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Dioscorea Batatas Chinese Yam

Dioscorea Batatas Chinese Yam

Pinyin: shan yao Latin: Dioscorea Batatas

Physical Characteristics

Dioscorea Batatas or Chinese Yam is perennial growing to 3m by 1.5m hardy to zone 5 in flower from September to October. The Chinese Yam flowers are dioecious (individual flowers are either male or female, but only one sex is to be found on any one plant so both male and female plants must be grown if seed is required). Chinese Yam is not self-fertile prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. Dioscorea Batatas prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade and requires moist soil.



Edible Uses*

Edible Parts: Fruit; Root.*

Wild Yam tuber is cooked[1, 46, 61, 105] with a floury texture[27] and a very pleasant flavour that is rather like a potato[K].

Dioscorea Batatas tubers can be boiled, baked, fried, mashed, grated and added to soups[183]. They store well and for a long time[27, 37] and can also be left in the ground and harvested as required in the winter[K]. This is a top quality root crop, very suitable for use as a staple food[K]. An arrowroot can be extracted from the root[46], though this is not as good at binding other foods as the starch from D. japonica[183]. The root contains about 20% starch. 75% water, 0.1% vitamin B1, 10 - 15 mg% vitamin C[174]. Fruit. A starchy flavour, it is said to be very good for the health[206]. We wonder if this report is referring to the tubercles[K].*

Traditional Chinese Medicinal (TCM) Uses:*

The Chinese yam, called Shan Yao in Chinese herbalism, is a sweet soothing herb that stimulates the stomach and spleen and has a tonic effect on the lungs and kidneys[238].*

The tuber contains allantoin, a cell-proliferant that speeds the healing process[238]. The root is an ingredient of "The herb of eight ingredients", traditionally prescribed in Chinese herbalism to treat hyperthyroidism, nephritis and diabetes[254]. Chinese Yam tuber is anthelmintic, digestive and gently tonic[116, 147, 218, 254].*

Dioscorea Batatas is used internally in the treatment of tiredness, weight loss, poor appetite, poor digestion, chronic diarrhea, asthma, dry coughs, frequent or uncontrollable urination, diabetes and emotional instability[238]. Chinese Yam is applied externally to ulcers, boils and abscesses[218, 238].*

The tubers are harvested in the autumn and can be used raw or baked[238]. The leaf juice is used to treat snakebites and scorpion stings[218].*


  • [K] Ken Fern
  • [1] F. Chittendon.RHS Dictionary of Plants plus Supplement. 1956 Oxford University Press 1951
  • [27] Vilmorin. A.The Vegetable Garden. Ten Speed Press 0 ISBN 0-89815-041-8
  • [37] Thompson. B.The Gardener's Assistant. Blackie and Son. 1878
  • [46] Uphof. J. C. Th.Dictionary of Economic Plants. Weinheim 1959
  • [61] Usher. G.A Dictionary of Plants Used by Man. Constable 1974 ISBN 0094579202
  • [105] Tanaka. T.Tanaka's Cyclopaedia of Edible Plants of the World. Keigaku Publishing 1976
  • [116] Brooklyn Botanic GardenOriental Herbs and Vegetables, Vol 39 No. 2. Brooklyn Botanic Garden 1986
  • [147] ?A Barefoot Doctors Manual. Running Press 0 ISBN 0-914294-92-X
  • [160] Natural Food Institute,Wonder Crops. 1987. 0
  • [174] Kariyone. T.Atlas of Medicinal Plants. 0
  • [175] Bird. R. (Editor)Focus on Plants. Volume 5. (formerly 'Growing from seed') Thompson and Morgan. 1991
  • [183] Facciola. S.Cornucopia - A Source Book of Edible Plants. Kampong Publications 1990 ISBN 0-9628087-0-9
  • [200] Huxley. A.The New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. 1992. MacMillan Press 1992 ISBN 0-333-47494-5
  • [206] Larkcom J.Oriental Vegetables John Murray 1991 ISBN 0-7195-4781-4
  • [218] Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications, Inc. 1985 ISBN 0-917256-20-4
  • [219] Grey-Wilson. C. & Matthews. V.Gardening on Walls Collins 1983 ISBN 0-00-219220-0
  • [238] Bown. D.Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London. 1995 ISBN 0-7513-020-31
  • [254] Chevallier. A.The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants Dorling Kindersley. London 1996 ISBN 9-780751-303148
  • [266] Flora of China 1994

Source: Dioscorea Batatas Chinese Yam Plants For A Future, England 1996-2008.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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