Dioscorea bulbifera L.

Last updated: 6 April 2016

Scientific Name

Dioscorea bulbifera L.


Dioscorea sativa Thumb auct. non L, Dioscorea versicolor Buch.Ham ex. Wall. [1][2][2]

Vernacular Name

Malaysia Ubi atas, ubi china, ubi kasetla, ubi kulo, ubi putih, ubi kemili hutan, memali hutan, hubi kapur [3], memali hutan, ubi china, ubi kestali [4]
English Potato Yam [3], aerial yam, air potato, air potato yam, bitter yam, bulb-bearing yam, otaheite yam, otaheite potato, wild yam [4]
China Huang hu [3], huang du, huang yao zi [3]
India Adavi dumpa, amrita, atagatige,abhonya-kand, ba-hra, balya, ban alu, banalu , baola, bawla, bhirvolikanda, bihada, bilvamula, brahmaputri, brahmikanda, cedubaddudumpa, charmakarakalu, chedubaddudumpa, chedupaddudumpa, chedupattudumpa, cheranga kandaa, chupri alu, cirakavalli, dukarakanda,engine, gainthi, gaithi, gathalu, genth, genthi, gethi, ghristi, gitta, goradu, gristi, hansi gedde, heggenasu, ilavali, iyamkilanku, kadoo karaanda, kadu-kand, kadu-kamdo, kaivallikodi, kaikaraande, kaimoode gedde, kaivali kodi, kanda giloe, kandaka, kandavel, kanya, karamdo, karawakand karukanda, karu-karinda, karukanda, kath alu, kattu,Vaaraahi, Vaaraahikanda, Grshti, Banaac cirakavali [4]
Nepal Ban tarul, githa, kukur tarul, kukurtarul [4]
Indonesia Jebubug basu, jebubug endog, gembolo (Java); huwi blichik, huwi buwah (Sunda) [3]
Thailand Man Nok, Man Khamin [3]
Japan Kashu- imo, niga-kashu [4]
Africa Motombo (Central) [4]; banga, gamba, gambela, isaka, ivuba dumbala, iyange, kouefe mbila, makambi, masaka, niengulingwe, soko, sola –nkitti, te’e vuba (congo)[4] abang, apala, apyala, desome, diroga, disogu, disogu-di-duntsau, esogo, iroga, iroga, lega, lesogo, leyiga, lisogo, lisoko, ulega (Gabon); akai (ivory coast); idiya (Southern); dandan, emina, ewura esin (Yoruba).
Kenya Liliakhunyu, liruku, litungu, mutokera, oroko, oruka [4]
Hawaii Hoi, pi’oi [4]
Pacific Magnaheugo[4]
Benin Werekou dokoro [4]
United States of America Acam, drung-gogo, pap, papa aera, papa cariba, papa de aire, wild yam (latin) [4]

Geographical Distributions

The origin of Dioscorea bulbifera is uncertain. Some authors believe that this species is native to both Asia and tropical Africa, but others believe that it is a native of Asia and that it was subsequently introduced into Africa (Hammer, 1998). Currently, D. bulbifera is widely naturalized and cultivated in tropical and subtropical areas in America, the West Indies, and Pacific Islands (ISSG, 2012; USDA-ARS, 2012). [5]

Botanical Description

D. bulbifera is a member of the Dioscoreaceae family. It is characterized by the presence of large numbers of round brown flattened bulbils (aerial tubers) in each plant. The bulbils appear in the axil of a leaf and measures more than 7.5 cm across.

