Some clarity on artificial progesterone

by Lance

The status of progesterone made from the Wild Yam has been a bit ambiguous. So, I put this little history of the development and early sources of artificial progesterone.

A history of artificial progesterone

1934 a German research group discovered the process of converting the plant sterol Stigmasterol, chemically similar to animal cholesterol, into progesterone. Plant steroids share the same 4 carbon rings as human steroids.

1938 Russell Marker figured out how to convert steroids from sarsaparilla root into progesterone. This was very expensive and could produce only small quantities of progesterone.

In 1939 Dr. Percy Julian, while working for Glidden Paint, discovered the process to isolate stigmasterol from the soy bean. He was then able to convert the stigmasterol into progesterone en mass.

In 1940 Russell Marker, while working for Park Davis, found a Yam in Mexico that was much richer in steroids than the soy bean. The Yam contains the steroid diosgenin which is converted into progesterone. Using the Mexican Yam, Marker was able to produce larger quantities of progesterone more easily and economically than was previously made from soy.

In 1944 Russell Marker forms a new company called Syntex to make and supply hormones from the Yam.

Through 1950 both Gliddon and Syntex manufactured most of the world’s supply of artificial sex hormones--including progesterone.

Progesterone creams can contain progesterone converted from the steroids contained in the soy bean (stigmasterol) and or the Mexican Yam (diosgenin). Any cream made just from an extract from the Mexican Yam itself, or Yam crèmes, will contain the progesterone precursor diosgenin, but will not contain any actual progesterone, and since the human body does not have the capacity to convert the progesterone steroidal precursor diosgenin into progesterone, there is no benefit from the yam extracts or crèmes.

I hope this clears things up.

Comments for Some clarity on artificial progesterone

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Oct 25, 2009
Some clarity on artificial progesterone
by: Wray

Hi Lance. Many thanks for your contribution, similar to ours, with slight variations! You might like to read what we have here. Take care, Wray

Mar 29, 2010
The Forgotten Genius
by: ladalet

Hello Wray, I read your section discussing progesterone and its history. I am surprised that you have not included the very important contributions of Dr. Percy Julian. It is heart breaking for this man to not be mentioned or recognized for his outstanding achievements and contributions to the science of chemistry including the artificial creation of steroids and hormones at a time when it was almost impossible for an African American to get an advanced education let alone make a contribution to science. There us a nice documentary on him called "The Forgotten Genius" on PBS. To watch the show click 'watch online' on the right. There is other good information on that page as well. Best wishes, Lance

Apr 02, 2010
The Forgotten Genius
by: Wray

Hi Lance. Thanks so much for this info, I had no idea. Spent the last hour reading up on him, remarkable man considering the racial animosity of the time. Read more about Marker, Allen etc, fascinating. I will have to do some editing of our web page. Many thanks! Take care, Wray

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