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Wild Yam: Safety Dosages Personal Experiences Used wild yam? Considering it?
wild yam sketch
Wild Yam
An Herbal Contraceptive
wild yam sketch

What if there was an herb that women could take that would prevent conception from occurring? An herb that is safe to take an a daily basis, for extended periods of time with no side effects....... According to a midwife in Utah, Willa Shaffer, wild yam is just such an herb, she first read about wild yam in an article and set out to do some investigating herself. With the help of volunteers, she tested the dosages listed in the article she found, and based on those tests she adjusted the dosages, and many of her clients have used it successfully for four years at the time her book was published.

Not long after I found Willa's book, I did some literary researching on my own to try and find other references to wild yam being used as a contraceptive, but didn't find anything at all. There has been a lot of research done on wild yam, but nothing that I had found regarding the female reproductive system, but haven't checked lately to see if something else has become available. Willa was uncertain at the time her book was published how wild yam accomplished its contraceptive effect. She believes wild yam makes the egg sterile, with the woman ovulating as usual. Another herbalist who has recently written me (July 2001) said that wild yam works by thickening the outer covering of the egg's "shell" so that the sperm are unable to penetrate. This possible explanation is along the same lines as Willa's theory of how it works. As of yet though, I don't have any sort of documentation of this potential effect.

Wild yam has many effects on the body, among other things, its very good for the liver and endocrine system, by toning and nourishing the liver it helps to balance hormone production. Wild yam is very well known for its steroidal saponins (chemical constitutes in the plant) contained within particularly diosgein, an important hormonal precursor for progesterone. Precursors provide necessary elements or building blocks to produce and balance the hormones progesterone and cortisone.

Wild Yam can be used for a variety of women's issues including menstrual irregularity, menstrual cramps, infertility, menopause and endometriosis, Susun Weed notes an infusion is the strongest preparation to prevent miscarriage, because it relaxes the uterus and soothes the nerves. For after birth pains a tincture given in cold water to help relieve the pain. It is given in cold water because a hot decoction causes too much relaxation to the uterus, and could cause hemorrhage just after child birth. Wild yam also has anti-inflammatory properties and the hormonal precursors for cortisone making it useful in the treatment of arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. We treated an old dog with a combination containing wild yam for his arthritis and it seemed to help.

Wild yam is a diverse herb with many uses, how it is taken determines the effect on the body, it also makes a difference in what form the herb is taken, the tea has a different effect than the powder or tincture, just as taking it as a hot tea has a very different effect than taking a tincture in cold water, as you saw in the examples for possible uses above. Wild yam can be used to both promote and decrease fertility, the different effects are achieved by the amount taken and when and how long the herb is used each cycle. When wild yam is used in moderate doses, for the first half of the menstrual cycle, from menses to ovulation then discontinued for the remainder of the cycle, the effect is to increase fertility. When wild yam is used in contraceptive doses, and is taken daily throughout the cycle, the effect is to reduce fertility and when taken correctly, can act as a contraceptive.

The question of reliability is an important one when it comes to preventing pregnancy. When sexually active, no matter how careful one is, there is always a chance that contraception will fail. Modern contraceptive options offer rates of 70% effectiveness and better, some of the most reliable forms of birth control are up to 99% effective. Every woman must determine for herself, how much of a risk of getting pregnant she is willing to take for the pleasure of having sex.

Some herbalists including Michael Tierra, feel that wild yam and other herbal contraceptives may reduce the number of pregnancies (when compared to not using any contraception at all) and question whether the level of fertility reduction would be acceptable to women of today, who are accustomed to a high rate of protection from modern contraceptive methods. Brigette Mars a herbalist from Colorado participated in a test of wild yam, her opinion? Next best thing to no protection at all.

At this time, herbal methods of contraception are not widely used or tested, and no data (to my knowledge) has been collected to shed any light on effectiveness. There is a strong desire for more information in the realm of herbal contraception, I often hear from individuals who cannot use various methods of modern contraception for one reason or another, and welcome the opportunity to try something natural to prevent conception from occurring. I hope that we can work together to add to our collective body of herbal knowledge.




