DIOSCOREA DELTOIDEA: ENDANGERED SPECIES BECAUSE OF MEDICINAL BENEFITS
The Dioscorea family of plants which includes the yam; this particular species is native to the Himalayas, western Pakistan and Afghanistan. It is very common in Swat and Kashmir, although it is endangered in India. Dioscorea were named after the ancient Greek physician and botanist, Dioscorides.
This plant is special (and endangered) because its tubers contain diosgenin, which is a phytoestrogen that can be chemically converted into the hormone progesterone. The conversion cannot take place in the body though. Diosgenin is a basis for anti-fertility drugs such as the contraceptive pill, of cortisone and sex-hormones, such as testosterone and supplements are used by body builders to increase their testosterone levels and build muscle mass. So although most pharmaceutical companies now use synthetic materials in their drug production the dietary supplement industry prides itself on using natural ingredients, thus threatening the continued existence of many plants. Dioscorea deltoidea has been discovered by the body building world and they consider it better or on par with Tribulus terrestris or Puncture Vine and fenugreek. This plant boosts testosterone levels and so not only helps body builders build muscle mass but also helps with erectile dysfunctions, including premature ejaculation.
Traditionally the plant has been used as an anti-rheumatic and to treat ophthalmic conditions. In the West it has been used as a source of steroid drugs. It has also been used to rid the body of intestinal parasites, and women use it to wash shawls and woollen cloth.
You can’t eat it, but you could try our sweet potato recipe.