Wild yam roots contain diosgenin, which is a phytoestrogen that can be chemically converted into progesterone. This was used in the 1960s to make the first birth control pills. Wild yam by itself does not have progesterone, however, because your body cannot convert diosgenin into this hormone. The conversion must take place in a lab, according to University of Maryland Medical Center. Taking progesterone wild yam can have several side effects.
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Menstrual Changes, Headache or Stomachache
You may experience menstrual changes and headaches when you take wild yam, according to “The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide” by George T. Grossberg and Barry Fox. Stomach discomfort is another common side effect, according to Aetna Intelihealth.
Worsening of Conditions
Taking wild yam can worsen symptoms of hormone sensitive conditions in women, including estrogen-sensitive breast cancer, advise Grossberg and Fox. You should check with a doctor before attempting to use wild yam for “natural” hormone replacement, advise the experts at University of Maryland Medical Center, especially if you have a history of hormone-related cancer or someone in your family has such a history. Women who are pregnant or nursing need to avoid wild yam, according to UMMC. There is a risk of birth defects or spontaneous abortion, advises Aetna.
You need to talk to a health care provider before taking wild yam at the same time as birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy, according to UMMC. Diosgenin may interact with estradiol. Estradiol is used in some hormone replacement therapies and certain birth control medications. This hormone also occurs naturally in the body. Wild yam also may increase effects of other hormone drugs including cyproterone and ethinyl estradiol, estropipate and polyestradiol, according to Grossberg and Fox.
You also may decrease anti-inflammatory effects of certain drugs if you take wild yam along with them. These include celecoxib, indomethacin, etodolac, ibuprofen, ketoprofen, rofecoxib and piroxicam, advise Grossberg and Fox.
When manufacturers add progesterone to wild yam products, these products may alter the effects of steroids, advises Aetna. However, any interactions with steroids are theoretical rather than scientifically proven, according to the National Institutes of Health.
It’s possible to suffer an allergic reaction to wild yam, reports Aetna Intelihealth. Be especially cautious you have an allergy to a member of the Dioscorea plant family. Allergy symptoms may include itching, a rash and shortness of breath.