Health benefits of Air Potato ~ Dioscorea bulbifera

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Air Potato Quick Facts
Name: Air Potato
Scientific Name: Dioscorea bulbifera
Origin Tropical Africa, southern Asia, Maldives, and northern Australia
Colors Pale brown at maturity
Shapes Dry, winged, dehiscent, trilocular capsule 1.8-2.8 cm in length
Taste Bitter, Acrid, sweet, pungent
Health benefits Good for Digestive System, Heart, Respiratory Disorders, Different Eye Disorders, Skin Disorders, fatigue, depression, pertussis and hematemesis
Dioscorea bulbifera commonly known as the air potato or air yam is a species of true yam in the yam family, Dioscoreaceae. The plant is native to Tropical Africa, Southern Asia, Maldives, and Northern Australia. In Myanmar, it is found in Chin, Kachin, Mandalay, Mon, Sagaing, and Shan. It is extensively cultivated and has become naturalized in many regions (Latin America, the West Indies, the Southeastern United States, and various oceanic islands). It is also known as the up-yam in Nigerian Pidgin English, since the plant is cultivated more for its bulbils than for its tubers. Name air potato refers to the numerous bulbils (potato-like tubers) that grow on the stem and hang in the air.

Popular common names of the plant include Aerial yam, Bitter yam, Cheeky yam, Potato yam, Wild yam, parsnip yam, Bulbil-bearing yam, Hoi, Malacca yam, yam and otaheite yam. Air Potato produces several axillary tubers but these can occasionally weigh several pounds. These are edible and potato like in flavor. Root tubers are usually absent or insignificant. This plant was introduced to the United States as a potential food crop but quickly escaped cultivation. It is considered extremely invasive in Florida and other parts of the Southeast were it smothers native flora. It has also been reported as escaping cultivation in parts of the Midwest.

