Cinnamon Yam (Dioscorea batatas)
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: John Freeman
Posted on: October 5, 1998

I have planted your Cinnamon Yam two years ago, and it is now producing the little aerial tubers. I have a few questions that I would really appreciate an answer to:

- Are the aerial tubers edible either raw or cooked?

Yes, the aerial tubers can be consumed. They along with the tubers, which can get up to 1 m (3 feet) in length, can be eaten boiled, baked, fried, mashed, grated and added to soups, or mixed with vinegar.

- The plant is listed in your catalogue as also being medicinal. Could you please advise which parts of the plant can be used medicinally, and what the properties are?

The tubers are used. In Chinese herbal medicine, the sweet tubers are tonic and restorative. They stimulate the stomach and spleen and act as a tonic for the lungs and kidneys. They are used internally for poor appetite, chronic diarrhea, asthma, dry coughs, frequent urination, diabetes, and emotional instability.

The tubers, roots and rhizomes are normally used, and they are lifted in autumn and used raw or baked with flour or clay depending on the diagnosis.

- So far the plant has not produced any of the white cinnamon scented flowers that you mention in the catalogue. At what age would you expect the plant to start flowering?

It normally flowers when grown outdoors after several years of growth. The tiny, white, cinnamon-scented flowers are produced in axillary spikes (male and female flowers are separate).

Cinnamon yam is a perennial climber with heart-shaped leaves and long, vertical tubers, up to 1 m (3 feet) deep. The vines can reach 3 m (10 feet) in height. It is the hardiest of yams, proving to be hardy to at least zone 3.

It is also known as Chinese yam. The botanical name, Dioscorea batatas, used in our 1998 catalogue has been superceded by a newer name, D. opposita, which some herb books are already using.

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