What Is Chinese Yam?

If you’ve heard of the Chinese yam, then you know that it’s a type of root vegetable. It might not be what comes to mind first when thinking about root vegetables, but this hearty root deserves a place in your kitchen. Just like any other type of vegetable, the Chinese yam has plenty of health benefits to offer. But what exactly is Chinese yam? Let’sfindout!

Also see, Malanga Coco, Yacon. and Jamaican Yellow Yam

What is Chinese Yam?

Dioscorea polystachya, also known as the Chinese yam, nagaimo, or cinnamon vine, is a climbing vine native to East Asia, especially China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea, where it has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. 

The Chinese yam is a spindle-shaped, thick, hard root that’s white on the inside. 

It takes three or four years for the plant to reach maturity, although large roots can be harvested after the first year in properly developed plants.

In terms of size, the yam can reach a length of up to 1 yd (about one meter). 

When the roots are harvested (usually in winter), their rough bark is removed before the yam is washed and dried in the shade or the sun.

If you want to use it, the root is usually rehydrated in water and then cut into slices before adding to various recipes.

Traditionally, Chinese Yam is believed to have detoxifying and anti-inflammatory properties and has been used to relieve cough, improve digestion, lower blood sugar levels and improve spleen, kidney, and lung health.

Modern science has begun to explore these potential health benefits, and preliminary research suggests that the Chinese yam may indeed have therapeutic effects on various conditions, including diabetes, hypertension, and cancer.

This yam is also an important food source, especially in Chinese cuisine. It’s a starchy vegetable that is high in fiber and low in calories. It has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and can be enjoyed cooked or raw. 

The root can be grated and used in salads, soups, or stir-fries. It can also be boiled, mashed or roasted and served as a side dish.

Read on to learn more about the health benefits of Chinese Yam and how it can boost your energy, fight infection, and maintain your overall good health.

Chinese yam plant

Chinese Yam Nutrition

Chinese yam is rich in various nutrients, including

Vitamin B-1

Vitamin B1, also known as thiamin, is a water-soluble vitamin and one of the 8 B vitamins. It’s an essential nutrient the body needs to convert carbohydrates into fuel (glucose), which it uses for energy.

Other benefits include:

  • Improving appétit and memory
  • Anti-aging properties
  • Preventing cataracts
  • Promoting proper digestion
  • Preventing Alzheimer’s disease
  • Maintaining a healthy heart
  • Strengthening the immune system
  • Preventing nerve damage

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is another water-soluble vitamin found in many foods, especially fruits and vegetables. 

It’s an essential nutrient that helps the body form and maintain connective tissue, including bones, blood vessels, and skin. 

Vitamin C also helps the body absorb iron from food and is needed for proper immune system function. 

It has been shown to reduce the severity of colds and flu and may also help to prevent certain types of cancer. Vitamin C is also an antioxidant, which helps protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.


Mucilage is a substance that is produced by many plants. It is a thick, sticky, gel-like substance that is water-soluble. 

It’s the reason behind most medicinal properties in the Chinese yam.

It can help soothe and protect the digestive system and reduce inflammation and irritation in the gut. 

Additionally, mucilage can help bind together toxins and waste products in the intestine, helping to expel them from the body.

Mucilage is also known for its ability to lower blood glucose levels. This makes it beneficial for those with diabetes or prediabetes. 

Additionally, mucilage can help lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.

Finally, mucilage has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. Studies have shown that it can help inhibit the growth of cancerous cells and tumors, especially those involving the colon.


Amylase is a digestive enzyme that helps break down carbohydrates into sugars. It is found in many plants, but the highest concentrations are in yams.

In addition to aiding digestion, amylase has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties. It is also a powerful antioxidant, which means it can help protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Moreover, consuming foods that contain amylase can also help regulate blood sugar levels and prevent spikes after meals. This is especially beneficial for people with diabetes or prediabetes.

Amino acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein, and they play an important role in many bodily functions. 

Recent studies have shown that Chinese Yam contains high levels of essential amino acids, including lysine, threonine, and tryptophan. 

Lysine is important for tissue growth and repair, while threonine helps to maintain the structure of proteins. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter that plays a role in mood regulation.

Chinese Yam also contains non-essential amino acids, such as alanine, glycine, and proline. These amino acids are involved in energy production and help to protect the body from stress.


Glutamine is an amino acid that is found in many foods, including Chinese Yam. It is a building block of protein and helps to repair and build muscle tissue. 

It also offers other benefits, including:

Supporting the immune system and promoting recovery after exercise

Promoting muscle growth and repair and preventing muscle loss

It supports the immune system and can help prevent or treat infections

Promotes exercise recovery and can improve exercise performance

Gut health: Glutamine is important for gut health and can help treat or prevent gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, and irritable bowel syndrome.

It’s also a significant fuel source for the cells of the intestine

Cancer treatment: Glutamine may benefit cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy. It can help reduce side effects such as nausea and vomiting and improve quality of life.

Health Benefits of Chinese Yam

1. Relieves dry coughs

There are many benefits of Chinese Yam for treating dry cough. It’s effective in moistening the lungs and the mucous membranes lining the respiratory system. This helps relieve irritation and improve dry cough.

Chinese yam is also generally rich in nutrients and antioxidants that boost immunity and protect the respiratory system.

