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Our skin isn’t as resilient to time as we’d like it to be. As the years pass, we lose some of the ‘bounce’ from our skin. The ability to snap back and look fresh and glowing after a long night isn’t the only thing that wanes. Unfortunately, with aging comes the near inevitability of wrinkles, fine lines, and hyper-pigmentation. Combine this with any additional sun damage we have, and our age is often betrayed on our faces.

Naturally, we slather on any trusty serum or cream we can find that claims to be ‘anti-aging.’ We’re trying to regain that how-does-she-do-it youthful glow, and we don’t care how that happens – just that it happens. But shouldn’t we pay more attention to what’s in these products?

Yes. And we can do that by learning which ingredients really work. Knowing what they are and what they may be able to do is key.

If you’re reading labels and you see Dioscorea villosa, know that this is simply the scientific term for wild yam.

Yep, that’s right. A potato’s not-really-related cousin (wild yam is not to be confused with sweet potatoes) can possibly help you achieve better-looking skin.1

What’s Important About Wild Yam Extract?

Wild yam has a pretty cool make-up that may benefit several different parts of the body.

It’s filled with steroid saponins – which are basically naturally occurring molecules in plants.2 They’re structurally and functionally diverse, allowing for them to be applied to a number of uses.3

Saponins are considered to have a wide range of therapeutic properties, including anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, and antioxidant properties. In addition, they’re able to easily dig into cell membranes, which plays a huge role in allowing the molecule to actually work.4

Wild yam is also known for a compound known as diosgenin, a specific steroidal saponin. Diosgenin is used as an anti-inflammatory.5 It’s also been suggested to enhance DNA synthesis in human skin while restoring skin cells.6

Diosgenin is also believed to be effective as a depigmenting agent in the skin, helping to protect against some serious skin health issues that can arise from sun damage.7

What does this mean for us?

It means that wild yam extract can potentially soothe, treat, and even promote healthier skin.

Wild Yam Extract | Gundry MD

Getting the Skinny: Wild Yam Skin Benefits

Wild yam is used in cosmetic products to help keep skin healthy and fresh. Here’s just a few of the ways wild yam extract can affect the skin:

  • Wrinkles and Sagging Skin

Wrinkles may grow on us literally, but they never do figuratively. If we could erase them we would. Wild yam extract could possibly act as a kind of natural eraser.

The superstar saponin diosgenin is used in cosmetics for its ability to fight the loss of collagen in skin.8 Collagen plumps the skin, helping it to maintain its youthful appearance and fresh look, while holding everything together.

Because it’s collagen-friendly, diosgenin is also applied in treating certain skin health issues that could cause degenerative symptoms.9

  • Hyper-pigmentation

Dark spots, or hyper-pigmentation, occurs naturally with age and as a result of UV exposure (i.e. sun damage). Diosgenin acts as a depigmenting agent, potentially helping to reduce the appearance of unwanted dark spots and inhibiting the occurrence of new hyper-pigmentation.10

  • Irritation and Sensitive Skin

Irritated and sensitive skin may reap benefits from the collagen-boosting effects of diosgenin.11

It’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties come into play here as well, soothing skin while giving it the healthy nutrients it needs.12

  • Skin Radiance

Wild yam’s saponins have combined antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antimicrobial properties. Diosgenin fights collagen and restores skin cells. All of these factors could possibly help skin become better moisturized, healthier, and more radiant.

Skincare is a popular use for wild yam extract, with good reason.

There are tons of benefits found with its saponins, from collagen reproduction to protecting skin cells from further harm. The ability of diosgenin to easily permeate cell membranes is another key reason it’s used in cosmetics.13

Skincare isn’t the only area wild yam is beneficial, though.

Wild Yam Extract | Gundry MD

Other Health Benefits of Wild Yam

  • Menopause

Mainly used for its anti-inflammatory properties, wild yam is used to calm symptoms related to periods and menopause. It’s believed to help soothe cramps and discomfort.14

Wild yam was shown to improve sex hormones, lipids, and antioxidants in postmenopausal women.15 By binding to estrogen receptors, wild yam’s phytoestrogens help stabilize hormones and soothe pain.16

  • Gastrointestinal Discomfort

Wild yam is also believed to help with stomach discomfort, again due to its anti-inflammatory properties.17,18

Diosgenin and dioscin (the glycoside form of diosgenin) has been suggested to stabilize in gastric and intestinal fluids. Dioscin is believed to have superior intestinal permeability, which could help ease discomfort.19

Further research is still being conducted to figure out what all wild yam can do, but it’s been suggested to help with muscle and lung health issues as well.20

Conclusion

Who knew that a wild yam could benefit us in so many ways? Next time you’re using your anti-aging cream or serum, check the ingredients.

If Dioscorea villosa extract isn’t in the line-up, you might want to do some research into products that have it, including Dr. Gundry’s Polyphenol Reparative Serum. Your newly-radiant skin will thank you for it!

Sources

1 What’s the Difference Between Yams and Sweet Potatoes? — Word of Mouth. The Kitchn. 2014. Accessed November 29, 2016.
2 Dong S, Cai G, Napolitano J et al. Lipidated steroid saponins from Dioscorea villosa (wild yam). 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
3 Moses T, Papadopoulou K, Osbourn A. Metabolic and functional diversity of saponins, biosynthetic intermediates and semi-synthetic derivatives. 2014. Accessed November 29, 2016.
4 Moses T, Papadopoulou K, Osbourn A. Metabolic and functional diversity of saponins, biosynthetic intermediates and semi-synthetic derivatives. 2014.
5 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
6 Tada Y e. Novel effects of diosgenin on skin aging. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2009. Accessed November 29, 2016.
7 Lee J e. Diosgenin inhibits melanogenesis through the activation of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathway (PI3K) signaling. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2007. Accessed November 29, 2016.
8  Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D. Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies. 2013.
9  Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D. Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies. 2013.
10 Lee J e. Diosgenin inhibits melanogenesis through the activation of phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase pathway (PI3K) signaling. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2007. Accessed November 29, 2016.
11 Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D. Skin Ageing: Natural Weapons and Strategies. 2013.
12 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
13 Patent US20050031654 – Composition based on diosgenin ester for topical use. Google Books. 2016. Accessed November 29, 2016.
14 Geller Studee L. Botanical and Dietary Supplements for Menopausal Symptoms: What Works, What Does Not. 2005.
15 Wu WH e. Estrogenic effect of yam ingestion in healthy postmenopausal women. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2005. Accessed November 29, 2016.
16 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
17 Geller Studee L. Botanical and Dietary Supplements for Menopausal Symptoms: What Works, What Does Not. 2007.
18 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
19 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.
20 Manda VK e. Characterization of in vitro ADME properties of diosgenin and dioscin from Dioscorea villosa. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbinlmnihgov. 2013. Accessed November 29, 2016.

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