Despite the birth control pill’s position as a symbol of modern scientific advancement, Mexico’s role in the production of synthetic steroids and the global pharmaceutical science that led to the pill has been regrettably overlooked. Fortunately, Gabriela Soto Laveaga corrects this. By exploring the history of a forgotten medicinal yam that grows wild in Mexico’s southern tropical states — and the powerful and lucrative diosgenin source material extracted from it — Soto Laveaga demonstrates the intertwined complexity of global medicine, social conditions, and economic reforms. She reconstructs the shifting relationships between rural harvesters, state industries, and international companies from 1941 to 1989 and in doing so chronicles the social organization that waxed and waned around this tuber.

Although it might fit into the slew of recent “commodity” profiles, this book is different for two reasons. First, rather than a botanical product of high...

You do not currently have access to this content.