Written by: Dr. Julianna Englund, ND, LAc
Zea mays (Corn Silk)
The soft, threadlike corn silks of Zea mays are one of the major herbs used in Western herbal medicine to treat urinary conditions. This gentle yet effective herb is very soothing and has a long history of use in aiding urinary tract infections.
The silks of Zea mays are the stigma of the plant’s female flowers. These fine, soft threads are generally 4 to 8 inches long. Their taste is sweet and they have a cooling and drying energetic temperature. The main constituents that give this herb its medicinal properties are mucilage and mannose (a type of sugar).
Corn silk has a few qualities which give it medicinal actions. As a demulcent, Zea mays is thought to increase mucus production in the digestive, respiratory, and urinary systems. The increase in mucus from its demulcent action soothes inflammation and combined with its aquaretic (1) action, may help decrease bacterial adhesion (bacteria have to stick to the urinary tract in order to infect). Corn silk also has mild antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties. These qualities make this herb helpful in the treatment of bladder inflammation/infection, inflammation of the prostate and interstitial cystitis.
Preparations and Dose
The typical dose of Zea mays is:
Tincture (1:5 in 25%): 5-10 ml three times daily (Hoffman)
Tea (dried herb): 2-4 teaspoons per cup boiling water, infused 10-15 minutes, three times daily (Hoffman). The organic tea is best used fresh because of the high sugar content which give this plant its diuretic effect. These sugars are very soluble in water, as is the allantoin, therefore a cold infusion soaked overnight provides a mucilagenous and soothing sweet drink with a diuretic action.
Combines well with:
If added to a urinary formula, it should be a generous part and it combines well with analgesic and antimicrobial herbs such as: Solidago canadensis Hypericum perforatum; Hydrastis canadensis; Piper methysticum, Gelsemium sempervirens to name a few.
To my knowledge, no significant adverse effects have beenreported and there are no reported contraindications to using this herb. There are also no drug interactions that havebeen reported.
1. “Aquaretic”: increases blood flow to the kidneys thereby increasing their filtration rates
Hoffman, David. 2003. Medical Herbalism. Healing Arts Press;Rochester Vermont.
Corn silk close up: WikiCommons File:Corn silk in a field by Myrstigen 1.jpg
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