Diosgenin (Molecule of the Month for August 2011)
Diosgenin, a steroid sapogenin, is the product of hydrolysis by acids, strong bases, or enzymes of saponins, extracted from the tubers of Dioscorea wild yam, such as the Kokoro. The sugar-free (aglycone), diosgenin is used for the commercial synthesis of cortisone, pregnenolone, progesterone, and other steroid products.
Diosgenin is the precursor for the semisynthesis of progesterone which in turn was used in early combined oral contraceptive pills. The unmodified steroid has estrogenic activity and can reduce the level of serum cholesterol.
Update by Karl Harrison
(Molecule of the Month for August 2011 )