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Sweet Potatoes as Herbal Medicines

By Diana Kaniecki

Sweet potatoes have been labeled a natural alternative to estrogen therapy or a natural dehydroepiandrosterone because laboratory studies have shown they contain a chemical called diosgenin, which can be changed into different steroids, such as estrogen. However, this effect does not occur in the body and existing scientific information does not prove the effectiveness of sweet potato for any medicinal use. Before using sweet potatoes medicinally, talk to your health care provider.

Identification and Dosing

Sweet potato is also called yam, American yam, caiapo, China root, colic root, wild yam, natural DHEA, phytoestrogen, and rheumatism root, among other names. Sweet potato is available as a powder and in pill form. There are no official dose ranges for sweet potato, but studies have used capsules in daily doses ranging from 672 to 1,344 mg. General manufacturer dosing recommendations are two 168- to 336-mg capsules taken 30 minutes before meals for a daily maximum of six capsules, according to Drugs.com.

Medicinal Uses

Sweet potatoes are used as estrogen replacement therapy, as well as for managing menstrual problems and osteoporosis. Other uses include reducing diverticulosis, which is an ailment of the intestines; gallbladder complaints; and arthritis. Sweet potatoes are also used by men and women to increase energy and sexual drive. Women use sweet potatoes for breast enlargement.

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Sweet potatoes are rated as possibly ineffective for treating symptoms of menopause when applied as a cream to the skin, says the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Available scientific information does not support the clinical efficacy of sweet potatoes for any other health condition. More research is needed to evaluate the health benefits of sweet potatoes.


No serious side effects have been reported for sweet potatoes, although allergic reactions may occur. According to Drugs.com, light-headedness, faintness, stomach problems and throat irritation have been reported. Ingesting large amounts of sweet potatoes may also cause vomiting. Avoid sweet potatoes if you have a health problem that may worsen by increased estrogen, warns the NMCD. Also, if you have protein S deficiency, you should stay away from sweet potatoes. Be sure to first discuss with your physician any supplement you may be considering.

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