To use wild yam successfully as a contraceptive

The rules must be followed, and if they are not an alternative method of contraception should be used to prevent pregnancy.

-- When starting out with wild yam it is very important to use an alternative method of contraception for the first two months to allow the wild yam to take effect. The two month waiting period is at the advice of not only Willa, but other herbalists experienced with wild yam usages as well. Remember wild yam will not protect you from sexually transmitted diseases, only male or female condoms can do that, it is your responsibility to keep your body disease and virus free, please use condoms unless you and your partner are truly together forever. Long term relationships can come and go, virus stay with you your whole life, and some viruses such as human papilloma virus (HPV) are extremely common, and very difficult to detect, (estimates are that 70% of the sexually active population carry this virus which can cause cervical changes and if not treated can lead to cervical cancer)

-- Wild yam must be taken twice a day to be effective, Mrs Shaffer writes, "You must take them as prescribed, you cannot go away for the weekend, forget your birth control and "make up for it" by taking 12 capsules when you return home. If you miss, protect yourself with another [contraceptive] method until you are sure you are safe again."9

-- According to a herbalist in N.C. anti-biotics both herbal and pharmaceutical in nature negate the contraceptive effect of wild yam. If you need to use prescription anti-biotics or herbal anti-biotics (like garlic, echinacea, goldenseal, or any other of the many anti-biotic herbs) use an alternative form of contraception for the next two cycles once you finish using them to make sure your contraception is back in force.




Side effects, safety and contradictions:

Side-effects

At the time Mrs Shaffer published her book she had been testing wild yam for four years, and found no evidence of weight gain, swelling, cramping, hormone changes, or any other side effects. In my own experiences, I noticed no negative effects with wild yam, and noticed that my periods were less crampy and very even and even though my cycles tend to be fairly regular anyway, it made them even more so.

Safety

General consensus between all herbal sources is that wild yam is very safe to use, and can be used safely for long periods of time, Rosemary Gladstar writes wild yam is safe to take over extended periods of time with no residual side effects. Jethro Kloss writes in his famous herbal that wild yam is one of the best herbs for general pain during pregnancy, and to take throughout pregnancy. Taken in small frequent doses it can be used to allay nausea, but in large doses may cause nausea. [Though in contraceptive doses, I didn't experience any nausea, or any other negative effects].

Based on the general safely consensus and Mr. Kloss's suggestions for use of wild yam during pregnancy, I think that it would be safe to conclude that if pregnancy did occur when taking contraceptive doses of wild yam it would be OK to continue the pregnancy. If pregnancy is discovered, discontinue taking wild yam immediately, contraceptive doses are higher than normal therapeutic doses, and are taken with the intent to prevent pregnancy. If planning on carrying the pregnancy to term, energy should be focused on this, and herbal/vitamin in takes adjusted appropriately to support pregnancy.

Contradictions what not to take wild yam with, and who shouldn't use it.

This contradiction came to my attention through one of my visitors who has successfully used wild yam as a contraceptive, and obtained her herbs and information from a herbalist in N.C. whom I'm in the process of attempting to make contact with to gather additional details.

Apparently, anti-biotics will negate the contraceptive effects of wild yam. This also includes herbal antibiotics like garlic, goldenseal and echinacea. There are many other herbs that have an anti-biotic effect, so if you use a variety of herbs, make sure you research them well, and know their effects.

To date, I have not seen any contradictions between health conditions, pregnancy, or any other reason that an individual should not take wild yam. However, new data comes to light all the time, and I am unable to keep up to date on everything, so please do your own research if you have some sort of health condition, do your homework, find out if it is ok for you to take wild yam with whatever condition you may have.




Dosages:

Remember, first two cycles of use, protect against unintentional pregnancy, combine with alternative form of contraception such as a condom. Wild yam needs this time to take effect.
Wild Yam has not been FDA tested for use as a contraceptive, if you choose to use wild yam, you do so at your own risk. {Failure = pregnancy, in most cases}.

-- Jeanne's recommended dosages: Pre-packaged capsules of wild yam, 1275 mg to 1500 mg twice a day, every day.

OR

-- Willa's recommended dosages: 3 size "OO" capsules, twice a day, every day.

To read more and/or purchase Wild Yam powder and a capsule maker to fill your own capsules.




