Mexican yam and herbal birth control.

Newsgroups: alt.folklore.herbs
Subject: Re: botanical birth control
From: (Steve Dyer)
Date: Thu, 20 Apr 1995 18:44:39 GMT

>jpgossett ( wrote:
>: Wild yam will do the job nicely without any side effects. Simply take six or so 500 mg capsules of a good concentration like what you get from Enrich Intl. per day. Allow about a month before you consider it safe.

I hope the women who get pregnant as a result of trusting jpgossett's nonsense will consider naming their kid after him. The only way a Mexican yam is going to act as a contraceptive is if the woman uses it, whole, as a pessary.

The reason why mexican yams are being pushed (completely without basis) in the "alternative" subculture as contraceptives and hormonal replacements is a fascinating story, and it has nothing to do with anything "alternative".

In the late 40's Carl Djerassi and a few colleagues formed Syntex, a chemical firm, and based it in Mexico. Their area of research was steroid chemistry--at the time, the synthesis of steroid hormones was not well developed, and producing large quantities of them was virtually impossible. Djerassi found that the Mexican wild yam, an inedible plant, was an very good source of compounds with a sterol nucleus, chemicals which could be used as the raw material for chemical manipulation to produce steroid hormones. The primary compound in wild yams is diosgenin. It has absolutely NO hormonal effects, nor is it processed by the body to produce metabolites which are active as hormones. However, ingenious chemists that they were, the folks at Syntex were able to produce a wide variety of hormonally active steroids from this inactive raw material. The most notable one, and the one which ultimately gained Djerassi his notoriety, was the synthesis of norethindrone, an orally active analogue of progesterone which formed the basis of the first birth control pills, and which is still used today.

Trying to sell Mexican yam as a contraceptive is like trying to sell a ton of iron ore as an automobile. I'm sure a few people might get taken in by this, but we wouldn't exactly call such people smart. New Age hucksters and herbalists seem to have picked on on the yam/hormone connection but have missed a few essential points, and they sell such crap to people who are ignorant of what they're buying.

I highly recommend Djerassi's autobiography for anyone interested in the story of the wild yam and contraception. I picked it up and couldn't put it down.

AUTHOR: Djerassi, Carl.
TITLE: The pill, pygmy chimps, and Degas' horse : the autobiography of Carl Djerassi.
PUB. INFO: New York : BasicBooks, c1992.
DESCRIPTION: viii, 319 p. : ill.; 24 cm.