The hair-like fibers you toss away when husking corn are actually a beneficial herb used for centuries to treat various ailments. Corn silk or "zea mays" may have positive effects on your body. Corn silk can be used off the plant steeped as a tea, or you can purchase corn silk capsules from your local health-food store.
Blood Sugar Benefits
High blood sugar may lead to diabetes, kidney problems, blindness and stroke. Regulating blood sugar levels is vitally important to maintaining good health. Corn silk can help reduce blood sugar levels, according to a study in the Nov. 23, 2009 issue of "Nutrition and Metabolism." In the study, researchers created corn silk extract by drying the silk obtained from a local market and then steeping it in boiling water for 20 minutes, after which it was freeze-dried. The results of the study show that corn silk increases insulin levels and aids in the repair of damaged cells in the pancreas, where insulin is produced. If you are currently on medication for blood sugar, speak to your physician before adding corn silk, in tea or supplement form, to your routine, as it could make your blood sugar levels dip too low.
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute reports that high cholesterol is a top contributor to heart disease, and heart disease was the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the United States in 2012. Keeping cholesterol levels in check can play a major role in how long you live. Researchers at Jilin University in China tested the effects of corn silk consumption on diabetic rats. Corn silk contains health-promoting compounds called polysaccharides, which in the study, were extracted from the silk and fed to the rats. The study, published in the May 1, 2012 issue of "International Journal of Biological Macromolecules," found that the beneficial compounds in corn silk lower blood sugar, total cholesterol and triglyceride levels.
Corn silk acts as a diuretic, which helps your body flush out excess fluids. The National Institutes of Health reports diuretics help protect you from high blood pressure, congestive heart failure, heart disease and kidney disease. By making you urinate more, they also help prevent the build-up of bacteria in the urinary tract, reducing the risk of infection. A study in the May 2005 issue of "Phytomedicine" states that, while corn silk is an effective diurectic, it can also flush potassium from your system. If you are already on a diuretic for a medical condition, speak to your doctor before consuming corn silk, as it may enhance the effects of your medication.
If you harvest your own corn silk, use organic corn that has not been sprayed with pesticides. To make your own corn silk tea, cut the brown off the ends of the silk, cover the silk with water and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the silk from the water, and you have corn silk tea. If you purchase supplements, follow the directions on the individual container.
- Nutrition and Metabolism: The Effect of Corn Silk on Glycaemic Metabolism
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: High Blood Cholesterol: What You Need to Know
- Comparison of Anti-Diabetic Effects of Polysaccharides From Corn Silk on Normal and Hyperglycemia Rats
- National Institutes of Health News: Diuretics Effective for People With Diabetes and High Blood Pressure
- Phytomedicine: Zea Mays L. Extracts Modify Glomerular Function and Potassium Urinary Excretion in Conscious Rats
A certified nutritionist who majored in health, fitness and nutrition, Traci Vandermark has been writing articles in her specialty fields since 1998. Her articles have appeared both online and in print for publications such as Simple Abundance, "Catskill Country Magazine," "Birds and Blooms," "Cappers" and "Country Discoveries."