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Saturday, July 23, 2011


The air potato is a member of the yam (Dioscorea batatas) family which includes Dioscorea deltoidea, much used by body-builders and men who need testosterone boosts. Along with others in the species, this plant is a source of diosgenin which is needed for birth control pills. It is native to the Indian sub-continent and possibly also to tropical Africa.
  It is called the air potato because it grows potato – like bulbs between the bases of the leaves, along its aerial roots. The plant is a vine which can grow up to 20 metres long, and on summer days can grow up to 20 cms, in a day. In southern US states where it is invasive, having been introduced some time during the slave trade years, it can choke plants in the forest canopy and prevents light reaching those on the forest floor.
  Where it is a native it is used in traditional medicine for a number of ailments, including diarrhoea, dysentery, jaundice, stomach pains, and even bone fractures. In Indian and Chinese medicine it is used for sore throats, stomach cancers, and goiters. It is also used to treat anorexia and is said to have diuretic properties. Reportedly it can lower cholesterol levels, relieve pain and lower blood pressure. It has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  In the Cameroon Islands the plant is used for pain relief and to stop inflammation. It is used similarly in the Philippines.
  The aerial ‘potatoes’ are eaten as a vegetable, after chopping and then soaking for some hours. The tuber is also used like a yam. (It has no relationship to a sweet potato however.)
  The plant contains a number of flavonoids and isoflavonoids, which have oestrogenic, heart protective, antioxidant and anti-cancer properties. Those contained in the air potato are particularly potent free radical scavengers, at least in rats. (Javachandran K.S. et al. December 2010).
  New research to be published at the beginning of 2012 suggests that the plant has “profound therapeutic potential” –and has anti-diabetic properties, (Evidence-Based Complementary Medicine Journal Volume 2012).
  Research published in 2002 carried out on mice, showed the plant to have an anti-fungal compound, dihydrorodioscorine which had anti-tumor effects it was reported.
  Clearly there are potential health benefits that we could utilize from this plant, if more research were done into its properties.

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