Air Potato Facts

Name Air Potato
Scientific Name Dioscorea bulbifera
Native Tropical Africa, southern Asia, Maldives, and northern Australia. In Myanmar, found in Chin, Kachin, Mandalay, Mon, Sagaing, and Shan. It is widely cultivated and has become naturalized in many regions (Latin America, the West Indies, the Southeastern United States, and various oceanic islands)
Common Names Aerial yam, Air potato, Air yam, Bitter yam, Cheeky yam, Potato yam, Wild yam, parsnip yam, Bulbil-bearing yam, Hoi, Malacca yam, yam, otaheite yam
Name in Other Languages Assamese: Kathalu, Mati alu, Goch-aloo, Bon-aloo,Gosh Alu
Bengali:  Ban alu (বনআলু), Rat alu, Roth alu, pitalu, Kukuralu
Brazil: Cará-de-árvore, cara-de-espinho, cará-do-ar, cará-moela
Burmese: Ah lu thi, Pat sa uu (Putsa u), Hpwut sa uu
Chinese:  Huang du (黄独), Huang yao, Shānyù (山芋)、Shān cí gū (山慈菇), Dú huáng (獨 黃), Xiè bì chuān (薢萆川), Tuuh, un kau tou
Dominican Republic: Bonda, bondanza, bonday, masoco, monday
English: Aerial yam, Air-potato, Bitter yam, Bulbil-bearing yam, Cheeky yam, Hoi, Malacca yam, Potato yam, Air yam, yam, otaheite yam , wild yam, Bulb bearing yam
Fiji: Kaile, kaile manu, sarau
French: Igname bulbifère, Igname pousse en l’air, Pomme en l’air, Masako, igname massokor
German: Kartoffelyam, Kartoffel-Yam, Knollen-Yam, Luft-Kartoffel, Luft-Yams, Brotwurzel, Yamswurzel
Gujarati: Dukar kanda, Dukkar kand, Suvariya, Dukkar Kand
Haiti: Bonay, igname massokor, massokop
Hindi: Gainthi (गैण्ठी), Gaithi, Hoei oepas, Ratalu (रतालू), Karukanda, Karu kunda, suralu, Zimikand (ज़िमीकंद), Genthi, Barahi Khandh,  Barahikhandha, Kadu Kanda (कदू कन्दा)
Irula: Jhaal kodi
Japanese:  Kashuu imo,  Niga kashuu (ニガカシュウ), Benkei imo
Kannada: Kuntu genasu, Heggenasu (ಹೆಗ್ಗೆನಸು), Negilugonne (ನೇಗಿಲುಹೊನ್ನೆ),  Kuntagenasu (ಕುಮ್ಟಗೆಣಸು),  Ambali Genasu (ಅಮ್ಬಲಿ ಗೆಣಸು), Hamdigenasu (ಹಮ್ದಿಗೆಣಸು)
Konkani: Karamdo (करंदो )
Korean:  Dung geun ma (둥근마)
Laotian:  Houo i mou, Man pau
Malayalam: Pannikizhangu (പന്നികിഴങ്ങ), Nukappa, Alanthal, Kattukachil, Kaacchil (കാച്ചില്  ), Pannikizhangu
Malaysia: Kaachil
Manipuri: Phum ha (ꯐꯨꯝ ꯍꯥ)
Marathi:  Kadu kand, Mataru, Gathalu, Manu Kand, Gorkan, Kukar kand, Dukar-kand (डुकरकंद), Kadu-karanda (कडूकरंदा), Varahi (वाराही)
Mizo: Bachhim, Rambachhim
Nepali :  Giitthaa (Gittha),  Giitthe tarul (गीठे तरुल), Jada bis, Van tarul
Oriya:  Pita alu
Other: Bulbil-bearing Yam, Giitthe Tarul (गीट्ठे तरुल), Air Potato, Potato Yam, Cheeky Yam, Giitthaa (गीट्ठा ), Malacca Yam, Aerial Yam, Otaheite-potato, Shoebutton Air Potato, Van Tarul (वन तरुल), Air Yam, Bitter Yam
Portuguese: Cará-de-árvore, Cará-do-ar, Cará-moela, batata-de-ram, cara-de-aire, cara-de-sapateiro, inhame-de-bolbos-aéreos, inhame-zambuco, cara-de-espinho
Puerto Rico: Gunda
Sanskrit: Aluka (आलुकः), Varahi-kand (वराहीकन्द)
Senegal: Danda
Spanish:  Ñame criollo, Ñame de aire, Ñame de gunda, Ñame volador, Papa cimarrona, Papa de aire, Papa voladora, name, ñame blanco, ñame bobo, ñame cimarrón, ñame Congo, ñame de monte, papa Caribe, papa del aire, name del aire, papa caribe, name de mata
Swedish: Potatisjams
Tagalog:  Bayag kabayo, Ubi ubihan, Utong utongan
Tamil: Kaayvalli (காய்வள்ளி),  Kāṭṭuccīrakavaḷḷi (காட்டுச்சீரகவள்ளி) , Kaattukkaayvalli (காட்டுக்காய்வள்ளி),  Pannu kilangu, Paṇṇukkiḻaṅku  (பண்ணுக்கிழங்கு), pannu pilangu
Telugu:  Adavi dumpa (అడవి దుంప), Chedupaddudampa, Karu kanda, Malaka kayependalamu, Nela dumpa
Thai:  De khwa (เดะควา),  Ham pea (หำเป้า ),  La sa mi (ละสามี),  Lèā’a cǽmụ̄̀x (เล่าะแจ๊มื่อ),  Lo chae mue, Man xi mo (มันอีโม้), Man khamin,  Wan phra chim (ว่านพระฉิม), Wan sam phan dtang (ว่านสามพันตัง), Wan sam phan thueng
Tongan: Hoi
Russian:  Yams lukovitsenosnyi (Ямс луковиценосный )
Vietnamese:  Củ dại, Khoai dái, Khoai trời, Khoai trời
Unidentified:  Kodikilangu (India), Ratalu, Ratula
Plant Growth Habit Monocotyledonous, dioecious, herbaceous, perennial, non-spiny, climbing plant
Growing Climates Moist forests, mesic forests, hardwood forests, disturbed areas, urban forests, forest gaps, forest edges, ruderal areas and along roadsides, mixed forest margins, river banks, valley sides, thickets, fence rows, and hardwood hammocks
Soil Requires a deep, well-drained, sandy loam that is not liable to water-logging
Plant Size Up to 10 m long
Stem Terete (rounded) stems are thin, wiry, and usually unwinged
Aerial tubers (bulbils) Aerial tubers irregularly subglobose or markedly angular, up to 7 cm. in diameter, having a potato like appearance
Aerial tubers (bulbils)  Skin Ranges from brown, rough, and spotted with warts to tan or light grey and smooth
Flesh of Aerial tubers (bulbils) Firm, starchy, slimy, soft orange/brown colored
Leaf Cordate-shaped with elongated tips, thin and glabrous, and range from 10-20 cm in length and 5-15 cm in width
Flower Dioecious species, with male (staminate) and female (pistillate) flowers occurring on separate plants. Flowers are small, white to greenish and they are arranged in relatively long clusters up to 4 inches long
Fruit Shape & Size Dry, winged, dehiscent, trilocular capsule 1.8-2.8 cm in length and from 1-1.5 cm in width
Fruit Color Pale brown at maturity
Seed Unilaterally winged, elongated and are slightly curve at the point of attachment. Seeds range in length from 12-22 mm
Propagation By seed, underground tubers, and bulbils
Flavor/Aroma Faint odor
Taste Bitter, Acrid, sweet, pungent
Plant Parts Used Tuber, rhizome
Lifespan More than 2 years
Health Benefits
  • Skin Disorders
  • Treat Different Eye Disorders
  • Contains Antioxidants
  • Treat Respiratory Disorders
  • Good for Heart
  • Anti-inflammatory Qualities
  • Good for Digestive System
Other Facts
  • Edible species of Dioscorea have opposite leaves whilst poisonous species have alternate leaves.