The stem is stout, cylindrical and bearing numerous little tubers. [4]

The leaf is simple, large, glabrous and spineless. It is light green, herbaceous, ovate, cordate, acuminate, measuring 7-15 cm long and 7-12 cm wide. [4] The petiole is 10 cm long and slender. The base of the petiole is enlarged into two auricles encircling the stem. Flowers are white with sepals narrow, linear, lanceolate and acute. The stamens are 6 in number. The female flowers are in spikes fascicled or panicled, 10-25 cm long. The capsules are oblong, 2.5 cm long with large wings. [6][7][7]


D. bulbifera prefers to grow in areas with high temperatures (around 25-35°C), high humidity and high precipitation (>1000 mm annual rainfall), at low to middle elevations. This species grows best in a loamy soil that has good drainage and is preferably high in organic material (Martin, 1974; Wilkin, 2001). D. bulbifera is adapted to partially to fully shaded conditions, but it does not tolerate salty or frosty conditions and plant vigour is affected at temperatures below 20°C (Morisawa, 1999; Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2008). It is more tolerant to low temperatures during dormancy. As with many species within the genus Dioscorea, D. bulbifera does not support its own weight to any great height and in order to capture sunlight, this species has evolved to climb by twining on other plants (Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council, 2008). [5]

Chemical Constituent

D. bulbifera has been reported to contain (+)-catechin; 1-(tetracosanoyl)-glycerol; 1,7-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-1E,4E,6E-heptatrien-3-one; 2,3'-di-hydroxy-4',5'-dimethoxybibenzyl; 2,4,6,7-tetrahydroxy-9-10-dihydrophenanthrene; 3-O-β-D-glucopyranosyl-β-sitosterol; 5,3,4-trihydroxy-3,7-dimethoxyflavone; 7-bis-(4-hydroxyphenyl) -4E, 6E-heptadien-3-one; 14-diene-17,12;18,2-diolide; 15,16-epoxy-6α-O-acety1-8β-hydroxy- 9-nor-clero-13; adenosine; auroxanthin; bafoudiosbulbins A 1, and B 2; behenic acid; β-sitosterol; cyrptoxanthin; caryatin; demethyl batatasin IV; diosbulbins A-D; diosbulbisides A, B, C; diosbulbisins A-G; diosbulbinoside G; diobulbinone A; diosgenin; D-sorbitol; docosyl ferulate; enolglycoside; kaempferol-3,5-dimethyl ether; lucein;  mono-arachidin; myricetin; myricetin-3-O-galactopyranoside; myricetin-3-O-glucopyranoside; neoxanthine;  protocatechuic acid; quercetin-3-O-galactopyranoside; stigmasterol; tetracosanoic acid; trans-tetracosanylferulate; tristin; violaxanthin; zeaxanthin. [6][8-17]

Plant Part Used

Tubers [1][18]

Traditional Use

Traditionally D. bulbifera is believed to treat diarrhoea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, fatigue and depression among other ailments. [5]


In Ayurvedic medicine it is used to revitalize the body, sustain age, detoxifies morbid factors and tonic to the whole body. It is easily digestable. Sushruta prescribe it with milk and honey for rejuvenation. The wild tubers contain nearly 83% starch and posses hunger-suppressing property. It is both male and female reproductive tonics. It aids in relieving impotency, increasing semen and other hormonal secretions in males and  treats infertility and increase milk production in the female. [1][29] 

Inflammatory diseases

Dried and pounded tubers are used for treating swellings, abscesses and ulcers while the roasted tubers are used for venereal sores. It is also used in the treatment of snake bites. [1][19][20] [20] 

Gastrointestinal disease

The roasted tuber of D. bulbifera is used in the treatment of dysentery and haemorrhoids. It is sweet, nourishing and tonic to the whole body, easy to digest and aids in treatment of cachexia. [1][18][19][20]

Preclinical Data


Antidiabetic activity

Extracts of the tuber of D. bulbifera proved to be potent inhibitors of α-amylase and α-glucosidase rendering it a potential drug for the control of hyperglycaemia. [21] 

Anti-ischaemic activity

It had been established that D. bulbifera hydroalcoholic extract could ameliorate myocardial ischaemia and reperfusion injury by improving ventricular function and inhibition of cardiomyocyte necrosis and apoptosis. Pre-treatment with D. bulbifera extract for 30 days had shown that myocardial infarct sized was reduced and there was also improvement in ventricular function (aortic flow, coronary flow, LVDP, LVmax dp/dt). [22]

