Wild Yam & Menopause
There are between 40 million and 60 million menopausal women in North America, and many are looking for relief from uncomfortable menopausal symptoms. While some women turn to hormone-replacement therapies, others may be seeking a natural alternative. Wild yam cream may provide relief to some women; however, understanding current research and studies is important for making an educated decision when seeking help with menopausal symptoms.
Wild yam contains the phytoestrogen ingredient diosgenin. For this reason, wild yam is often used to alleviate troublesome menopause symptoms such as mood swings, vaginal dryness, irritability, hot flashes, cramps and insomnia. Many women choose hormone replacement therapy to treat the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause; however, Klaus Ferlow, Honorary Master Herbalist for the Dominion Herbal College in British Columbia, says side effects of hormone replacement therapy, such as increased risks of breast cancer, heart attacks, blood clots and stroke, leave many women seeking the natural alternative found in wild yams.
Klaus says the diosgenin in wild yam balances a woman’s menstrual cycle and reproductive hormones. Wild yam may trigger the production of natural progesterone and also affects a woman’s estrogen levels. It adjusts to what the body needs. Diosgenin, however, cannot be converted by enzymes in the human body, so it’s done scientifically in labs to make it a more absorbable, effective option.
Wild yam comes in the form of a cream and should be applied to large, thin areas of skin, such as the inner thighs, face, neck, upper chest or abdomen. Rotate the application site daily. Allow three months for results. Klaus says that the longer a woman uses wild yam cream, the more positive effects she will notice.
Contrary to Klaus’ claims, a 2001 Baker Medical Research Institute placebo-controlled study found little to no effect of wild yams on menopausal symptoms in women. The study used 23 otherwise healthy post-menopausal women; half received wild yam, and half received a placebo for three months. The women kept diaries of their symptoms, and researchers took blood and saliva samples. Findings indicated no significant negative side effects; however, short-term use didn’t seem to alleviate menopausal symptoms either.
Timothy N. Groski, M.D., warns consumers that in 2001, the Food and Drug Administration required a manufacturer of wild yam cream to stop saying its product has no side effects, and that it was illegal to say its product could treat or prevent osteoporosis, menopause, pre-menstrual syndrome, breast cancer or other women’s health maladies.
Also, though he recommends using wild yam cream for menopause treatment, Klaus notes that progesterone powder used in the cream comes from soybeans, many of which are genetically-modified (GMO) and the long-term health effects aren’t known.