Chinese Yam is Not Only Meant for the Chinese

yellow yam

Nagaimo or Chinese yam

On paper, nagaimo seems to appear like a miraculous food. Nagaimo is a yam type with barely any calories while simultaneously reducing blood cholesterol and pressure. It is also full of fiber and potassium and perfect for the diet of diabetic folk. And that long list does not even include its most known benefit. Chinese yam is a creeping vine indigenous to China that is currently widespread all through Eastern Asia. Although this amazing herb has medical benefits, it also carries major downsides for the environment; it can rapidly invade habitats and may lower plant diversity. It was proposed to the U.S. in the 1800s and has spread widely across the country since.

The root of Chinese yam (which is also called a rhizome or tuber) was traditionally combined with some other herbs to cure diabetes, boost women’s reproductive health, and aid digestive health.

Folks in China eat these roots as a mild tonic food, alongside other yams. Japanese call it “nagaimo,” which means “long yam.”

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) professionals claim that this yam can restore vital energy, known as qi. According to these professionals, Chinese yam raises yin, which is often connected to feminine attributes. It is believed to stimulate the lungs, spleen, and kidneys.

The scientific name of this yam is Dioscorea polystachya. However, some studies reported it as D. villosa or even D. opposite, the former of which is a different species known as wild yam. Unlike nagaimo, Mexican yam and wild yam are commonly used to synthesize bioidentical hormones (progesterone or estrogen) used in menopausal therapy.

Nutrition Composition

The nagaimo yam is rich in allantoin, a naturally existing chemical compound that can aid faster healing and retrieval times through promoting the hastened growth of healthy tissue. A jelly-like substance released from grating the yam is topically applied to the skin to treat ulcers, boils, and other aberrations. This yam is often used to cure multiple gallbladder and kidney problems, as it is thought to contain nutrients that nourish these organs in particular.

When they are freshly picked, these yams are between 13.5 percent and 34 percent starch; the wide range may be due to variations in water content. Part of the starch compounds gets broken down during the cooking process, so raw yams are considered higher in resistant starch than the boiled yams.

Fresh nagaimo also contains 6.5% proteins and 6.5% sugars. In 100g of nagaimo, you can expect from 40 – 65 calories, majorly depending on their moisture content.

These yams are a source of thiamine and vitamin C. They also contain remarkable amounts of phosphorus,  potassium, magnesium, calcium, zinc, copper, iron, and manganese.

Chinese yam is very easy to prepare. One can chop up the tubers and stir-fry or saute with spices of choice in just about a few minutes. Also, one can substitute it in several recipes that use other yam types and sweet potatoes. Unlike most yams, Chinese yam is not all that sweet.

Active Compounds


This is a phytoestrogen (a plant steroid that behaves like an estrogen). Most affiliates of the yam family produce this compound, including this Chinese yam.

In a lab study, diosgenin attaches itself to estrogen receptors and triggers PPARγ (peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-gamma). PPARγ raises fat deposits but also raises insulin sensitivity and suppresses cancer development.


DOI, on the other hand, is an estrogen-stimulating protein that has been discovered in Chinese yam. It is being confirmed a safer, natural substitute for hormone replacement treatment in menopausal women. In rats, DOI raised progesterone and estradiol levels, enhanced cognition, and prevented bone loss.


Some of those sugars in this yam are in the form of polysaccharides: compounds of sugar units connected with several chemical bonds. Some of the polysaccharides from this yam also lower blood sugar, while others are packed with strong antioxidants. Chinese yam is also high in mucilage, a viscous polysaccharide that makes a gel when dispersed in water.

Health Benefits of Nagaimo

Along with the yam’s many potential medicinal attributes, it also contains several advantageous nutrients such as thiamine (Vitamin B1), which aids healthy mucous membranes, and ascorbic acid, which reinforce the immune system. Another important nutrient discovered in this healthy yam is glutamine, which anchors the prevention of muscular failure and improves protein metabolism. So this power-packed yam does not only serve as a great complement to any Asian-themed foods, but it also gives a litany of health advantages that make it a great plus to your culinary lineup.

