A diagnosis of infertility can be devastating for couples desiring pregnancy. Many couples spend thousands of dollars undergoing fertility treatments and taking medications to help them conceive. Using alternative therapies such as herbal remedies is another option in boosting fertility. Wild yam is sometimes used as a hormone replacement treatment, and may help a couple’s chances of conceiving.
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The botanical name for wild yam is Dioscorea villosa, and the root of the yam is the portion that is used for medicinal purposes. Wild yam contains a substance called diosgenin, a product that has been found to be converted to progesterone in laboratory settings. According to the American Cancer Society, using wild yam alone does not produce progesterone in the body and therefore has no effect on fertility. However, advocates for wild yam state that the plant releases a natural form of progesterone that is quickly absorbed by the body when used as a topical cream.
During a typical reproductive cycle, the body begins to produce increased amounts of progesterone in the luteal phase immediately following ovulation. This progesterone helps the lining of the endometrium grow and thicken. If an egg is fertilized after ovulation, the thickened endometrial lining will provide an environment suitable for the growth of a fetus.
Because of the connection between progesterone and the amount of endometrial lining, taking wild yam root after ovulation could aid in increasing progesterone, thereby enhancing the environment needed for implantation of a fertilized egg. The role of wild yam in equalizing some of the hormones in the body can make it suitable for regulating the body’s menstrual cycles as well, providing better prediction of ovulation and menstruation for women who are trying to conceive.
Side effects of wild yam are diarrhea, nausea and vomiting. These effects have been noted when taking large doses of the product. Women taking wild yam as an herbal supplement should consult with their doctor before taking any other medications. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also check with a physician, as the safety of wild yam use under these conditions is unknown.
The recommended dosage of wild yam in oral form is 2 to 3 ml taken three to four times per day. When using the remedy as a cream, follow the directions on the container for application, or check with a physician or pharmacist. Using wild yam as a cream and in oral form in combination is not recommended.