Plum Dragon Herbs

Shan Yao (Chinese Yam)


Shan Yao (Dioscorea Opposita) is a herb used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). It is classified as a neutral herb and is commonly used to tonify the spleen, improve digestion, and regulate the lungs. The tuber of the plant is used for medicinal purposes and is believed to have the following properties and characteristics:

  • Tonifies the spleen: May help to strengthen the spleen and improve digestive function.
  • Improves digestion: May help to alleviate symptoms of indigestion and improve nutrient absorption.
  • Regulates the lungs: May help to regulate lung function and alleviate symptoms of respiratory issues.

In TCM, Shan Yao is commonly combined with other herbs to enhance its effectiveness and treat a variety of health conditions, such as digestive issues, respiratory infections, and fatigue. It is typically administered in the form of decoction, powder, or pill. It is considered safe for most individuals, but it is advisable to consult a licensed healthcare provider before using this herb, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or have a medical condition.

High Quality Shan Yao: What does it look like?

The following are the characteristics of high-quality Shan Yao:

  1. Appearance: Shan Yao is typically cylindrical or slightly curved in shape, with a white center and yellow-brown skin that is smooth and uniform. The tuber is firm and has a slightly glossy appearance.
  2. Size: Shan Yao is usually medium to large in size, with a length of around 5-15 cm and a diameter of 2-6 cm.
  3. Aroma: When cut open, high-quality Shan Yao has a slightly sweet and earthy aroma.
  4. Texture: The flesh of high-quality Shan Yao is dense and consistent, with no visible cracks or holes.
  5. Color: The flesh of high-quality Shan Yao is yellow-white in color, without any dark or discolored spots.

High-quality Shan Yao is typically sourced from areas with a good climate and fertile soil, and it is harvested at the appropriate time to ensure maximum potency and quality. When used in TCM, it is typically sliced and dried before being brewed as a decoction or added to soups or stews.

How is Shan Yao prepared and processed?

Shan Yao, also known as Dioscorea opposita, is native to several regions in Asia, including China, Korea, and Japan. It grows best in regions with a warm and humid climate, where the temperature ranges between 15-30°C and the soil is fertile and well-drained with a pH range of 5.5-6.5.  Requiring a moderate amount of sunlight, Shan Yao would prefer partial shade during the hottest hours of the day.  Further, Shan Yao requires adequate water to grow, but it should not be waterlogged and benefits from regular fertilization, especially during the growing season.

Popular Recipe for Shan Yao

Here is a traditional recipe that uses Shan Yao:

Shan Yao and Pork Soup:


  • 500g pork belly
  • 300g Shan Yao (dioscorea opposita), sliced
  • 5 cups chicken stock
  • 2 inches of ginger, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch mixed with 2 tablespoons of water
  • Green onions, sliced, for garnish


  1. Soak the Shan Yao in water for 30 minutes to soften.
  2. In a large pot, bring the chicken stock to a boil and add the sliced Shan Yao and pork belly.
  3. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes or until the pork is cooked through and the Shan Yao is tender.
  4. Add the ginger, garlic, soy sauce, oyster sauce, and Shaoxing wine to the pot and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes.
  5. Gradually pour the cornstarch mixture into the pot, stirring constantly, until the soup thickens.
  6. Serve hot and garnish with sliced green onions.

This Shan Yao and Pork Soup is a delicious and nourishing dish that is commonly used in traditional Chinese medicine to support overall health and wellness.

Safety Precautions for the use of Shan Yao

Here are some precautions to take when using and handling Shan Yao (Dioscorea opposita) in traditional Chinese medicine:

  1. Consult a healthcare professional: Shan Yao should only be used under the supervision of a qualified healthcare professional, especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition, are pregnant, or are taking any medications.

  2. Appropriate dosage: The appropriate dosage of Shan Yao may vary based on the individual and the condition being treated. It is important to follow the recommendations of a qualified healthcare professional.

  3. Potential side effects: Shan Yao may cause side effects in some individuals, including gastrointestinal upset, skin irritation, or allergic reactions. If you experience any adverse effects, discontinue use and consult a healthcare professional.

  4. Interactions with medications: Shan Yao may interact with certain medications, including anticoagulants, anti-platelet drugs, or immunosuppressants. It is important to inform your healthcare professional of all medications you are taking before using Shan Yao.

  5. Quality control: It is important to purchase high-quality, laboratory tested Shan Yao from a reputable source to ensure safety and efficacy.

  6. Proper storage: Shan Yao should be stored in a cool, dry place and protected from light and moisture to maintain its potency and quality.

Note: This list is not exhaustive and the specific precautions may vary based on individual circumstances. It is important to consult with a qualified healthcare professional for personalized advice on the safe use and handling of Shan Yao.

Additional Information about Shan Yao

Common Names: Shan Yao (Chinese Yam), Dioscorea opposita Thunb.; Rhizoma Dioscoreae

Properties: Sweet, neutral, sour

Channels Entered: Spleen, Lung, Kidney


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