  • Cognition

In a research study of 28 healthy adults, an extract from a diosgenin-rich yam improved markers of cognitive role and memory without yielding any side effects. Diosgenin also mended brain function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Women’s Reproductive Health

Among about 600 species in its plant family, this amazing yam is by far the most widely used in traditional medicine for women’s reproductive health, ranging from its ability to increase fertility to lowering menstrual and menopausal signs. Only a few of the traditional proof has been tested.

As ovulation ceases after menopause, progesterone and estrogen levels fall. Although both bioidentical and synthetic hormones are therapeutic options that focus on compensating for the fall in sex hormones, neither is ideal. Nagaimo yam contains several compounds that can imitate female sex hormones. These compounds (like  adenosine, diosgenin, DOI, and arbutin) are currently under study for their potential against conditions such as:

Cognitive problems

Other symptoms of menopause

Chinese yam for fertility


  • Boost Sexual Virility

romanceIt is assumed that during the Edo period, folks added nagaimo to their bath water only to boost their sexual virility. It was Edo’s form of Viagra. Their logic rested on the fact that the slimy component in the yams enabled efficient disintegration and subsequent protein absorption. This allowed men to obtain the “most” energy out of the proteins they consume.

  • Pump a Bowl of Rice

Adding up grated nagaimo and raw egg is another way to pump up a bowl of rice. Tororo is that sticky, slimy substance gotten from grating nagaimo. Honestly, the nagaimo does not taste like much. It is mildly nutty, bringing out the aroma of each rice grain. The actual attraction is in the slimy texture of the rice.

  • Immunity

In a mice study, mucilage and diosgenin from Chinese yam raised the activity of the immune system and boosted the animals’ ability to combat infections that they had once encountered, like the inactive viruses in vaccines.

Mucilage from this yam increased several pointers of immune function in animals, including B and T cell production (the types of white blood cells).

  • Spleen and Other Immune Organ Cell Production

IL-6 and TNF-alpha manufacture from macrophages (another form of white blood cell).

As part of this yam’s immune-boosting attribute in animals, Chinese yam raised inflammatory cytokines (TNF-alpha and IL-6).

Nagaimo yam may affect Th1– and Th2-dominant folks differently. In animals, diosgenin raised the Th1 response, which can aid to fight infections but becomes too much in folks with autoimmune problems.

  • Blood Sugar

In animals, polysaccharides from Nagaimo lowered blood sugar. Meanwhile, diosgenin raised insulin sensitivity (by attaching to PPAR gamma). Chinese yam may be a brilliant functional food for diabetic or prediabetic patients, but these believed benefits have not been confirmed in humans.

  • Digestive Health

According to some animal and cell studies, nagaimo yam and its extracts may aid the growth of healthy bacteria in the gastric system. Consuming Chinese yam raise beneficial Lactobacillus bacteria, stopped the ulcer-causing E. coli, and lowered gut inflammation in rats and mice.

  • Skin Health

benefits of lemon on skinMucilage has been used traditionally to soften the skin and soothe skin disorders. Mucilage from an array of plant origins promotes wound healing and soothes burns and rashes. Nagaimo yam is high in mucilage; if grated or ground and spread on the skin, it may help also heal scrapes, cuts, and other conditions.

  • Limitations and Caveats

The research on this yam (Chinese yam or nagaimo) suffers from wide confusion about its exact scientific name. The known name is Dioscorea polystachya, but a large segment of the text refers to it as D. oppositifolia or D. opposite. Because of this serious confusion, some scientific claims about Chinese yam may truly apply to other related species and vice versa.

I hope you will soon begin to include this amazing root crop in your daily schedule for the sound health your body truly deserves.