Antioxidant activity

The flavonoid-rich fraction (FRF) of D. bulbufera exhibited a strong free radical scavenging activity. Pre-treatment with the FRF for 35 days in rats prior to exposure to isoproterenol was able to maintain creatinine kinase-MB activity upon, ameliorated lipid peroxidation by increasing the reduced glutathione content and the activity of antioxidant enzymes. There was also an enhancement in the activities of enzymes of the tricarboxylic acid cycle. These were seen in the mitochondria of the heart tissue of ISO induced rats. The results suggest that FRF has cardioprotective effects in ISO induced MI in rats. [23] 

Antinociceptive, Analgesic and Anti-inflammatory

The methanol extract of bulbils of D. bulbifera exhibited significant antinociceptive effects in pain induced by Complete Freund’s Adjuvant (CFA), on neuropathic pain induced by Partial Ligation of Sciatic Nerve (PLSN) and acute Lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-induced pain. It is believed that this happens through the ability of the extract to activate the NO-cGMP-ATP-sensitive potassium channels pathway. [24] The aqueous and methanol extracts could significantly reduce oedema induced by histamine, serotonin and formalin and could ally pain. There is a possibility that these is as a result of inhibition of inflammatory mediators such as histamine, serotonin and prostaglandins. [24][25][26][27]

Antimicrobial activity

A compound identified in a bioassay-guided fractionation of aqueous methanolic extract of D. bulbifera bulbs, 8-epidiobulbin E acetate, exhibited broad-spectrum plasmind curing activity against multidrug-resistant (MDR) bacteria. This compound could reverse the bacterial resistence to various antibiotics. It was found to be effective against vancomycin-resistant enterococci, Enterococcus faecalis. Escherichia coli, Shigella sonnei and Pseudomonas aeruginosa. [26]

The methanol extract, fractions of the extract and six compounds (bafoudiosbulbin A, B, C, F, G, and 2,7-dihydro-4-methoxyphenanthrene) isolated from these extracts of D. bulbifera exhibits antibacterial activities against Mycobacteria sp. and Gram-negative bacteria with MDR. [28]

Anticancer activity

Anticancer studies have shown that D. bulbifera contains compounds active against a number of cancer cell lines. Compounds extracted by petroleum ether from hydrophobic constituents were effective against HepA cells by direct toxicity on the cancer cells. Two 3-O-trisaccharides of diosgenin spirotanes were found to have moderate cytotoxic activity against human hepatocellular carcinoma cells. The ethanol and ethylacetate extracts of D. bulbifera were found to have the ability to decrease tumour weight in S180 and H22 tumor cells bearing mice. The compound diosbulbin B was isolated and was found to have the anti-tumour effects in a dose dependent manner. [29][30][31]


There had been evidence to show that D. bulbifera is toxic to the liver in rats and mice. A number of studies had shown that D. bulbifera has hepatotoxic effects due to the presence of furano norclerodane diterpenoid, disobulbin-D. Pathological changes include fatty degeneration and increased glycogen in liver cells. There were also decreased activity of G-6-P and SDH in liver cells. The toxic mechanism was postulated to be damage to the mitochondrial and endoplasmic reticulum membrane directly resulting in decreased activity of G-6-P and SDH and subsequently affecting the metabolism. Further studies showed that the pathology was a consequence of oxidative stress injury to the liver cells. [32][33[34][35][36][37]

There was also evidence that the extracts also affect the kidneys in mice. The pathological changes in the kidney include degeneration and necrosis of the epithelia of uriniferous tubules with higher BUN. [32]

Clinical Data

Clinical findings

No documentation

Interaction & Depletion

Interaction with drug

Caution should be exercised by diabetic patients on medication. The antidiabetic activity detected in the plant can lead to hypoglycaemic attacks. [21]

