Sewanee Herbarium » Project Center » Medicinal Plants » Wild Yam

Dioscorea villosa Wild Yam
Dioscoreaceae (Yam Family)

Other Names: Wild yam, Atlantic yam, Devil’s bones, Colic root, China root

Description: Perennial twining vine; stem smooth. Leaves alternate with lower leaves in whorls of 3-8, heart shaped, hairy beneath, veins conspicuous. Flowers not showy.

Where Found:Wet woods. CT to TN; TX to MN

Status: Native

Medicinal Part: Root

Preparation: Freshly dried root tea, Root tincture

Uses: Freshly dried root tea formerly used by physicians for colic, gastrointestinal irritations, morning sickness, asthma, rheumatism, and “chronic gastris of drunkards”. American Indians used root tea to relieve labor pains. Traditionally used for indigestion, gas, croup, muscle spasms, asthma, uterine tonic, cancer, and to loosen and release phlegm.

Constituents and Effects: Diosgenin: used currently to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. Most of the steroid hormones used in modern medicine, especially those in contraceptives, were developed from elaborately processed chemical components derived from yams (diosgenins).