Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu: PhD(A.M)
Growing up in my village, maize was one of the major staple foods. Maize was a term that is still used to refer to corn, but for a long time it was also used to refer to any form of cereal crop and was only limited to refer to corn in the 19th century. In Ghana, in a variety of ways we eat corn: as food, as popcorn, in feeding animals etc. In fact, never did I know that the shiny, silky tip of an ear of the corn has medicinal properties. But the Iraqis who know this make teas from the shiny, silky fibres at the tip of an ear of corn silk for urinary tract disorders such as bladder and urinary tract infections — or cystitis. Today, kidneys are prostates are failing in Ghana and it appears that the solution we looking for are not far from us, but we just don’t know where to find it!
Corn silk’s potassium content acts as a diuretic by reducing fluid retention and eliminating deposits as well as irritants and toxins from the kidneys and bladder. It has been used safely for centuries to aid healing.
The Studies on Corn Silk:
In a 2012 clinical study, researchers evaluating the benefit of water extract of corn silk found that it significantly reduced the symptoms in patient with uncomplicated urinary tract infection (UTI), without any reported side effect, which indicated its efficacy and safety. It was published in the Journal of Intercultural Ethnopharmacology.
These were in 42 Iraqi patients with Urinary tract infection attending outpatient clinic in Alkindy College of Medicine, Baghdad, Iraq, over the period from October 2011 to March 2012.
All of the patients were followed up after five days, 10 days and 20 days from starting course of treatment with aqueous extract of corn silk.
Moreover, researchers also substantiated its usefulness in decomposing kidney stone. Its effectiveness was comparable with alkalinizer agent which is considered an effective decomposer factor.
This study also carried out at Al-Yarmook Teaching Hospital between October 2010 and April 2011 involved 60 male patients with ages range between 20 and 60 years.
They were divided in two groups and the first group of patients with lower urinary stone size was advised to take alkalinizer agent (Uralyt-U) while other groups of patients were advised to take corn silk. The dose was one cup of tea three times daily and two cup of tea daily for each group respectively.
The study reported that corn silk increased the urinary output and increased the percentage the passage of urinary stones through the urinary tracts without decomposed stones while alkalinizer agent increase the decomposition of stone. It was in the 2012 edition of the International Journal of Health and Nutrition.
The researchers suggested that corn silk plays important physical role in treatment by increasing the contraction of smooth muscles of urethra, leading to increase the urinary output without decomposition of stones while Uralyt-U- decompose stones by providing alkaline pH.
Corn silk tea is also protective of drug induced kidney damage, experts indicated in the 2011 edition of Comparative Clinical Pathology. The researchers, evaluated the toxic effect of corn silk on the kidneys of 60 Wistar rats, revealed that corn silk may ameliorate kidney damage from prolonged use of an antibiotic like gentamicin.
Folk remedies show that the corn silks have been used as an oral antidiabetic agent in China for many years and as herbal tea in other world nations for the amelioration of urinary tract infection. But is it safe for the heart?
Scientists assessing its safety on the functions of the heart using animal models said although it is medicinal, patients with compromised heart conditions, especially need to be careful drink corn silk tea.
In this study, conducted in Nigeria, involved researchers at the University of Ibadan and published in the journal, Macedonian Veterinary Review, they reported significant changes in the heart rate of animals in the tested animals that had corn silk tea for a period of seven days when compared to the control group. Sections of the heart were found to be swollen.
A similar research also conducted in Nigeria at the Kwara State University suggested that corn silk extract does not predispose the animals to anaemic or cardiovascular condition when used in low doses and within a short period of time.
A new study has indicated renal function improving action of corn silk and binahong in gentamicin-piroxicam induced kidney failure.The study titled “Study of Kidney Repair Mechanisms of Corn Silk (Zea mays L. Hair)-Binahong (Anredera cordifolia (Ten.) Steenis) Leaves Combination in Rat Model of Kidney Failure” was published in International Journal of Pharmacology.
Anredera cordifolia, commonly known as the Madeira vine or mignonette vine, is a South American species of ornamental succulent vine of the family Basellaceae. The combination of fleshy leaves and thick aerial tubers makes this a very heavy vine
Taken together, results of this study suggest that corn silk in combination with binahong possesses renal function improving activity which is slightly better compared to the activity of each extract alone. The results further indicate that reduction of oxidative stress by each extract as well as their combination might be beneficial to the repair of renal damage.
Another study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences Review and Research by Indian researchers from the S. N. Institute of Pharmacy, Pusad, Dist –Yavatmal, corn silk could be used to burst kidney stones.
The researchers found that corn silk was playing an important physical role in treatment by increasing the contraction of smooth muscles a led to increase the urinary output and increased the percentage the passage of urinary stones through the urinary tracts.
The study is titled “In-vitro Anti-Urolithiatic Activity of Corn Silk of Zea Mays.”
The researchers noted: “Kidney stone is one of the most important problems in different countries over the world. They are affected by different factors like nutrition, age, drug history and other environmental and family factors. Locally, corn silk used as decompose of stones. This study proved aqueous extracts of corn silk of Zea mays executed on generated calcium oxalate crystals by homogenous precipitation method for in-vitro anti-urolithiatic activity.
