women as a natural alternative to
postmenopausal hormone therapy. However, there is no scientific evidence to
support claims regarding either safety or effectiveness (American Cancer Society, 2008