Plant Description

Air Potato is a monocotyledonous, dioecious, herbaceous, perennial, non-spiny, climbing plant that normally grows up to 10 m long.  The plant grows quickly, around 8 inches per day, and easily climbs to the top of the tall shrubs and trees. Hosts plant often dies as a result of lack of light (which is essential for the process of photosynthesis). Normally plant is found growing in moist forests, mesic forests, hardwood forests, disturbed areas, urban forests, forest gaps, forest edges, ruderal areas and along roadsides, mixed forest margins, river banks, valley sides, thickets, fence rows, and hardwood hammocks. It requires a deep, well-drained, sandy loam that is not liable to water-logging. Air yam is found in both Africa and Asia with slight differences between those found in the two places. The plant has terete (rounded) stems that are thin, wiry, and usually unwinged.

Leaves

Leaves are cordate-shaped with elongated tips, thin and glabrous, and range from 10-20 cm in length and 5-15 cm in width. Leaves are long-petioled; often 8 cm on mature leaves and between 2-3 cm on newer leaves nearest the terminal bud, and occur in an alternate arrangement along a branching, hairless, stem. Leaves are vibrant green on the upper surface and a lighter green on the lower surface depending upon conditions. Basal lobes of leaves are broadly rounded. Leaf margin is entire. Leaf venation is parallel and converges at the leaf base. Leaves of D. bulbifera and other Dioscorea species have three arcuate primary nerves which radiate from the central base of a given leaf to converge at the leaf tip. The remaining primary nerves, while converging at the base, do not reach the leaf tip. Petioles are distinctly flattened along the upper surface and, at the point of attachment to individual leaves; flare out to create small wing-like structures which are ruffled in appearance.

Flower

Air potato is dioecious (with carpellate (female) and staminate (male) flowers borne on separate plants), and only carpellate plants have been observed in Florida. The carpellate inflorescences are spikes to 16 inches long that may be borne singly or in fascicles of up to six in the leaf axils. Each carpellate inflorescence bears up to 50 tiny greenish-white flowers. Flower production is not common in Florida air potato plants, but is most likely to occur at the end of the growing season (late summer through early winter). Since staminate plants have not been documented in Florida, there is no sexual reproduction and seed production. Instead, plants reproduce asexually by means of bulbils (aerial tubers).

Aerial tubers (Bulbils)

One to four bulbils are produced at each leaf axil, and a single plant is capable of producing nearly 200 bulbils in a growing season. Potato-like in appearance, they are generally globose, but occasionally irregularly shaped, and can measure up to 6 inches long and weighing from 0.5 to 2 kg. Bulbils may be brown, rough, and spotted with warts, uneven and very thick, with a firm, starchy and slimy texture, and soft orange or brown colored with a smooth skin.  Air potatoes have a mild, earthy, and sometimes bitter flavor.

