A Natural Relief of Menopausal Symptoms?
When I heard that question from a younger (as in non-menopausal) woman I was curious. What thing about eating yams? So, like any normal clueless person, I Googled it. As it turns out, itâ€™s not so much about eating yams. It is, however, about as using wild yams as a progesterone promoting cream.Â Â Huh?
First I went to Dr. Andrew Weilâ€™s site and this is what he had to say:
Wild yams (Dioscorea) have been promoted as a source of natural progesterone for the relief of menopausal symptoms or a host of other female problems ranging from menstrual cramps to monthly mood swings. Claims for the effectiveness of wild yam cream are based on the fact that wild yams contain a precursor of steroid hormones called diosgenin. However, diosgenin itself has no hormonal activity and can’t be converted in the human body into anything that does.Â
Many women prefer natural progesterone products to synthetic progesterone (progestins) typically prescribed as part of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). You don’t need progesterone if you’ve had a hysterectomy and no longer have a uterus. If you do have a uterus, replacing estrogen alone can overstimulate the uterine lining, raising the risk of endometrial cancer. Adding progesterone protects the uterus.
If you have been using wild yam cream in the belief that it is supplying enough progesterone to offset the effects of estrogen replacement on the uterus, I’m afraid that you haven’t been getting the protection you need. In fact, I’m not satisfied that studies have established the efficacy or long-term safety of any of the natural progesterone creams used to protect the uterus from estrogen replacement. Most of the over-the-counter brands contain too little of the hormone, if they contain any at all. I recommend oral micronized progesterone, a prescription form of natural progesterone available in capsules (under the brand name Prometrium) or progesterone from a “compounding pharmacy” that customizes formulas according to your doctor’s instructions.
Interesting. It sounds like wild yam cream isnâ€™t enough to combat long term use of estrogen replacement therapy.
Menopause and Osteoporosis
So then I went to the University of Marylandâ€™s Medical Center website:
Although wild yam is often advertised as a natural source of estrogen, there is no scientific evidence that wild yam works to treat menopausal symptoms or osteoporosis. In fact, several studies have found that wild yam does not reduce the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, or raise levels of estrogen or progesterone in the body. Some preparations of wild yam may contain progesterone, but only because a synthetic version of progesterone (medroxyprogesterone acetate or MPA) has been added to them.Â
Hmmmm. Strike two. Iâ€™m often resistant when it comes to relying on â€œscientific evidence,â€ however. Particularly because scientific evidence magically changes due to further study or, more often, an infusion of corporate money. Therefore I thought Iâ€™d go to a more integrated source.
Here is the abstract of Paul Komesaroffâ€™s research:
Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women.
We therefore conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study of the effects of a wild yam cream in 23 healthy women suffering from troublesome symptoms of the menopause. After a 4-week baseline period, each woman was given active cream and matching placebo for 3 months in random order. Diaries were completed over the baseline period and for 1 week each month thereafter, and blood and saliva samples were collected at baseline and at 3 and 6 months, for measurement of lipids and hormones.
The average age of the subjects was 53.3 +/- 1.1 (SEM) years and average time since last period 4.3 +/- 0.9 years. At baseline, the average body mass index was 27.3 +/- 0.8, cholesterol level 5.7 +/- 0.2 mmol/l and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) level 74.2 +/- 5.1 IU/l; estradiol levels were undetectable in the majority of cases. After 3 months of treatment, no significant side-effects were reported with either active treatment or placebo, and there were no changes in weight, systolic or diastolic blood pressure, or levels of total serum cholesterol, triglyceride, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, FSH, glucose, estradiol, or serum or salivary progesterone. Symptom scores showed a minor effect of both placebo and active treatment on diurnal flushing number and severity and total non-flushing symptom scores, and on nocturnal sweating after placebo, but no statistical difference between placebo and active creams.
This study suggests that short-term treatment with topical wild yam extract in women suffering from menopausal symptoms is free of side-effects, but appears to have little effect on menopausal symptoms. It emphasizes the importance of careful study of treatments for menopausal symptoms if women are to be adequately informed about the choices available to them.
Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women – ResearchGate. Available from:Â www.researchgate.net
Okay. Itâ€™s sounding like wild yam cream does not provide the relief menopausal women are seeking. The thing is, I usually feel that if something has been used as a natural treatment for a long time that there must be a reason, and wild yams have been used for centuries. Â I have not used it myself, however, so I canâ€™t add any personal or anecdotal stories. Have any of you used wild yam cream? If so, what was your experience? Would you recommend it? Why or why not?