Cornsilk

Description

Cornsilk (Zea mays) is an herbal remedy made from stigmas, the yellowish thread-like strands found inside the husks of corn. The stigmas are found on the female flower of corn, a grain that is also known as maize and is a member of the grass family (Gramineae or Poaceae). The stigmas measure 4–8 in (10–20 cm) long and are collected for medicinal use before the plant is pollinated. Cornsilk can also be removed from corn cobs for use as a remedy.

If fertilized, the stigmas dry and become brown. Then yellow corn kernels develop. Corn is native to North America and now grows around the world in warm climates.

Cornsilk is also known as mother's hair, Indian corn, maize jagnog, Turkish corn, yu mi xu, and stigmata maydis.

General use

Some historians believe that corn has grown for more than 7,000 years in North America. About the time that Christopher Columbus brought the first corn to Europe, the grain grew throughout North and South America. The venerable plant's stigmas have long been used in folk medicine to treat urinary conditions including inflammation of the bladder and painful urination.

Cornsilk also served as a remedy for heart trouble, jaundice, malaria, and obesity. Cornsilk is rich in vitamin K, making it useful in controlling bleeding during childbirth. It has also been used to treat gonorrhea.

For more than a century, cornsilk has been a remedy for urinary conditions such as acute and inflamed bladders and painful urination. It was also used to treat the prostate. Some of those uses have continued into modern times; cornsilk is a contemporary remedy for all conditions of the urinary passage.

Drinking cornsilk tea is a remedy to help children stop wetting their beds, a condition known as enuresis. It is also a remedy for urinary conditions experienced by the elderly.

Cornsilk is used to treat urinary tract infections and kidney stones in adults. Cornsilk is regarded as a soothing diuretic and useful for irritation in the urinary system. This gives it added importance, since today, physicians are more concerned about the increased use of antibiotics to treat infections, especially in children. Eventually, overuse can lead to drug-resistant bacteria. Also, these drugs can cause complications in children.

Furthermore, cornsilk is used in combination with other herbs to treat conditions such as cystitis (inflammation of the urinary bladder), urethritis (inflammation of the urethra), and parostitis (mumps).

Cornsilk is said to prevent and remedy infections of the bladder and kidney. The tea is also believed to diminish prostate inflammation and the accompanying pain when urinating.

Since cornsilk is used as a kidney remedy and in the regulation of fluids, the herb is believed to be helpful in treating high blood pressure and water retention. Corn-silk is also used as a remedy for edema (the abnormal accumulation of fluids).

Cornsilk is used to treat urinary conditions in countries including the United Sates, China, Haiti, Turkey, and Trinidad. Furthermore, in China, cornsilk as a component in an herbal formula is used to treat diabetes.

In addition, cornsilk has some nonmedical uses. Cornsilk is an ingredient in cosmetic face powder. The herb used for centuries to treat urinary conditions acquired another modern-day use. Cornsilk is among the ingredients in a product advertised to help people pass their drug tests.

Preparations

Some herbalists say that cornsilk is best used when fresh, but it is also available in dried form. Cornsilk can be collected from the female flower or from corn cobs. In addition, cornsilk is available commercially in powdered and capsule form and as an extract. Cornsilk is usually brewed as a tea, a beverage that is said to be soothing.

Cornsilk tea or infusion can be made by pouring 1 cup (240 ml) of boiling water over 2 tsp (2.5 g) of dried cornsilk. The mixture is covered and steeped for 10–15 minutes. The tea should be consumed three times daily.

In addition, a tincture of 1 tsp (3-6 ml) of cornsilk can be taken three times daily. Tincture can be purchased over the counter, or made at home by mixing the herb with water or alcohol at a ratio of 1:5 or 1:10.

Cornsilk is also available in capsule form. The usual dosage for 400-mg capsules is two capsules. These are taken with meals three times daily.

A remedy for bedwetting

Herbal remedies can be part of the treatment when children wet their beds. Methods of stopping this behavior include having the child exercise during the day, drink fewer beverages in the evening, and drink a cup of cornsilk tea one hour before bedtime. Cornsilk could be the only ingredient in the tea. However, cornsilk can be part of an herbal combination if bedwetting is caused by lack of nervous control of the bladder.

Cornsilk combinations

Cornsilk combines well with other herbs to remedy a range of urinary conditions. One remedy for a bed-wetting tea is to combine one part of cornsilk, St. John's wort, horsetail, wild oat, and lemon balm.

An herbal practitioner can recommend other combination remedies to treat more complicated conditions. For example, when a person has cystitis, cornsilk can be combined with yarrow, buchu, couchgrass, or bearberry.

Furthermore, cornsilk may be an ingredient in a commercial remedy taken to maintain the urinary tract system. Other ingredients could include yarrow and marsh mallow.

Precautions

Cornsilk is safe when taken in proper dosages, according to sources including PDR (Physician's Desk Reference) for Herbal Medicines,, the 1998 book based on the findings of Germany's Commission E. The commission published its findings about herbal remedies in a 1997 monograph.

Before beginning herbal treatment, people should consult a physician, practitioner, or herbalist. Herbs like cornsilk are not regulated by the U.S> Food and Drug Administration (FDA), a process that involves research and testing.

If a person decides to collect fresh cornsilk, attention should be paid to whether the plants were sprayed with pesticides.

Side effects

There are no known side effects when cornsilk is taken in designated therapeutic dosages.

Interactions

Information is not available about whether there is an interaction when cornsilk is taken with medication. People taking medications should first check with their doctor or health practitioner before using cornsilk.

Resources

BOOKS

Duke, James A. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1997.

Keville, Kathi. Herbs for Health and Healing. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press, Inc., 1996.

Medical Economics Staff. PDR for Herbal Medicines. Montvale, NJ: Medical Economics Company, 1998.

Ritchason, Jack. The Little Herb Encyclopedia. Pleasant Grove, UT: Woodland Health Books, 1995.

Squier, Thomas Broken Bear with Lauren David Peden. Herbal Folk Medicine. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1997.

PERIODICALS

Edney, Mark T, et al. "Putting Antimicrobials to Best Use in Pediatric Urology."Contemporary Urology (July 2002): 35–39.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Botanical Council. P.O. Box 201660, Austin, TX 78720. (512) 331-8868. http://www.herbalgram.org/.

Herb Research Foundation. 1007 Pearl St., Suite 200, Boulder, CO 80302. (303) 449-2265. http://www.herbs.org.

OTHER

Health World Online. http://www.healthy.net (January 17, 2001).

Holistic Online. http://www.holisticonine.com (January 17, 2001).

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