5 Potential Health Benefits Of Bitter Yam (Esuru)

Health Benefits Of Bitter Yam

Bitter yam Dioscorea dumetorum is a specie of yam that is native to Africa. It contains a fleshy, potato-like root that can be used for food or medicinal purposes. This article discusses the nutritional composition and health benefits of bitter yam.

Bitter yam is known as cluster yam, or three-leaved yam. In parts of West Africa, it is called èsúrú in Yoruba language,  ji ònà in Igbo language, ánêm in Ibibio language, and mbá in Duala language.

Bitter yams found in the wild can be poisonous; thus, they must be soaked and boiled before eating. On the other hand, ‘ bitter yams have been carefully cultivated by farmers are poison-free due to selecting safer types.

The health benefits of bitter yams are numerous, as bitter yam contains many nutrients and phytochemicals that might have medicinal benefits.

Nutritional Composition of Bitter Yam

A 2012 study was done to determine the nutritional and phytochemical components of trifoliate yam (Dioscorea dumetorum). The plant contained fatty acids, phenols, hydrocarbons, esters, alcohols, aldehydes and ketones. Bitter yams are also rich in alkaloids, saponins and flavonoids.

Furthermore, one study on the nutritional quality of yam (Dioscorea dumetorum) flour found out that the plant is highly nutritious. Another study also stated that bitter yams contain many essential amino acids. Aspartic acid was the most abundant amino acid in bitter yams.

5 Health Benefits Of Bitter Yam (Esuru)

Health Benefits Of Bitter Yam

There are many other studies that have suggested a widespread ethno-medicinal importance of bitter yam. However, these are some of the possible health benefits of bitter yam based on its nutritional composition and limit medical studies.

1. May Have Antidiabetic Properties

Bitter yam have been said to possess antidiabetic effects. It contains a compound called dioscoretine, which has hypoglycemic properties. A medical study was done to determine the hypoglycaemic activity of dioscoretine from tubers of Dioscorea dumetorum in normal and alloxan diabetic rabbits. Dioscoretine wss isolated from the aqueous fraction of the methanol extract of Dioscorea dumetorum tubers and administered to the rats. In both the normal rats, and alloxan diabetic rabbits, the fasting blood sugar was lowered significantly. The hypoglycaemic effects of bitter yams were compared to those of tolbutamide.

Another study revealed that bitter yam displayed hypoglycemic property in diabetic rats. This means that bitter yams could prevent or treat diabetes. However, no medical studies have been done on humans.

2. Prevents Cancer

One of the health benefits of bitter yams includes several antioxidants with anti-cancer potential. A yam-rich diet significantly reduced the growth of colon tumors. These findings were connected to antioxidants in yams, implying that these tubers can help prevent cancer. Furthermore, a 2012 study investigated the antioxidant properties of Dioscorea dumetorum. It found out that the plant had potent bioactive compounds and antioxidants.

3. Reduces Inflammation

The antioxidants in bitter yams can reduce inflammation. There is a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity related to chronic inflammation.

Furthermore, anti-inflammatory foods like bitter yams can help with chronic inflammation management. Yam powder reduces inflammation linked to several disorders. Some people have reported the use of bitter yam to manage rheumatoid arthritis.

4. May Help Treat Parasitic Worms Infections

Bitter yams have been reported to treat schistosomiasis, a disease caused by parasitic worms. Although there has not been any concrete medical evidence to support this. Nonetheless, one study conducted in the Philippines found out that bitter yam extracts was effective in destroying roundworm (Ascaridia galli). It was compared to the synthetic dewormer, albendazole.

5. Enhances Brain Functions

Diosgenin, a chemical found in yams, has increased neuron growth and improved brain function. Additionally, in different maze tests, diosgenin increased memory and learning capacities in mice. 

Side Effects of Bitter Yam

While we can’t underestimate the health benefits of bitter yams, it’s also helpful to be aware of the side effects. Uncooked bitter yam eaten or taken as medicine can be fatal. The tuber includes dangerous compounds that can cause seizures when consumed raw.   

Additionally, bitter yam includes compounds comparable to those found in the pharmaceutical medication digoxin (Lanoxin). These substances have the potential to result in a dangerously erratic heartbeat. 

Little is known about bitter yam use during pregnancy and breastfeeding. So to be safe, it’s best to avoid using it altogether.

Bottom Line 

Bitter yams have been linked to various health advantages, including improving brain function, reducing inflammation, and controlling blood sugar levels. However, there needs to be much more medical studies done to determine the full medicinal benefits of bitter yams.



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