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?
Norelle Hentschel says
My understanding as a Naturopath and herbalist is that wild yam has a constituent in it call dioscin that is commercially used as a starting point to make steriod hormones. However, dioscin doesn’t convert that way in the human body so topical creams really won’t give you any progesterone in themselves. Taken internally Wild yam is thought (although no one is 100% sure!) to act of the pituitary gland to help regulate hormone production and balance ovulation. Ovulation = progesterone (produced naturally in the body). They also have a constituent that has a weak affinity with estrogen receptors so can also help the balance of estrogen and progesterone which can get out of whack in perimenopausal women. This does require bacterial conversion in the digestive track so it will depend a bit on the makeup of the microbiome. Hopefully we may understand more about the traditional uses in the future with further research.
I’m 51 and pre-menopausal (this past year my cycle has become so regular you could set your watch to it…first time in my life). I felt like the study mentioned above isn’t really applicable to pre-menopausal women since those women hadn’t had a period in 4-9 yrs. That sound like post-menopausal.
So straight out of my journal:
Sept 1st 2018 After I prayed for an answer to these awful cystic pimples I’ve been getting. Then I felt answered (thru google searches about pre-menopausal pimples) that there are solutions. I’ve been getting cystic pimples the last few months exclusively between ovulation and my period. The very next day after taking zinc and magnesium and a wild yam capsule (just before bed on the night I found this info) the cysts I felt in my chin began to disappear.
This morning I started using Progesterone cream that I had ordered on Amazon that night (Kokoro Balance Creme for Women, Bioidentical Natural Progesterone Cream for Menopause Support, $19 for 2 oz). I’m supposed to apply a ¼ tsp twice/day during the 14 day luteal phase (the time between ovulation and a period starting).
UPDATE Sept 9: I got my period today. Not a single pimple has appeared since starting the wild yam supplement and “progesterone” cream. I read online that wild yam doesn’t contain progesterone (although a precursor to it that can be produce progesterone in the lab when treated with HCL) but contains an adaptogen that can instead help with things that having enough Progesterone would have taken care of.
Even after having these awesome results my mind started questioning “Did I really have a pimple problem or were these isolated incidents? Is it really the progesterone cream fixing things?”. I do this about all kinds of supplements and especially homeopathic remedies. But I want to assure in writing that this was the third month in a row of seriously bad deep cystic pimples, only during my luteal phase! The one I had on my chin and the cluster on my jawline DISAPPEARED as soon as I started taking wild yam supplements/cream! Cystic pimples for me have never just disappeared without massage over several days and often that wasn’t sufficient for them to go completely away.
UPDATE Nov 29: I’m almost completely pimple free. I had one in my eyebrow this month which I felt coming on last month, but it was tiny and not troublesome and is gone without a mark. In fact it receded every time I put the wild yam cream on it.
I don’t know which is more effective (the cream or supplements or if I need them together). I’m taking them together now since I had the pimple scare and a couple pre-pimple soreness when on the cream only.
Wow! Thank you for this anecdotal account of what worked for you. I really liked the progesterone cream I was using during the worst of my hot flashes and found it easy to use. As I keep saying, every woman’s experience will be unique to her. BUT! I love it when women share ideas/health approaches/integrated tips as somewhere in the midst might be just THE bit of information that will help someone else.