Amorphophallus paeoniifolius, or the elephant foot yam, when cut in half, looks exactly like it’s described: an elephant foot. While it’s not a pretty looking root, there may be more than meets the eye with this humble looking root. Basically, the elephant foot yam is this wide-spread vegetable is grown in places in Africa, Southeast Asia, and tropical Pacific islands. It’s almost unheard of in America for the most part, but in the areas it is cultivated, such as India, it is often fried or cooked into delicious curries.
However, not only is it prized for its subtle, mild, taste, but it’s also coveted for its medicinal effects by those who study alternative and traditional medicine. Like many health superfoods it has a reputation for being a cure-all, with a wide variety of positive health benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol to treating diabetes to “detoxification”. While some of these unsubstantiated claims might make you roll your eyes, don’t dismiss the elephant root yam just yet- when it comes to hemorrhoids, research suggests that yam could be answer.
A recent paper from the Regional Ayurveda Research Institute suggests that extracts of the Amorphophallus paeoniifolius tuber could be effective in treating hemorrhoids. In the paper, published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, researchers searching for potential new drugs induced hemorrhoids in rats using croton oil, a foul smelling oil made from the seeds of the Asian croton tree. Once the rats had developed hemorrhoids, indicated by the inflamed tissue and the presence of blue dyes added by the researchers, they administered various kinds of extracts of the root as well as normal hemorrhoid medication from the drugstore. The results were quite interesting- the root resulted in reductions in hemorrhoid size and inflammation comparable to that of the medication. There was a clear healing effect observed, as the control group with no medication saw no reductions in hemorrhoid size or inflammation.
Of course, there is a long way to go before a marketable drug or even clinical testing on humans is possible, but this study could certainly result in lot of interesting follow up research. While the mechanism of how the tuber’s healing effects are not exactly known, an analysis of the compounds within the tuber give some hints as to what the secret of the tuber is. Various flavonoids and phenolic compounds were found that could potentially explain the root’s anti-inflammatory and curative effects on hemorrhoids. While no one should be holding their breath waiting for a miracle hemorrhoid drug coming anytime soon, these studies show the enormous potential of this native plant and sheds light on an interesting and uncommon medical field. In the meantime, make sure you get enough daily fiber.