Better living through nature
Heidi Cardenas is a freelance writer and gardener in Lake County, Illinois, with a background in human resources. She has written about gardening for various online venues and enjoys The Herb Companion’s valuable resources.
Corn silk (Zea mays), is the fine, silky growth at the tops of corn cobs. It’s also called mother’s hair, yu mi xu, maize jagnog and stigmata maydis. It makes a soothing diuretic for irritation of the bladder, urethra, kidneys and prostate. It provides relief from urinary tract inflammation and bedwetting in children, and works for difficult and scant urination, cystitis and kidney stones. It contains volatile oils, flavonoids, fatty acids, alkaloids, tannins and saponins. Corn silk is high in several nutrients, including potassium and vitamin K. It is normally prepared as a tea made by boiling water and steeping dried or fresh corn silk for 15 minutes, straining and drinking the clear liquid up to 3 times a day.
I don’t often get a bladder infection, but when I do, I don’t like it and I want it to go away fast, without resorting to strong antibiotics. One of the best preventatives and treatments for bladder and urinary tract infections and irritations is drinking pure cranberry juice (without added sugars), but there are other natural remedies, including corn silk. A common Mexican home remedy for urinary problems is corn silk tea. While this tea isn’t particularly tasty or flavorful, it is not strong-tasting or unpleasant. It is rather bland, and is best taken without anything added, but a spoonful of honey makes it a little more palatable. Alternating drinking corn silk tea with water will flush the urinary tract system, calm any painful spasms and clear infection fast.
It’s easy to harvest corn silk if you grow corn in your garden. Just pull off the silk from mature corn cobs when you remove the husks after picking the corn. Be sure to use only corn silk from plants that have not been sprayed with any pesticides. Corn silk can be used fresh or dried to make tea, but if you have more than a couple of corn cobs from the garden, you will have a lot of corn silk. Dry it for later use. Lay the corn silk on a paper towel on a plate and put the plate in the sun to dry the fresh, soft fibers. When it has dried thoroughly, store it in an air-tight container. I have a plastic bag of dried corn silk from the sweet corn I grew this summer.
Hopefully, I won’t need to use it! If you don’t grow corn in your garden, dried cornsilk is available in some health food stores and most Mexican grocery stores. It’s also available from mail order and on-line bulk herb sources.
Other herbs can relieve urinary tract pain and symptoms, have diuretic effects and antimicrobial properties, flush out infection and reduce inflammation, and heal mucus membrane linings of the bladder, urethra and ureter and kidney tubules. They include buchu, couchgrass, goldenrod, goldenseal, horsetail, juniper berry, marshmallow, sarsaparilla and yarrow. Some herbal and natural treatments may interact with or interfere with the effectiveness of some medicines. Talk to a doctor before starting any herbal remedy, especially if you are pregnant, taking medication, or have a high fever.