Micronized, USP, Wild Yam Extract Progesterone: What Does it all Mean?
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Micronized, USP, Wild Yam Extract Progesterone: What Does it all Mean?

For the average woman trying to navigate her way through perimenopause symptoms, making sense out of all of the lingo and terminology surrounding bioidentical progesterone can be a frustrating proposition, to say the very least.

It’s difficult enough to know what to believe when all of the experts disagree and contradict each other on every turn over what is effective and safe and what is not.  But when there are also official sounding phrases like "micronized progesterone," "USP progesterone," and "progesterone from wild yam extract" casually tossed around as if we are supposed to know what it all means, it can be completely overwhelming.

If you have ever felt confused and frustrated trying to understand it all, you are definitely not alone. Sifting through the jargon can be challenging, but it’s not as difficult to understand as you might think.     

What is Micronized Progesterone?

A micron is a unit of measure which is equal to 1/250,000th of an inch – a very tiny particle. If progesterone is micronized, it has been broken down into tiny particles. Progesterone which is compounded by a compounding pharmacy – meaning it has been specially prepared for you - begins in a micronized form. Micronized progesterone is often the preferred choice among physicians because it is slow released and easily absorbed by the body.

Not all progesterone is micronized. If it is, it will say so on the labeling.  If it is not stated on the label that it is micronized, chances are it is not. If the progesterone you are using does not say that it is micronized, you may want to consider switching to one that is. Higher grade bioidentical progesterone is micronized and will state clearly on the label that it is.

What is USP Progesterone?

USP is an acronym for the United States Pharmacopeia, a non-governmental organization recognized and used by over 130 countries, which sets public standards for prescription and over-the-counter medications and healthcare products, manufactured or sold in the United States.  The USP sets standards for purity, quality, strength, and consistency.

If progesterone is said to be USP grade that means it has met the standards of the USP for quality.  The USP is not regulated by the FDA.  However, all products given USP approval have been subjected to a rigorous set of quality standards.

What is Wild Yam Progesterone?

Wild yam bioidentical progesterone is progesterone which has been derived from a compound found in Mexican wild yams called diosgenin. The progesterone derived from wild yam extract is called bioidentical because the molecular structure is identical to the progesterone made in the human body.

Wild yam progesterone is synthesized in a lab and should not be confused with wild yam creams which are sold with the claims that your body is able to naturally produce progesterone if you use it. According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “Diosgenin itself has no hormonal activity and can't be converted in the human body into anything that does.”

Putting it All Together

It’s important to note that critics of bioidentical hormones often point to the fact that they are not FDA approved or regulated; however, this is only partially true.  There are several bioidentical hormones which are FDA approved and regulated, though the majority of them are not. But this does not mean that those which are not FDA approved are not subject to any standards of quality, because they certainly are. 

There are and always will be products which make claims about their quality which do not hold up to scrutiny.  But with the right information and an accurate understanding of what bioidentical hormones are, you can effectively sift through the hype and make the best decision for you.  

Magnolia Miller is a certified healthcare consumer advocate in women’s health and a women’s freelance health writer and blogger at The Perimenopause Blog.

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About the Author

Magnolia is dedicated to empowering women to take responsibility for their own health.