Active Ingredients

Diosgenin – Effect, Application & Risks


Diosgenin is a so-called phytohormone , which occurs in particular in the yam root. Various positive effects of diosgenin have been found in humans. Due to its structure similar to human steroid hormones, it is also used to synthesize sex hormones and cortisone .

What is diosgenin?

Diosgenin is a plant active substance which, due to its chemical structure, is similar to human steroid hormones. Yams in particular contain a lot of diosgenin. The active ingredient is the aglycone of dioscin. An aglycone is a non-sugar moiety that attaches a hydrogen atom to the appropriate site instead of a glycosyl group.

The basic chemical structure shows the same steroid structure that also contains human sex hormones and glucocorticoids (cortisone). Therefore, diosgenin can also be chemically converted into cortisone and progesterone .

Cortisone is the typical glucocorticoid that is used in a variety of ways to treat allergies , autoimmune diseases and in organ transplants to prevent rejection reactions . Various derivatives of diosgenin are used in medical research. Active ingredients are sought that have similar or even better properties than diosgenin.

As an active ingredient, it is administered via dietary supplements . The medical importance for classical medicine stems from the fact that it serves as a starting material for the synthesis of important hormones and contraceptives . The pharmacological spectrum of action is very diverse, so that it plays a major role in the non-medical treatment of health impairments.

Pharmacological action

Diosgenin is not an endogenous substance, but a herbal active ingredient that has positive effects on the human hormone system . The herbal active ingredient from the yam root has a similar structure to the steroid hormones in the human body. How diosgenin in turn works in the human body has not yet been fully elucidated. It is believed to be responsible for increased production of the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA slows down the aging process and counteracts bone loss .

In a special way, the active ingredient also intervenes in the hormone metabolism in the treatment of menopausal symptoms. It has been observed that there is a reduction in hot flashes and even an increase in sexual desire in menopausal women . In men, for example, prostate problems could also be reduced.

Furthermore, diosgenin has an anti-carcinogenic effect, as was proven in animal experiments on rats. The risk of developing colon or prostate cancer decreases when diosgenin is administered. In addition, diosgenin shows an antimicrobial effect against the yeast fungi Candida albicans and Candida glabrata . Some efficacy has also been noted against the hepatitis C virus .

Tests have also shown that diosgenin can inhibit blood clotting for a longer period of time and is therefore effective against the formation of thrombosis . Diosgenin also has an inhibitory effect on acetylcholinesterase. It is not yet used in this regard, but further investigations are being carried out to clarify possible uses in diseases associated with increased acetylcholinesterase activity.

Finally, an anti-inflammatory effect of diosgenin has also been observed. Overall, many positive effects of diosgenin could be demonstrated in experiments and studies, although the exact mechanism of action is not yet known.

Medical Application & Use

Diosgenin is a plant hormone and is particularly found in yams. The Aztecs, Mayas, North American Indians and Chinese used the yam root in folk medicine at an early stage. There, its healing effect on inflammation and rheumatic diseases was recognized. The range of effects is very wide.

The typical age-related diseases such as arteriosclerosis or cardiovascular diseases are also less common when yams are consumed frequently. At the same time, its positive effect on hypothyroidism , diabetes , muscle cramps , urinary tract diseases , digestive disorders and bile duct disorders is considerable. Furthermore, the yam root was also used in contraception.

For use in classical medicine, diosgenin is initially used as a starting material for the production of progesterone and cortisone. In medicinal medicine, the use of diosgenin is based on the use of plants containing diosgenin, such as the yam root. There it is used in the form of dietary supplements (capsules or powder), ointments and creams.

Risks & side effects

So far, diosgenin has not been used in its pure form, but only in connection with the plant-based starting products such as yams. Positive effects are mostly registered. Even when side effects are mentioned, they are mostly positive side effects. For example, a rejuvenating effect on the skin was found when using yam root preparations .

Occasionally, however, there are also unpleasant side effects. If the dose is too high for a long time, skin redness and tiredness can occur. Digestive problems are also reported, but only if the people affected have often had stomach and intestinal problems before.

Every person reacts differently to certain active substance concentrations, so that there is still no clear picture of where the dangerous active substance concentration is. Although the yam root contains high concentrations of diosgenin, there do not appear to be any particular side effects from its use.

However, as a precaution, there are contraindications for the yam. It should not be used for menstrual problems in puberty girls . Puberty is a time of very strong hormonal change processes, so that the additional intake of hormone-like substances may have unforeseeable consequences. Since too little is known about the hormonal effects of diosgenin, the yam root should not be used for cervical cancer either.

Lisa Newlon
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Hello! I am Lisa Newlon, and I am a medical writer and researcher with over 10 years of experience in the healthcare industry. I have a Master’s degree in Medicine, and my deep understanding of medical terminology, practices, and procedures has made me a trusted source of information in the medical world.