Wild yam cream is touted as a natural treatment for symptoms of menopause and premenstrual syndrome. These claims are based on the idea that a compound called diosgenin is a “precursor” to progesterone. However, this belief likely stems from the fact that progesterone was once synthesized from wild yam components in the 1960s. Not only is it questionable that diosgenin is converted to progesterone in the body, but wild yam cream may produce side effects.
Some species of wild yam, particularly Dioscorea batatas, sometimes causes an allergic rash in certain people when contact is made with the skin. Presumably, this effect would transfer to a topical cream made from the same species of yam. In addition, sensitivity to one species of yam suggests a greater likelihood of also being allergic to other species, including Dioscorea villosa, the most common source of wild yam and also known as Mexican wild yam.
Wild yam cream preparations often have synthetic progesterone added to them. There are several concerns about this practice. Firstly, many of these products fail to include artificial progesterone in the list of ingredients. Secondly, progesterone concentration may vary considerably between products. Depending on how the cream is used, progesterone is absorbed at different rates at different points on the body. Not only does this situation make progesterone absorption unpredictable, but high concentrations of progesterone may result in very specific side effects, including constipation, irritability and fatigue and, in rare cases, blurred vision, fainting, difficulty breathing, seizures and swelling of the throat.
Pregnancy and Nursing
While you shouldn’t take any herbal medicine during pregnancy, the use of wild yam cream is suspected of promoting uterine contractions, which may equate to an increased risk of spontaneous abortion. It should also be noted that it is not known if any of the components of wild yam cream can pass into breast milk, or what the possible side effects of this might be to an infant. So, you shouldn’t use wild yam products while nursing either.