“The aqueous extracts of corn silk of Zea mays as shown significant activity on comparison to the synthetic drug Spironolactone, furosemide and poly-herbal formulation Cystone.“The plant drugs survey of corn silk of Zeal mays narrates that; the drug has been utilized for preclinical and clinical activities. “Corn silk is a rich source of potassium, soothing, relaxing diuretic and a wonderful remedy for acute inflammation of the urinary system, such as cystitis, urethritis and prostatitis.
“Also helping the passage of urinary stones. Corn silk encourages urination, while the potassium in the herb offset potassium loss caused by increased urination. It contains flavonoids (may sin), Allantois, Alkaloids, Sapiens, Volatile oil, Mucilage, Vitamins B, C and K, Silicon.”
Another study published in European Journal of Biomedical and Pharmaceutical Sciences listed the pharmacological activities of corn silk to include:
Aerobic organisms to prevent oxidation that can damage the cells during oxygen metabolism use antioxidants. The latest studies have revealed the potential use of Corn Silk (CS) extracts as an important bioactive source of natural antioxidants.
Diuresis and kaliuresis effect
Diuresis is a discharge of urine in a large amount, while kaliuresis is the secretion of potassium in a large amount in urine. The effects of corn silk aqueous extract on the urinary excretion of potassium and glomerular function were studied.
Wistar rats administered with corn silk aqueous extract by orogastric catheter and urine collected for three and five hours exhibited diuresis and kaliuresis effect. Anesthetized Wistar rats administered with 1ml of 20 per cent corn silk aqueous extract by intragastric route, cannulation to urinary bladder for urinary flow, collection of urine detected diuretic effect.
Hyperglycemia is a condition where there is an abnormally elevated level of glucose in the blood. Corn silk aqueous extract has the property to reduce hyperglycemia and it can be used as a hypoglycemic food for diabetic people. Adrenaline induced hyperglycemia in mice treated with corn silk aqueous extract by oral route for 14 and 45 days at dose of (0.5, 1, 2, 4 g/kg of body wt.) lowered blood glucose level at dose of 2 and 4 mg/kg.
Nephrotoxicity is a term used to categorize any adverse functional or structural changes in the kidney. The effects of these changes are due to chemical or biological products that are injected, ingested, inhaled or absorbed which yield toxic metabolites with adverse effects on the kidneys. Gentamicin induced nephrotoxicity in mice administered with corn silk methanol (80 per cent) extract at 200- 300 mg/kg for eight days ameliorates nephropathy.
Anti- fatigue activity of corn silk was investigated by using swimming exercise in mice administered with flavonoids of corn silk with 100 and 400 mg/kg for 14 days and loaded with five per cent of body weight of galvanised wire possessed significant anti- fatigue activity.
Anti-depressant activity of corn silk ethanol extract was investigated by force swimming test (FST) and tail suspension test (TST) on 10 male Swiss mice for six and five minutes, respectively, one hour after treatment with 125, 250, 500, 1500 mg/kg extract, possessed good activity at the dose of 1500 mg/kg.
Feeding the rats with hyperlipidemic feeds containing cholesterol, fat, sodium cholate, and ordinary feed conducted anti-hyperlipidemic activity. Total flavonoids from corn silk extracts showed an anti-hyperlipidemic effect on hyperlipidemia rats. The hyperlipidemia rats were treated with flavonoid from CS extract in three dosages (200, 400 and 800 mg/kg) for 20 days showed significant anti-hyperlipidemic activity at the dose of 400 and 800 mg/kg.
The anti-diabetic effects of polysaccharides from corn silk (POCS) were evaluated by investigating the levels of blood glucose (BG), oral glucose tolerance test (OGTT), TC (total cholesterols) and TG (triglycerides) in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced diabetic rats for four weeks. The results revealed that POCS (100–500 mg/kg body wt.) decreased the BG, TC and TG levels.
Haemodynamic effect was investigated by aqueous-ethanol (1:1) extract of corn silk administered to conscious rats by gastric intubation at a dose of 40 ml/kg, which detected hypotensive effect.
Anti-tumour activity of corn silk was investigated by aqueous extract of dried stigma and styles in mice by intraperitoneal route at a dose of 150 mg/kg on days five, six and seven after start of experiment, which found to possess significant anti-tumour activity.
Methanolic extract of corn silk in albino rat by oral route at a dose of 200 mg/kg. Hepatoprotective activity is due to inhibitory effect on free radical formation.The researchers concluded: “This review highlights potential therapeutic applications of corn silk. In vitro and in vivo studies are also conducted showing remarkable bioactivities of corn silk in various diseases. Toxicological findings showed safety and non-toxic nature for human consumption.”
What is this Corn Silk?