Personal experiences with Wild Yam:

In my own experience with wild yam, I took it for 8 months during this time I charted my cycles faithfully using a plastic speculum and observing the changes in my cervix and cervical fluids, my standard method of contraception during my fertile time was (and still is) condoms. When I asked the herb shop where I was purchasing my wild yam from if they knew anything about wild yam as a contraceptive.... they knew a little, one of the guys who worked there had considered using it with his girl friend, but in the end they decided against it, overall, the vibe I got from them is that they had no documentation or evidence that it worked or might work, and so they kind of discouraged me from relying on it, so I never did test it out for real, but I used it as a back up method as I was learning fertility awareness methods, during that time I had no unplanned pregnancies.

Jeanne, a self-taught herbalist used wild yam for two years with no pregnancies. She provided the above dosages in milligrams. Thanks Jeanne!

Paula who used the wild yam as prescribed by the herbalist from NC also used wild yam successfully, when she decided to become pregnant, she discontinued the herb, she told me the wild yam took two months to get out her system, after that she conceived and had a healthy baby.

Kim wrote me saying that she used wild yam successfully for two years. When she discontinued the wild yam to get pregnant, she got pregnant right away. She mentioned that she is planning to start taking the wild yam again soon. I asked her if she would write something up for the website describing what she did, what it was like, etc. If and when she sends me anything, I'll post it here.

I have heard things second-hand from people who've contacted me who know someone who has used it, in one such report her friend had used it successfully for a period of months then failed unexpectedly, she speculated a lifestyle change may have had an impact on it's contraceptive effects. Unfortunately I was never able to connect with her directly and ask her about her experience.

A self-proclaimed master herbalist left this in my guest book, so I copied it over here, believing women should have access to as much information as possible. This is what Linda wrote:

Just wanted to point out that Linda was taking more wild yam than the contraceptive dose Willa Shaffer lists as effective, and doesn't mention what other herbs she was taking, it is very possible that something she was taking would negate any contraceptive effects. I also think that your intent when you take a herb is important as well. If you are asking a herb to provide you with contraceptive protection, then are using it correctly chances are that it will provide contraceptive protection. However it is equally possible that some individuals will not be affected the same way that others are.



More information on Herbal Contraception:

Anyone who is considering using wild yam as a contraception should read Willa's book, you can order it by following the link; Wild Yam: Birth Control without Fear

Herbal Contraception
Queen Anne's Lace Seeds for contraception and emergency contraception
Herbal Contraception an email group maintained by Sister Zeus
Suggested Reading

Other Websites with info on Wild Yam:
A brief mention of wild yam as a contraceptive, but used in a completely different way.
Wild Yam by Alternative Nature Online Herbal




Have you Used Wild Yam for Contraception?

I have decided to collect some data about the effectiveness of wild yam, if you have used wild yam in the past, or are currently using it (and have been for a minimum of 6 months).

If you would like to assist me in my research and data collection, please take a moment to drop me an email, with the details of your herb usage, dosages, how long you've used it, height and weight, and anything. Your time and information is greatly appreciated.





Are you interested in participating in an informal study?
Thinking about taking wild yam?

If you are considering taking wild yam, are currently using wild yam or are at a time in your life where if you were to conceive it would not be a problem and you would like to contribute to our understanding of how these herbs work and to help determine their effectiveness, then please contact me.

Participation includes sending me a note every 6 months letting me know how things are going, if everything is working fine, and any noticed effects, positive or negative, how you are feeling about using this alternative method of contraception. I will hang on to your email address, and may ask that you fill out a questionnaire or two to assist me in data collection. I plan to begin another database to house the information I have already received from women who've experimented with wild yam, and will want to add to this base of information. You are also invited to become a member of an email list I maintain devoted to herbal contraception. YahooGroups - Herbal Contraception

Again, all this stuff has not been tested by the FDA, and is purely experimental and at your own risk. But as time goes by I find that women are willing to take the risk, looking for more natural alternatives. No birth control method is 100% and with that in mind we have to decide how much risk we are willing to take. I can't help but think that by sharing our experiences and experiments that we can learn much. Building our self-help community across the web.




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