Dioscorea villosa

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Latest Edit: Hector 2014-03-18 (EDT)

See Also Botanical Monographs

Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) is most commonly known as women's tonic, especially for conditions involving pain such as dysmenorrhea and pain associated with pregnancy. It is also effective in the treatment of colic, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis and other conditions that have pain as a key symptom. To explore the characteristics, medicinal uses and prescribing considerations of this herb in more detail, check out the references indicated.[1], [2]


  • Common Names: Wild yam, Colic root, Rheumatism root
  • Family: Dioscoreaceae
  • Habitat: Dioscorea villosa is native to North and Central America. It is naturalized in tropical to temperate climates world wide and thrives in sunny spots and rich soil. The species is considered "at risk".
  • Parts Used: Root and tuber
  • Constituents: steroidal glycosides, phytosterols, alkaloids, tannins, starch
  • Medicinal Actions: antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, autonomic nerve relaxant, diuretic, diaphoretic, hepatic, cholagogue


Historical Uses:

Dioscorea villosa has been used as a source of raw material for the manufacturing of synthetic contraceptive hormones and corticosteroids.

Medicinal Uses:

  • gynecological problems such as dysmenorrhea, ovarian and uterine pains, pains of pregnancy
  • Other Conditions
  • nervous irritability and sensitivity, neuralgia

Prescribing Considerations

The information provided is intended to augment the treatment from a naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional. Although most herbs are generally safe, it is recommended that you avoid self-prescribing especially when there is an underlying ongoing medical condition, if you are on any prescription medications or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Formulations and Preparation

  • Decoction - 1-2 tsp/cup three times daily
  • Tincture - 2-4mL (1:5, 40%) three times daily
  • Dried root - 2-4g three times daily


The safety and prescribing considerations for this herb include:[3], [4]

  • Generally regarded as safe.
  • Side-effects are not generally seen.
  • Contraindications: bile duct pathologies (due to cholagogue/choleretic action) - obstruction, inflammation, cancer (empirical); pancreatic cancer, intestinal spasm (empirical); liver disease (due to liver stimulation) - hepatitis, cirrhosis, cancer (empirical), unconjugated hyperbilirubinemia - hemolytic anemia, Gilbert's syndrome, Crigler-Najjar syndrome (speculative)
  • Caution: Avoid large doses during pregnancy, unless under guidance of a skilled practitioner; but may be taken during labour.
  • Drug-Herb Interactions are rare.


  1. Boon Heather, Smith Michael (2009) 55 Most Common Medicinal Herbs: The Complete Natural Medicine Guide Second Edition Institute of Naturopathic Education and Research, CCNM Toronto.
  2. Godfrey Anthony, Saunders Paul, Barlow Kerry, Gowan Matt (2011) Principles and Practices of Naturopathic Botanical Medicine, Advanced Botanical Medicine. V3 CCNM Press, Toronto.
  3. Stargrove Mitchell Bebell, Treasure Jonathan, McKee Dwight L (2008) Herb, Nutrient and Drug Interactions: Clinical Implications and Therapeutic Strategies,
  4. Brinker Francis (1997) Herbal Contraindications and Drug Interactions: Plus Herbal Adjuncts With Medicines, 4th Edition Eclectic Medical Publications.