Bulbils may be produced at any time of year, but are most prevalent at the end of the growing season (autumn to winter). After they have dropped from the vine, the bulbils typically undergo a period of dormancy, sprouting at the beginning of the next growing season. Potato-like tubers (bulbils) are considered as the chief means of reproduction that are located at the leaf axils. Some varieties can be eaten raw while some require soaking or boiling for detoxification before eating. It is not grown much commercially since the flavor of other yams is preferred by most people. However it is popular in home vegetable gardens because it produces a crop after only 4 months of growth and continues for the life of the vine, as long as two years.

Fruit

Fertile flowers are followed by dry, winged, dehiscent, trilocular capsule 1.8-2.8 cm in length and from 1-1.5 cm in width. Seeds are unilaterally winged, elongated and are slightly curved at the point of attachment. Seeds range in length from 12-22 mm.

Health benefits of Air Potato

Listed below are some of the well-known health benefits of Air Potato

1. Skin Disorders

Powdered form of air potato has been traditionally used for treating different skin conditions. You can apply it topically to relieve blisters and boils.

2. Treat Different Eye Disorders

Air potato has been consumed to help cure or prevent different kinds of eye ailments like conjunctivitis. Conjunctivitis or pink eye is the inflammation of the outermost layer of the white part of your eye as well as the inner surface of your eyelids.

3. Contains Antioxidants

Apparently, air potato is rich in flavonoids and isoflavonoids which can be sources of antioxidants. Though there have been mentions that flavonoids are poorly absorbed in your body, it could be insignificant when it comes to antioxidant activity. Still, this is something to look into more.

4. Treat Respiratory Disorders

Air potato has been used as a home remedy to treat or cure some respiratory disorders. It is good for treating asthma, coughs, and tonsillitis.

5. Good for Heart

Eating air potato can do different things to your body that can lead to a healthier heart. First, it seems to be able to decrease your blood cholesterol levels. Another thing is that it is also able to help regulate your blood pressure. Normal levels of cholesterol and blood pressure can both help in keeping your heart healthy and reducing the risk of different kinds of heart diseases.

6. Anti-inflammatory Qualities

Air potato has been found to have anti-inflammatory activity. This can be very helpful for different conditions like swelling caused by injuries as well as arthritis.

7. Good for Digestive System

Consuming air potato can help improve or keep your digestive system healthy and away from some common digestive disorders. It should be helpful in regulating your stool movement thus avoiding conditions like constipation and diarrhea.

Traditional uses and benefits of Air Potato

  • Plant is considered to be a galactagogue in Upper Myanmar.
  • Tubers are used internally and externally as remedies for sore throat, boils, swelling, and poisonous snakebites in China.
  • Powder obtained from scraping the axial fruit (bulblets) is rubbed on the abdomen in Philippines.
  • Fruits are used to treat boils and fevers.
  • Juice of the roots is taken to expel threadworm.
  • Juice is dripped into wounds to expel worms and germs.
  • They are used externally as a poultice, to treat wounds, sores, boils and inflammations; in dressings for treating dermal parasitic and fungal infections; or crushed, mixed with palm oil, and massaged onto areas of rheumatism, and for troubles of the breasts and for jiggers.
  • In India the Tuber is considered to be diuretic and to be a remedy for diarrhea and hemorrhoids.
  • Fruits are used to treat boils and for fever.
  • Sap is expressed from the vine stems is applied to treat purulent ophthalmia, and for snake-bite.
  • It is used to treat diarrhea, dysentery, conjunctivitis, fatigue and depression among other ailments in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
  • Its preparation has been used for memory enhancement, anti-aging, constipation and fever, and has also been used as an infusion to apply to cuts and sores.
  • Pounded bulbils are applied to abscesses, boils and wound infections in Cameroon and Madagascar.
  • Leaves are an effectual cure for eye ailments like Conjunctivitis, which is also familiar as Pinkeye.
  • It is beneficial in treating Jaundice also familiar as Yellow Fever, which results in yellow coloration of the Skin, accompanied with Fever.
  • It is effective in ceasing nasal bleeding.
  • Air Potato is a good herbal remedy for counteracting respiratory conditions like Pertussis and Asthma.
  • It also takes care of pharyngitis, which leads to large tonsils.
  • It is fruitful in countering Anorexia, which is a condition involving eating disorder and the person is always afraid of gaining weight.
  • It is valuable in the treatment of Stomach Cancer, due to its Anti-Cancerous properties.
  • It is suitable for treating Tumors and ailments associated with it.
  • Air Potato is a good herbal cure for skin afflictions like Carbuncles.
  • It is worthwhile in countering Skin allergies due to Spider bite.
  • It is effective in lowering body Cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • It is beneficial in providing relief in Pain, even in case of bone fracture.
  • It is suitable for combating hemorrhoids also known as Piles.
  • It is helpful in arresting poison, due to Snake or Scorpion bite
  • Powdered root can be applied externally to treat blisters.
  • Medicated wine with Air Potato root can be taken to heal goiter.
  • Decoction of Air Potato root and crystal sugar is used in treating pertussis.
  • Powdered cattail pollen and Air Potato root is taken orally to treat hematemesis.
  • Tubers are used in the treatment of cancer, fever, dysentery, hernia, goiter, piles, sores, tumors and syphilis.
  • Air potato leaves are used as a poultice for pimples and tumors and in bath water to soothe skin irritations and stings.
  • In northern Bangladesh, air potato is used to treat leprosy and tumors.

