This article about the health benefits of yams deals with the common or white yam. However, many other edible tubers bear the name “yam:”
- Other species of the genus Dioscorea.
- Jicama, a tuber like the yam of the botanical family Convolvulaceae.
- Taro and Tania of the botanical family Araceae, which are found in Southeast Asia.
Health Benefits of Yams
Common or white yams and other similar tubers called yams are a staple food in many tropical regions because of their carbohydrate richness in the form of starch (twenty-three percent). Though they involve much effort to grow and are comparatively poor in proteins (1.53 percent), the yam is gradually being replaced by sweet potatoes and sweet cassava.
The yam contains considerable energy and moderate amounts of B group vitamins, vitamin C, and minerals, among which potassium is significant. However, yams lack provitamin A.
It has been proven that the yam contains a steroid that prevents the peroxidation of blood lipids (the primary cause of arteriosclerosis) and lowers the triglycerides, a kind of fat in the blood. All of this, collectively with their low-fat substance and richness in potassium, makes yams very suitable for cardiovascular ailments, particularly arteriosclerosis.
Yams Scientific Facts
- Scientific name: Dioscorea alata L.
- French: Igname.
- Spanish: Ńame, Papa, Batata de China.
- German: Yamswurzel.
- Description: Tubers of various vines of the genus Dioscorea, particularly ‘Dioscorea alata’ L., all belonging to the botanical family Dioscoreaceae. The types of yams differ in shape, size, and color, but they most commonly weigh between 2 and 5 kilos and have whitish flesh.
- Environment: Yams are grown in tropical regions. They are cultivated primarily in West Africa, Central America, and Southeast Asia.
Wild yam relaxes muscle spasms and is a cherished antispasmodic for menstrual cramps, abdominal cramps, bowel spasms, and colic. It possesses steroid-like substances employed in various birth control pills and many gland-balancing formulas. It reduces inflammation, promotes perspiration, and is suitable for rheumatism, neuralgia, irritable bowel syndrome, kidney stones, hypoglycemia, and gallbladder disorders. The root is ideal for various female problems, such as menopause-related symptoms and premenstrual syndrome.
When wild yam is combined with other blood cleaners, it can help remove waste from the body and relieve sore and stiff joints. It strengthens the liver and the gallbladder. Pregnant women should combine wild yam with ½ teaspoon of dried ginger and one teaspoon of raspberry, then steep in one pint of water for twenty minutes, strain, and consume a mouthful every half hour to prevent miscarriages. Consume two ounces with added honey to lessen nausea.
Arthritic and other pains can be treated by taking the following tinctures in a cup of warm water three times a day:
- Twenty to thirty drops of wild yam
- Twenty drops of burdock root
- Fifteen drops of motherwort
- Fifteen drops of black cohosh
WARNING: Wild yam is an ingredient in many hormonal commercial products. However, the wild yam in them is often contracted from plants treated with pesticides and fertilizers that could end up in the products. Although some herbalists recommend this plant to prevent miscarriages, some say pregnant women should avoid it altogether.
Wild yam contains diosgenin, which is used to manufacture progesterone and other steroid drugs. Research and production of this both in the United States and Germany. Of all plant genera, there is perhaps none with a more significant impact known as wild yam (Dioscorea villosa).
Most steroid hormones used in modern medicine, especially those in contraceptives, were created from highly processed chemical factors derived from yams. Drugs made from yam-derived components (diosgenins) can relieve eczema, arthritis, and asthma; they can also control fertility and regulate metabolism.
Synthetic products manufactured from diosgenins include (contraceptive pills) human sex hormones, drugs to treat migraines, arterial spasms, high blood pressure, prostate hypertrophy and psycho-sexual problems, impotence, testicular deficiency, premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea, menopause, and other ailments.
Widely prescribed hydrocortisone and cortisones were indirect products of the genus Dioscorea. They help treat insect stings, brown recluse spider bites, sciatica, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, contact dermatitis, bursitis, some allergies, Addison’s disease, and other diseases and conditions. Wild yam has recently appeared in markets across the United States as a “source” of estrogen or progesterone, prompting some to call this marketing effort the “wild yam scam” since the root does not contain human sex hormones.
WARNING: The fresh plant may induce vomiting and other undesirable side effects.
Decoction: Simmer for five to fifteen minutes and take two to three ounces of water three to four times daily, up to two cups per day. Tincture: Take ten to forty drops three to four times daily. Fluid Extract: Take one teaspoon three to four times daily. Powder: Take five to ten #0 capsules (30 to 60 grains) three to four times daily.
How to use and Prepare Yams
- Raw – Although mature yams may be eaten raw, this is not recommended when unripe since they contain tiny amounts of toxins that disappear when heated. This toxic substance is found primarily in wild yams and causes digestive disturbances.
- Cooked – Yams can be baked, boiled, or fried like potatoes. In west Africa, cooked yams are used to prepare a much-appreciated type of puree.
- George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. “Encyclopedia of Foods and Their Healing Power.” George D. Pamplona-Roger, M.D. Encyclopedia of Foods, and Their Healing Power. Trans. Annette Melgosa. Vol. 2. Chai Wan: Editorial Safeliz, 2005. 101. Print. [Health Benefits of Yams]
- Vance Ferrell Harold M. Cherne, M.D. The Natural Remedies Encyclopedia [Book]. – Altamont, TN: Harvestime Books, 2010. – Vol. Seventh Edition: 7: pp. 186.