Research: KOMESAROFF and colleagues

Listed in Issue 73


KOMESAROFF and colleagues, Baker Medical Research Institute, PO Box 6492, St Kilda Central, Melbourne 8008, Victoria, Australia, investigated the efficacy and safety of a externally applied cream containing an extract of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa) for treating troublesome menopausal symptoms in women.


Many women seek alternatives to hormonal therapies for managing menopausal symptoms. Currently popular treatments include extracts of wild yam (Dioscorea villosa), which are applied externally as cream. These preparations are known to contain steroidal saponins, including diosgenin, which has been claimed to influence endogenous steroidogenesis.


This double-blind, placebo-controlled, randomized, cross-over design clinical trial involved 23 [otherwise] healthy women (average age 53.51.1 years) suffering troublesome menopausal symptoms. At the start of the study, the average time since their last period was 4.30.9 years; average body mass index was 27.30.8; cholesterol level was 5.70.2 mmol/L; follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) level was 74.25.1 IU/L; oestradiol levels were undetectable in the majority of cases. Subjects entered a 4-week baseline study period, followed by treatment with a wild yam cream or matching placebo cream for 3 months. [Subjects were then crossed over to the alternative treatment for a further 3 months.] Subjects completed diaries [of symptoms] over the baseline period and for 1 week of each month thereafter. Blood and saliva samples were collected at baseline and at 3 and 6 months for measurement of lipids and hormones.


After 3 months of either active treatment or placebo, no significant side effects had been reported, and there were no significant changes in weight, systolic or diastolic blood pressure, or levels of total serum cholesterol, triglyceride, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, FSH, glucose, oestradiol, or serum or salivary progesterone. Symptom scores revealed a minor effect of both placebo and active cream on diurnal flushing number and severity, and total non-flushing symptom scores, and on nocturnal sweating after placebo. There were no statistically significant differences on symptoms scores between placebo and active creams.


Short-term treatment of troublesome menopausal symptoms in women with a topical wild yam extract was free from side effects, but appeared to have little effect on menopausal symptoms. The results emphasize the importance of careful study of treatments for menopausal symptoms if women are to be adequately informed about the choices available to them.


Komesaroff PA et al. Effects of wild yam extract on menopausal symptoms, lipids and sex hormones in healthy menopausal women. Climacteric 4 (2): 144-50. Jun 2001.


It is vitally important that further studies with these types of products be conducted, as well as with products containing Natural Progesterone.

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