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation


Patients with history of compromised liver and/or kidney should avoid this plant less it may lead to further damage. [32]


No documentation

Poisonous Management

No documentation

Line drawing

No documentation


  1. Khare CP. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2007; p. 215–216
  2. The Plant List. Ver1.1. Dioscorea bulbifera L. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Aug 19]. Available from: http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl1.1/record/kew-239891
  3. Herbal Medicine Research Centre, Institute for Medical Research. Compendium of medicinal plants used in Malaysia. Volume 1. Kuala Lumpur: HMRC IMR, 2002; p. 271.
  4. Quattrocchi U. CRC world dictionary of medicinal and poisonous plants: Common names, scientific names, eponyms, synonyms and etymology. Volume II C-D. Boca Raton, Florida: CRC Press, 2012; p. 715-716.
  5. Global Invasive Species Database (GISD). Dioscorea bulbifera L. Auckland, New Zealand: University of Auckland. [homepage on the Internet]. c2013 [updated 2012 Mar 23; cited 2016 Aug 19]. Available from: http://www.issg.org/database
  6. Onwueme IC, Charles WB. Tropical root and tuber crops: Production, perspectives and future prospects. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 1994; p. 54.
  7. Ridley HN. The flora of the Malay Peninsula. Volume 4: Monocotyledons. London: L. Reeve & Co., 1924; p. 315.
  8. Yonemitsu M, Fukuda N, Kimura T, Komori T. Diosbulbin-B from the leaves and stems of Dioscorea bulbifera: 1H-1H and 13C-1H COSY NMR Studies. Planta Med. 1993;59(6):577.
  9. Li SS, Iliya IA, Deng JZ, Zhao SX. Flavonoids and anthraquinone from Dioscorea bulbifera L. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2000;25(3):159-160. Chinese.
  10. Gao H, Kuroyanagi M, Wu L, Kawahara N, Yasuno T, Nakamura Y. Antitumor-promoting constituents from Dioscorea bulbifera L. in JB6 mouse epidermal cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2002;25(9):1241-1243.
  11. Teponno RB, Tapondjou AL, Gatsing D, et al. Bafoudiosbulbins A, and B, two anti-salmonellal clerodane diterpenoids from Dioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa. Phytochemistry. 2006;67(17):1957-1963.
  12. Wang G, Liu JS, Lin BB, Wang GK, Liu JK. Two new furanoid norditerpenes from Dioscorea bulbifera. Chem Pharm Bull (Tokyo). 2009;57(6):625-627.
  13. Liu H, Chou GX, Wu T, et al. Steroidal sapogenins and glycosides from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. J Nat Prod. 2009;72(11):1964-1968.
  14. Wang G, Lin B, Liu J, Wang G, Wang F, Liu J. Chemical constituents from tubers of Dioscorea bulbifera. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2009;34(13):1679-1682. Chinese.
  15. Liu H, Chou GX, Guo YL, Ji LL, Wang JM, Wang ZT. Norclerodane diterpenoids from rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. Phytochemistry. 2010;71(10):1174-1180.
  16. Kidyu K, Thaisuchat H, Meepowpan P, et al. New clerodane diterpenoid from the bulbils of Dioscorea bulbifera. Nat Prod Commun. 2011;6(8):1069-1072.
  17. Liu H, Tsim KW, Chou GX, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT. Phenolic compounds from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera. Chem Biodivers. 2011;8(11):2110-2116.
  18. Zhou J, Xie G, Yan X. Encyclopedia of traditional Chinese medicines. Volume 5: Isolated compounds T—Z, references, TCM Plants and congeners. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2011; p. 428.
  19. Khare CP. Indian herbal remedies: Rational western therapy, ayurvedic, and other traditional usage, botany. Berlin: Springer-Verlag, 2004; p. 192
