I see it over and over again in holistic health groups…women stating that they use wild yam cream as a natural source of progesterone. They usually recommend it when a woman is asking about progesterone support for pregnancy, a short luteal phase, or if they’ve had their hormones tested and they are determined to be low in progesterone. The problem is that wild yam is not a natural source of progesterone!
It’s true that wild yam contains a component used to make progesterone, but to say that these progesterone products are natural is the equivalent of saying that aspirin is natural because it uses a component from willow bark in the final product. But even that isn’t a perfect comparison because the salicylic acid that both the aspirin and willow bark contain actually is effectively used by the body even in herbal form.
The problem with the component of wild yam that is used to make progesterone is that your body literally has no way to turn that component into progesterone, and progesterone itself does not exist in wild yams. Let me explain.
Wild yam, also known as Dioscorea villosa (NOT the edible yams you might be thinking of) contains something called diosin, and if your body has the right gut flora in adequate amounts, it converts that diosin to diosgenin. Once this conversion takes place, it is then absorbed across the mucus membranes in your bowel into your bloodstream. But that diosgenin does not go on to be converted into progesterone in your body. Additionally, without the gut flora, the diosin never even converts into diosgenin, so there is question as to whether this component is even useful at all in its topical form.
Now, if you’re thinking, “But MY progesterone cream has worked really well for me!” let me share a few more details about why that might be.
First, if you look on the packaging, does your cream state that it contains USP progesterone? If so, then that is lab-made progesterone. Sure, it might contain wild yam, but the wild yam isn’t doing anything for your progesterone, and the product itself isn’t completely natural. USP progesterone is bioidentical progesterone, but it is still made in a lab. Am I saying that you should avoid this at all costs? No, not at all. That choice is yours to make. I just want you to be aware that you’re not using as natural of a product as you might think you are.
The other possibility if your cream doesn’t contain any added progesterone is that the wild yam is working in other ways. Believe it or not, there is research showing that wild yam CAN alter your estrogen levels without any lab intervention necessary! It can also help to improve the quality or quantity of your cervical mucus, help with spasms and inflammation for conditions like UTIs, painful periods, endometriosis, and interstitial cystitis. Thus, if you’ve used it for fertility concerns, and it has “worked”…it likely was due to one of these other known benefits.
I absolutely love that herbs are complex and act in so many ways. While pharmaceuticals may have their place, the Lord didn’t fill our world with single components. Instead, He gave us the whole plants, so once we understand them, we really can use them to our advantage. I haven’t even gone into all the great herbs for liver support that are also useful for balancing hormone levels. I’ll save that one for another day!
But now you at least know what’s in your wild yam progesterone cream if you choose to use it.