Cornsilk (Zea Mays)

Cornsilk is the soft, flowing stigmas, or female reproductive parts of the corn plant, also known as maize. Originally a wild grass domesticated in prehistoric Meso-America, it is cultivated worldwide today. It is recognizable by its jointed stems, which is a distinct characteristic of the Poaceae family (think: bamboo), with one long leaf growing from each node, and a raceme of small spikelet flowers at the top.

Growing Conditions and Harvesting
The average corn variety is an annual crop that prefers full sun in a location protected from the wind. It taxes the soil heavily for nitrogen, so planting cover crops between seasons or companion planting with legumes, clover, or marigolds is a good idea. Corn is susceptible to frost and transplants poorly, so planting in the ground early to midsummer is best. Be sure to water well while the silk is forming. The silk can be harvested once the corn is ripe and ready to eat, as premature harvesting of the silk will result in underdevelopment of the corn itself. Pull the browned, dried silk from the top of the corn, and peel back the bracts to reveal the inner silk to be used medicinally.

Cornsilk acts as a diuretic, lithotriptic, cholagogue, demulcent, and as a tonic. Chemically, it contains saponins, tannins, allantoin, and alkaloids. As a diuretic, it has soothing actions for the urinary system and can be useful for treating cystitis, liver weaknesses, prostatis, kidney stones, and urethritis. It’s also a great herb to treat children with bedwetting or renal problems, as it is mild, safe for continued use, and slightly sweet in flavor. Additionally, it’s high in potassium, a nutrient that is commonly lacking in many diets and helps to lower blood pressure. For cystitis and bladder related issues, it combines well with Couchgrass, Bearberry, and Yarrow. A poultice made from the silk and the leaves can help draw pus from a wound. Cornsilk has a generally soothing effect on the body.

As a tea, 2 tablespoons infused as a tea for 10-15 minutes three times a day is recommended. As a tincture, 3-6 ml three times daily is recommended. Because cornsilk is a sweet and soothing tonic herb that is mild on the system while still being highly effective, overdose is no concern.

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