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Estrogen Labeled A Cancer-Causing Agent

On December 15th, a government scientific advisory panel recommended that the Estrogen be added to the nation's list of cancer-causing agents. The scientists are finally offering a cautious warning about what Dr. John Lee has been saying for years regarding the dangers of Estrogen and cancer. In his excellent book, “What your Doctor May Not Tell You About Menopause,” he makes a convincing case for the use of natural progesterone (i.e. the form your body/nature makes), as a safe and vastly preferable alternative to estrogen and synthetic (and therefore patentable) progestins for osteoporosis, symptoms of menopause, endometriosis and many other conditions.

 We asked Dr. Sharol Tilgner, author of “Herbal Medicine From The Heart Of The Earth” and president of Wise Woman Herbals Inc. to explain just what “natural” Progesterone means. You will also find an excellent overview of the case for natural progesterone at

Wild Yam & Progesterone

By Sharol Tilgner ND

There has been a lot of confusion around progesterone, diosgenin and Wild Yam. Progesterone is a drug. Wild Yam (Dioscorea villosa) is an herb. The human body can not synthesize progesterone from Wild Yam. Diosgenin is a steroidal sapogenin found in Wild Yam and other herbs such as False unicorn and True unicorn. Diosgenin can be manipulated chemically in laboratories to create estrone, testosterone, and progesterone as well as adrenocortical hormones. In current research on animals, it has been shown that once diosgenin is consumed by an animal it usually turns into smilagenin due to action on it by gut flora. (If you use antibiotics they will kill the gut flora and diosgenin will not turn into smilagenin and you will not get the same effects!) When diosgenin was given orally to female rats they had an increase in uterine weight, vaginal opening and vaginal cornification. When injected into ovariectomized mice there was a growth of mammary epithelium. Chamaelirium (False unicorn) and Aletris (True unicorn) both contain diosgenin and have produced estrogenic activity in rats.

Some companies have unscrupulously misled people into believing that Wild Yam contains progesterone. As mentioned above, it can be used as a base to create progesterone or other hormones when manipulated chemically in a laboratory, but it does not contain progesterone in it’s natural state. When ingested it does not have any known constituents that change into progesterone. If you purchase a Wild Yam herb product that does not have progesterone added to it there will be no progesterone in the product.

There are some companies selling Wild Yam products that have progesterone added to the product. Additionally companies are selling progesterone creams and calling them Wild Yam extracts. This has created confusion for the purchaser. The purchaser should examine the label carefully to see if it lists progesterone. If so, it is a drug they are buying. It is illegal for these companies to sell more than 3% progesterone cream over the counter. It is also illegal for the manufacturer to give information on how the progesterone can affect the purchaser’s health.

 The manufacturer is only allowed to sell the 3% progesterone cream over the counter as a beauty aid. Progesterone in any form you purchase is a drug. As a cream it is absorbed through the skin and has the same effects as oral progesterone. Some physicians give progesterone cream to their patients to use medicinally. Unfortunately, some patients think they can purchase Wild Yam cream (without progesterone and get the same results). Women using Wild Yam extracts (without progesterone added) in this way have told me they get no results when it is used externally. Wild Yam has many wonderful uses when used internally. Its use as an external cream, however, has not been historically evaluated, and it appears to be useless for hormonally related health conditions when used this way.

The information on herbal hormones is confusing at best. Science is just beginning to understand how these herbs affect the body. If you would like to learn more about herbs in an atmosphere where education is made easy, come to the seventh annual Pacific NW Herbal Symposium. There will be classes for both beginners as well as advanced clinicians. For more details on the 47 classes offered at the Pacific NW Herbal Symposium coming to Wilsonville, Oregon in March call 1-800-476-6518 or write to WWH, PO Box 279, Creswell, Oregon 97426 for a free brochure.