Dioscorea villosa is a species of twining tuberous vine which is native to eastern North America. It is commonly known as wild yam, colic root, rheumatism root, devil's bones, and fourleaf yam. It is common and widespread in a range stretching from Texas and Florida north to Minnesota, Ontario and Massachusetts. It is currently on the United Plant Savers "At Risk" list. UpS is an organization concerned with the preservation of endangered medicinal plants on the territory of North America.
Dioscorea villosa is, according to the Flora of North America, quite variable in shape across its range. It ranges from a small vine with winged stems, tightly packed groups of flowers, variably hairy leaves all the way up to large vines with unwinged stems, large, smooth leaves, and widely spread sprays of flowers. It always has rhizomes spreading underground that can be branched or not.
Some of the English common names of this plant reflect its use in Native American and other traditional medicines. In traditional Russian herbal medicine, saponin extracts from the roots of various varieties of wild yam are thought to be an anticoagulant, antisclerotic, antispasmodic, cholagogue, depurative, diaphoretic, diuretic and a vasodilator.
There is little modern clinical research on Dioscorea villosa, and the one study of a wild yam-containing cream for menopausal symptoms failed to find any value from this therapy. According to the American Cancer Society, there is no evidence to support wild yam or diosgenin being either safe or effective in humans.
- Kew World Checklist of Selected Plant Families
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- Flora of North America
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- Biota of North America Program, 2013 county distribution map
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- Geller SE, Studee L (2005). "Botanical and dietary supplements for menopausal symptoms: What works, what doesn't". J Womens Health (Larchmt). 14 (7): 634–49. doi:10.1089/jwh.2005.14.634. PMC 1764641. PMID 16181020..
- "Wild Yam". American Cancer Society. November 2008. Retrieved 21 September 2013.
- Eagon PK, Elm MS, Hunter DS, et al. Medicinal herbs: modulation of estrogen action. Era of Hope Mtg, Dept Defense; Breast Cancer Res Prog, Atlanta, GA 2000;Jun 8-11.
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