Used during the 18th and 19th centuries as a remedy for menstrual pain and complications associated with childbearing, wild yam is a perennial vine that entwines itself around fences and bushes. It is recognized by a slender reddish brown stem and drooping yellow flowers that bloom during the summer. Wild yam extract, taken from the root, contains an alkaloid substance that relaxes the muscles of the entire abdominal region. Consequently, it is prescribed to alleviate menstrual cramps and to relieve the nausea and muscle tension associated with pregnancy. Wild yam also contains steroidal saponins, believed to act as anti-inflammatory agents, and used to reduce the swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis.
Over the counter:
Available as dried bark, tincture, tea and capsules.
Tea: 1 to 2 tsp. of powdered bark steeped in 1 cup boiling water for eight hours, then strained. The bitter taste can be improved by mixing with honey and lemon or another herbal tea.