Wild Yam Root

Botanical Name: Disoscorea villosa Family: Dioscoreaceae

Common name(s): Wild Yam, Colicroot, Rheumatism root


  • Vine, perennial | Zone 5-9 | Up to 30+ tall | Heart-shaped alternate leaves (a set of whorled ones at the base) with small yellow-green flowers June – August. Aerial tubers in late summer.
  • Partial shade | Likes moisture – damp woods, swamps, thickets


Root and tuber are harvested in Autumn


Decoction: 1-2 tsp of root per 1 cup water, bring to boil, simmer for 10-15 minutes. 3x/day

Tincture: 2-4ml 3x/day


Constituents: Steroidal saponins (mainly dioscine), phytosterols, alkaloids, tannin, starch

Actions: Antibilious, anti-inflammatory, antirheumatic, antispasmodic,cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, male tonic

Uses: Intestinal colic, gallstone pain, arthritic and rheumatic pain, menstrual cramps, abdominal and intestinal cramps, and chronic flatulence, diverticulitis, labor pain, boosting testosterone

Combinations: For intestinal colic combine with Calamus, Chamomile, and Ginger. For rheumatoid arthritis, combine with Black Cohosh. For removing accumulated wastes and congestion combine the following tinctures: Burdock Root, 10-40 drops, Black Cohosh 2-15 drops, Motherwort 10-20 drops, Wild Yam Root, 20-40 drops. For chronic liver problems / gas, combine 2 parts Wild Yam Root, 1 part Oregon Grape or Barberry Root, 1/2 part fennel seeds, 1/2 part ginger and take as a tea or powder after meals.


Sweet, bitter, warm


  • The Way of Herbs, Michael Tierra
  • Holistic Herbal, David Hoffmann
  • Indian Herbalogy of North America, Alma R. Hutchens
  • Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, Andrew Chevallier
  • SFGate
  • Mother Earth Living
  • Photo credit: By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Interestingly, I *think* I have this growing in my garden. Intentionally. Brought home some of the aerial tubers from a permaculture site I visited. But the vines grow with no tubers. I maybe need a male/female but haven’t spent the time trying to figure things out. At that point I was interested in the pea-sized tubers, which you can eat like potatoes. I had no idea the root was medicinal!