2. Frequent urination

Chinese yam has been used for many years in Chinese medicine to treat urinary disorders.

One study found that Chinese yam was effective at reducing the frequency of urination in people with overactive bladder syndrome. The participants who took Chinese Yam also had improvements in other symptoms, such as urgency and leakages.

That being said, more research is needed on the same. Furthermore, there are many causes of frequent urination, including high blood sugar, urinary tract infections, and even pregnancy. So be sure to talk to your doctor to rule out any possible cause of frequent urination

3. Reduces the risk of cancer

It is no secret that cancer symptoms can be debilitating. 

Many cancer patients report fatigue, pain, and nausea as some of the most common and distressing symptoms. 

Chinese yam has been shown to improve cancer symptoms in a number of ways.

First, Chinese Yam is a natural source of antioxidants. These nutrients scavenge harmful toxins and byproducts that can worsen cancer symptoms. 

Second, Chinese Yam contains diosgenin, a plant steroid with anti-inflammatory properties. This compound helps reduce pain and swelling associated with cancer.

Chinese yam has also been shown to fight nausea and vomiting often associated with cancer treatments.

4. Lowers cholesterol

A new study has found that Chinese Yam may help lower cholesterol levels. 

The study, which was conducted by researchers at Zhejiang University, looked at the effects of Chinese Yam on rats with high cholesterol.

The rats were divided into two groups, one receiving a Chinese yam extract and the other receiving a placebo. 

After eight weeks, the researchers found that the rats who had been given the Chinese yam extract had significantly lower levels of total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol than those who had been given the placebo.

The researchers believe that the mucilage in Chinese Yam may help reduce cholesterol absorption from the gut. This could have potential implications for the treatment of high cholesterol in humans. However, more research is needed to confirm these findings.

5. Prevents constipation

If you’re looking for a natural way to prevent constipation, try Chinese Yam.

Chinese yam is rich in dietary fiber, essential for maintaining a healthy digestive system. It’s rich in soluble fiber, which softens the stool and makes it easier to pass, thus preventing constipation.

In addition to its high fiber content, Chinese Yam is also a good source of prebiotics. Prebiotics are food for probiotics, the beneficial bacteria that live in your gut. 

Probiotics are important for gut health and digestion. They help keep the digestive system clean and free of harmful bacteria.

6. Aids in weight loss

Recent studies have shown that Chinese yam can help with weight loss by regulating appetite and metabolism. One study found that rats fed a diet containing Chinese yam lost more weight than those on a control diet.

What are the risks of Chinese Yam?

Side effects are generally rare with Chinese yam, but can include mild stomach upset and bloating., especially when taken in large amounts.

Allergic reactions are also possible, although not well documented. These can include skin irritation, hives, and difficulty breathing. 

If you experience any of these side effects after consuming yam, discontinue use immediately and seek medical attention if needed. 

Yam can interfere with certain medications, like hormone replacement therapies. Although Chinese Yam doesn’t contain hormones, it may exhibit some estrogen-like effects. This can negatively interact with hormonal medications like birth control pills and hormonal therapies. 

This also means that women with hormone-sensitive conditions like cancers of the breast, uterus, or ovaries, endometriosis, and uterine fibroids should avoid them.

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should also avoid it

Chinese Yam, Lat. Dioscorea Opposita

How to cook Chinese yam

Chinese yam can be eaten raw or cooked. Here are some ideas on how to cook it


There are many ways to cook yams, but baking is a simple and delicious option. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Peel and slice the yam into thin pieces, then spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and any other desired spices. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Enjoy!


When it comes to cooking yams, boiling is one of the most popular methods. This is because it is quick and easy and does not require special equipment. Plus, boiled yams are incredibly versatile, and you can use them in various recipes. 

To boil yams, start by peeling and chopping them into small pieces. Then, add the yam pieces to a pot of boiling water and let them cook for 10-15 minutes or until they are soft. 

Once cooked, you can use them in any recipe you like. For example, you can mash them and add them to soups or stews or fry them up and serve them as a side dish. 

No matter how you enjoy your boiled yams, they are sure to be a delicious and healthy addition to any meal!

Air fried

Air-fried Chinese yam is a delicious and healthy alternative to deep-fried yam. It is a perfect side dish or snack. The best part is that it is so easy to make! 

Here is what you need: 

  • 1 Medium-length Chinese yam 
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste 


1. Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F

2. Cut the Yam into thin slices, about 1/4 inch thick 

3. Mix with oil and season with salt and pepper. Gently toss to coat evenly.

3. Place the yam slices in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Make sure that they are not overlapping

4. Air fry for 10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Serve with your favorite dipping sauce or as a side dish.

You can also take Chinese yams in capsules, dried root extract, or tea.

If taking it as a supplement, ensure you follow the instructions on the packaging.

Other Root Vegetables

  1. What Is Ratalu?
  2. Kohlrabi
  3. Ñame 
  4. Sunchoke
  5. Celery Root

Final Thoughts

Chinese yam is a tuberous root vegetable that is popular in Chinese cuisine. 

It has white flesh with a slightly sweet taste. 

Chinese yam is a good source of dietary fiber and vitamins C and B6. It also contains potassium and manganese. 

It’s known for its numerous benefits, including aiding digestion, lowering cholesterol levels, improving blood sugar control, boosting immunity, and protecting against cancer. 

Plus, it’s easy to incorporate into the diet.

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