Wild yam, also known as colic root or Dioscorea villosa, is a tuberous vine that is native to both China and North America. Although each locale grows a different species of wild yam, both species contain diosgenin, the active ingredient in the plant. Traditionally, the wild yam has been used for a variety of ailments, ranging from menopausal issues to mild cramps, but modern research has shown mixed results as to its effectiveness. Consult with a qualified health practitioner before taking wild yam extract, particularly if you are taking any other medication.
In North America, wild yam has traditionally been used to treat menstrual cramps, coughs, morning sickness, inflammation and problems related to childbirth, as well as colic and a variety of digestive issues. Similar uses abound in traditional Chinese medicine, with the additions of using the herb for its supposed anti-aging properties, as well as a treatment for urinary difficulties and lowering blood pressure.