Shan Yao – Dioscorea opposita tuber – Chinese Yam – “Mountain Herb”

Nature: sweet, slightly astringent, neutral

Enters: Spleen, Lung, Kidney

Actions: Tonifies spleen, stomach, Lung, and kidney Qi and Yin; slightly controls body fluids; benefits both the Yin and the Yang of the Lungs and kidneys.

• Spleen Qi deficiency: poor appetite, loose stool, fatigue, spontaneous sweating.
• Lung Qi/Yin deficiency: cough, difficulty breathing.
• Kidney Qi deficiency: seminal emission, copious leukorrhea, frequent urination.
• Slowly lowers blood sugar.
• For diabetes (Lung, stomach, kidney Qi deficiency or Qi and Yin deficiency): up to 250g per day, decocted and taken as a tea.
• Powder and make into jook to build spleen Qi and appetite.
• Use raw to tonify the Yin, dry-fry to strengthen the spleen.
• In some damp patients, Shan yao’s astringent quality contraindicates its use.
Li: Useful for nasal dripping – astringes.
PLB: Recent studies indicate that orally consumed diosgenin is not converted to progesterone in the human body. Does not have hormonal effects.
Yoga: Aluka: V, P-; K+ (in excess)
• Nutritive tonic, aphrodisiac, rejuvenative, diuretic, antispasmodic, analgesic.
• For impotence, senility, hormonal deficiency, infertility, colic, nervous excitability, hysteria, abdominal pain, cramps.

Dose: 9-60g (up to 250g/day for wasting and thirsting disorder)

4 comments on “Shan Yao – Dioscorea opposita tuber – Chinese Yam – “Mountain Herb”

  1. James says:

    Hi Peter,
    Great resource, thank you. Avid user here!
    Regarding diosgenin biochemistry & endocrine profile:

    — “For decades, diosgenin has been widely used as a precursor for commercial steroid synthesis, especially of progesterone, cortisol and androgens. To my knowledge, nobody had specifically looked at its possible role as a steroid precursor when administered directly to mammals. As it turns out, a recent study found that administration of diosgenin dramatically increased DHEA and DHT levels in rodents and the increase of the steroids was seen in both serum and tissues. Serum levels of DHEA rose by a factor of more than 3 and serum DHT levels rose by about a factor of 2.”

    Source —

    Kind regards,

    • Peter Borten says:

      Thanks James. Wow those are big effects.
      Interestingly, DHT has very low oral bioavailability, so this is significant if the same DHT increases occur in humans after consumption of diosgenin.
      Maybe not the best supplement for someone with pattern baldness.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Because it’s slightly astringent, does Chinese Yam also secure Jing/essence like Schizandra (Wu Wei Zi)?

    • Peter Borten says:

      I would guess it has a weak potential in this function. I would never choose it for that purpose, but it’s an important supporting herb in other formulas that can do this (like Jin Gui Shen Qi Wan, which also contains the astringent Shan Zhu Yu that is especially good for this).

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