Wild yam hormone myth.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
From: camilla.primenet.com (Camilla Cracchiolo)
Date: 21 May 1995 22:37:40 GMT

Gmericks (gmericks.aol.com) wrote:
: I read in "Herbs" (can't remember the author) that yams have a natural : hormone and eating them may help enhance fertility.

Usually people posting on here are recommending yams as a method of preventing pregnancy rather than enhancing fertility. In fact, it's neither. The yams story is based on the fact that in the 1940s the doc who was one half of the team that invented the Pill (Djerassi) was able to extract a sterol compound from wild yams that, with lots of tinkering in the lab, he was able to convert into the first orally active progestin. The progestin does not exist in yams in the natural state nor does the human body convert this substance into any hormones (or at least not any more than it does the cholesterol found in eggs and meat to hormones).

Word is that the yams are inedible but I haven't tried them myself.

From: jtreasure.jonno.demon.co.uk (Jonathan Treasure)

I agree with Camilla (for a change....) the Dioscorea equals sex hormone myth just won't lay down and die. The Searle Process originally used diosgenin from wild yams as a steroidal precusor until the Mexican Government nationalised the industry in 1970 forcing prices through the roof and rendering other natural sources (of which there are hundreds if not thousands) and finally total synthesis economically viable. There is a more recent Diosgenin export trade from Yunnan in China from local Dioscorea spp but this has not turned the clock back for Western contraceptive manufacture as far as I know.

Either way diosgenin itself cannot be called a contraceptive agent, either in ancient time or any other epoch.

The effect of ingesting naturally occurring steroidal precursors remains partially understood, although Wild Yam is generally credited with a progesterone like effect as opposed to oestrogenic effect herbs such as Angelica. This is distinct from balancing actions on sex hormone interaction - such as Vitex.

To return to the original question of the thread - there are some very skilled and experienced naturopathic OBGYN practitioners (such as Tori Hudson ND at NCNM Portland) who have a good deal of experience with herbs and other modalities. The complexity of fertility, conception etc issues needs in depth individual consultation and experienced treatment - absolutely not suitable subjects for quickie questions in the Usenet I'm afraid.