Culinary Uses

  • Aerial tubers are consumed after being cooked.
  • Root can be consumed after being cooked.
  • The inflorescences are apparently eaten.
  • Air potato can be also used for the preparation of pancakes, miso soup, tempura and curry.

Precautions

  • Cattle eating them accidentally may be fatally poisoned showing frothing at the mouth and bloating.
  • Avoid use during Pregnancy and Breast Feeding.
  • Avoid in case suffering from Hepatitis or Cirrhosis.
  • Excess intake may cause abdominal pain, gastrointestinal disorder, dizziness, headache, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, anorexia, itching and liver damage.

Prevention and Control

Management Options

Prevention is a key step in the management of air potato. Bulbils are the primary mechanism of spread and research has shown even minutely small bulbils can sprout and form new plants. Water is also a major means of dispersal, so care must be taken to first remove populations along water bodies where bulbils may be easily spread.

Weeds such as air potato usually attack open or disturbed areas following a burn, clearing or mowing so these areas are mostly vulnerable to invasion. Healthy ecosystem with good species diversity will help to discourage infestations. Regular monitoring and removal of plants can prevent the spread and establishment of air potato. Programs to educate homeowners on proper plant identification will also reduce the spread of this species. Native alternatives to air potato for use in home landscaping or natural areas include Carolina jessamine, Florida yam, purple passionflower and American wisteria.

Cultural/Physical

Cut vines that are high in trees. Remove bulbils and dig up underground tubers if possible. Burning is not recommended, as it results in excessive damage to the native vegetation under the vines.

Mechanical

Mechanical control is limited for air potato, as control of the vines usually results in damage to the vegetation being climbed/smothered by the air potato. Mowing may help suppress air potato in the short term; however mowers and other brush-cutting equipment may disperse bulbils long distances, either through contaminated equipment or throwing of bulbils during the mowing operation.

Biological

Air potato leaf beetle, Lilioceris cheni, has been an effective biological control for air potato. The air potato beetle was released in 2012 to help control the air potato vine by causing damage to the leaves of the plant. Those with air potato leaf beetle on their property will see better control if they remove and dispose of (in landfill-bound garbage containers) the “potatoes” left behind by the vine in the fall and winter. The beetles eat the leaves, but not the bulbils.

Chemical Control

Chemical control of D. bulbifera should include mechanical cutting followed by application of one of the following herbicides to the cut stems:

N-phosphonomethyl-glycine (glyphosate)

3, 5, 6-trichloro-2-pyridinyloxyacetic acid (triclopyr)

Follow-up treatments are recommended at 6-month intervals until control is completed.

References:

https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=43369#null
https://pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Dioscorea+bulbifera
https://www.cabi.org/isc/datasheet/19295
https://www.missouribotanicalgarden.org/PlantFinder/PlantFinderDetails.aspx?taxonid=265523&isprofile=0&chr=19
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dioscorea_bulbifera
http://tropical.theferns.info/viewtropical.php?id=Dioscorea+bulbifera
https://plants.ifas.ufl.edu/plant-directory/dioscorea-bulbifera/
https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=DIBU
https://gd.eppo.int/taxon/DIUBU
http://www.theplantlist.org/tpl/record/kew-239891
https://indiabiodiversity.org/species/show/229554
https://davesgarden.com/guides/pf/go/32235/#b
http://www.flowersofindia.net/catalog/slides/Air%20Yam.html

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