  20. Tirtha SS. The Ayurveda encyclopedia; Natural secrets to healing, prevention & longevity, Ayurveda. New York: Holistic Center Press, 1998; p. 110–112
  21. Ghosh S, Ahire M, Patil S, et al. Antidiabetic Activity of Gnidia glauca and Dioscorea bulbifera: potent amylase and glucosidase inhibitors. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:929051.
  22. Vasanthi HR, Mukherjee S, Ray D, Pandian Jayachandran KS, Lekli I, Das DK. Protective role of air potato (Dioscorea bulbifera) of yam family in myocardial ischemic reperfusion injury. Food Funct. 2010;1(3):278-283.
  23. Jayachandran KS, Vasanthi HR, Rajamanickama GV. Flavonoid rich fraction of Dioscorea bulbifera Linn. (Yam) enhances mitochondrial enzymes and antioxidant status and thereby protects heart from isoproterenol induced myocardial infarction. Curr Pharm Biotechnol. 2010;11(8):887-894.
  24. Nguelefack TB, Dutra RC, Paszcuk AF, Andrade EL, Tapondjou LA, Calixto JB. Antinociceptive activities of the methanol extract of the bulbs of Dioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa in mice is dependent of NO-cGMP-ATP-sensitive-K(+) channel activation. J Ethnopharmacol. 2010;128(3):567-574.
  25. Mbiantcha M, Kamanyi A, Teponno RB, Tapondjou AL, Watcho P, Nguelefack TB. Analgesic and Anti-Inflammatory Properties of Extracts from the Bulbils of Dioscorea bulbifera L. var sativa (Dioscoreaceae) in Mice and Rats. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2011;2011:912935.
  26. Shriram V, Jahagirdar S, Latha C, et al. A potential plasmid-curing agent, 8-epidiosbulbin E acetate, from Dioscorea bulbifera L. against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Int J Antimicrob Agents. 2008;32(5):405-410.
  27. Ashajyothi V, Rao S Pippalla, Satyavati D. Discorea bulbifera – A review. Int J Pharm Technol. 2012:4(2):2157-2163
  28. Kuete V, Betrandteponno R, Mbaveng AT, et al. Antibacterial activities of the extracts, fractions and compounds from Dioscorea bulbifera. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2012;12:228.
  29. Yu ZL, Liu XR, McCulloch M, Gao J. Anticancer effects of various fractions extracted from Dioscorea bulbifera on mice bearing HepA. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2004;29(6):563-567. Chinese.
  30. Liu H, Chou GX, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT. Steroidal saponins from the rhizomes of Dioscorea bulbifera and their cytotoxic activity. Planta Med. 2011;77(8):845-848.
  31. Wang JM, Ji LL, Branford-White CJ, et al. Antitumor activity of Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in vivo. Fitoterapia. 2012;83(2):388-394.
  32. Su L, Zhu JH, Cheng LB. Experimental pathological study of subacute intoxication by Dioscorea bulbifera L. Fa Yi Xue Za Zhi. 2003;19(2):81-83.
  33. Tan XQ, Ruan JL, Chen HS, Wang JY. Studies on liver-toxicity in rhizoma of Dioscorea bulbifera. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2003;28(7):661-663. Chinese.
  34. Wang J, Ji L, Liu H, Wang Z. Study of the hepatotoxicity induced by Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in mice. Biosci Trends. 2010;4(2):79-85.
  35. Wang J, Liang Q, Ji L, Liu H, Wang C, Wang Z. Gender-related difference in liver injury induced by Dioscorea bulbifera L. rhizome in mice. Hum Exp Toxicol. 2011;30(9):1333-1341.
  36. Ma M, Jiang Z, Ruan J, et al. The furano norclerodane diterpenoid disobulbin-D induces apoptosis in normal human liver L-02 cells. Exp Toxicol Pathol. 2012;64(6):611-618.
  37. Xu Y, Chen CC, Yang L, Wang JM, Ji LL, Wang ZT, Hu ZB. Evaluation on hepatotoxicity caused by Dioscorea bulbifera based on analysis of bile acids. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2011;46(1):39-44. Chinese.