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  Latin Name Dioscorea bulbifera; Dioscorea villosa
English Name Wild Yam
Hindi Name Varahi Kand
Part Used Root

The wild yam is native to North America, Mexico and Asia, though many species now exist throughout the world. It is actually a vine, of which the roots and rhizome (stem) are used to treat different health problems.

1The tubers of Dioscorea are used as famine food as they form a cheap source of carbohydrate. They are of inestimable value during periods of scarcity. The alkaloid, dioscorine and the saponin dioscin occur in varying quantities in different species of yams.

2Diosgenin obtained from Dioscorea spp. is the major raw material for the commercial production of corticosteroids and steroidal contraceptives. The raw tubers are bitter due to the presence of furanoid norditerpenes. However they lose their bitterness on roasting and are then eaten. The wild tubers contains nearly 83% starch. They are used as a remedy for sore throat, boils, swelling and poisonous snake bites. 3Yam or diosgenin (extracted from the root of wild yam) is traditionally used for hormone replacement in menopausal women. Calpains are crucially related to the degradation of myofibrillar proteins in skeletal muscle. Adequate yam supplements might improve the muscular calpain-related physiopathology associated with menopausal status.

4A study conducted at Korea indicates that wild yam extract acts as a weak phytoestrogen and protects against proliferation in human breast carcinoma MCF-7 cells. 5Antitumor activity of Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome is found in vivo.

Yam is also food for heart health. 6Flavonoid rich fraction of Dioscorea bulbifera enhances mitochondrial enzymes and antioxidant status and thereby protects heart from isoproterenol induced myocardial infarction.



1. The Wealth of India, Raw Materials, Vol. 3, 67-72, 2006
2. The Wealth of India, First Supplement Series (Raw Materials) Vol. 3: D-I, page 25-26, 2005
3. PMID: 18603503, Taiwan J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Jun;47(2):180-6.
4. PMID: 19222119, Am J Chin Med. 2009; 37(1):159-67.
5. PMID: 22178682, Fitoterapia. 2012 Mar;83(2):388-94. Epub 2011 Dec 9.
6. PMID: 20874686, Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2010 Dec;11(8):887-94.

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