Corn silk is called stigmata maydis in Latin, meaning “mother’s hair” as the word “mays” is said to come from a native Mexican term for “mother. Corn silk is in fact made up of the silk strands, hairs or stigmas, which you find on an ear of corn. Corn silk contains stigmasterol and sitosterol, which are highly effective in preventing heart disease and high cholesterol. It also has plant acids that help in improving oral and skin conditions as well as regulating glucose levels in your body. The most common way to make use of corn silk is in the form of tea.
History of Corn Silk
Corn was originally domesticated by the native peoples of Central America in prehistoric times. As the European settled in the region, they began to spread this crop to other parts of the world through trade. Soon corn turned into a staple food for many cultures around the world.
The use of corn silk as a form of remedy for urinary inflammation or as poultice to be applied over bruises and swellings has been tracked back to the Mayans, Incans and other American native peoples. It was also the Native Americans who showed the Europeans how to brew a healing tea from the strands of corn.
Today corn is the grain most produced around the world with the United States being the top producer followed by China, Brazil, Mexico and Indonesia. It is used not only as a food for people, but also as a source of fodder for cattle.
Corn silk is still used by many people because of its reputation as an herbal remedy in many traditional medicines in several cultures, but it has also found its way into the cosmetic industry as a face powder because it is thought to help soothe skin.
Cornsilk for Kidney support
Corn silk is often regarded as a traditional Chinese herb which can help kidney disease patients lower their high creatinine level.
As we know, for kidney disease patients, especially patients who have less than 50percent kidney function, they often suffer from high creatinine levels. Creatinine is a break-down product of creatine, which is mainly excreted by kidneys. When the kidneys are damaged severely, the creatinine will build up in blood, which will cause high creatinine level.
Corn silk is often regarded as a natural diuretic, which can help people increase urine output. In this condition, creatinine can be excreted through urine, so the creatinine level will be decreased.
Besides lowering the creatinine level, corn silk also has some other benefits for kidneys.As corn silk can be regarded as a natural diuretic, so except lowering high creatinine level, it can also remove some other toxins and excess fluid from body. In this aspect, it can also help remit swelling and lower high blood pressure, which are the two common symptoms for kidney disease patients. Once the swelling and high blood pressure are controlled well, people will not get further damage to their kidneys. Therefore, kidney disease patients can take corn silk in their daily life to help control their bad symptoms. Usually, they can drink corn silk tea to do this.
Then how to make corn silk tea? In fact, corn silk tea is easily made, people just need to bring a handle of corn silk into boiling water, and then they can take corn silk tea. And they can also put some fresh ginger or cinnamon, which will be more beneficial for kidney disease patients.
Dealing with Urinary Disorders
Bedwetting and incontinence may occur both in children and in adults of all ages. At times it is a nervous dysfunction that causes loss of control. A cup of corn silk tea may be a way of strengthening your bladder and your kidneys to help bring these situations under control.
Sometimes a frequent and urgent need to urinate is a sign that there may be an underlying inflammation or weakness in the urinary system. Consider drinking this herbal tea as a treatment option. Of course, if the situation continues, talk to your doctor for a more thorough check-up.
The diuretic action of corn silk tea may help more than just to detoxify your kidneys and bladder. It may also cleanse the liver and gall bladder, helping both these organs to function better.
This herbal tea improves the liver, being a possible remedy for jaundice and other liver ailments. It is also said to help balancing out hormone production in the body, soothing the effects of premenstrual syndrome.
Drinking corn silk tea is said to flush out toxins that cause inflammation in your joints thus possibly helping to relieve painful arthritis and symptoms of gout. A cleansed gallbladder could help boost the production of bile, allowing your body to metabolize your food faster and boost liver function at the same time.
Making a cup of corn silk tea when you feel like your stomach isn’t doing its job can be a good idea. This herbal tea is said to treat indigestion and speed up poor digestion. Its cleansing action helps to support bile production and other digestive juices.
Drinking a cup of this herbal tea may also help soothe inflamed tissue in your digestive tract, healing and protecting your intestinal and stomach lining.An improved digestion may also help you fight obesity by eliminating unnecessary fats and wastes from your body as well as flushing out excessive fluids stored up in your body.
Corn silk tea may be considered a sedative tea in the sense that it helps to reduce pain associated with muscle cramps. It is also said to be relaxing and soothing when it comes to pain related with inflammatory conditions such as carpel tunnel syndrome and arthritis.
Remember that this herbal tea may help to alleviate pain associated with urinary conditions or stomach issues caused by indigestion.
Applying cooled corn silk tea to your skin may help clean wounds and speed up healing. It may also be used as a way to soothe your skin and treat skin ulcers and boils.
Gently apply this tea with a clean cloth to relieve skin irritation and inflammation. Its antiseptic action may help clear away harmful bacterial and microbes that could cause infection.
Side Effects of Corn Silk Tea
Corn silk tea is a herbal remedy that has been around for centuries. Although it is considered a gentle remedy that may be used for long periods of time, there are still some recommendations that you should be aware of.
General Side Effects
This is considered a generally safe herbal tea with very little side effects associated with it when taken in the proper medicinal dosages.
Allergic reactions may occur when drinking or applying this tea, especially if you are allergic to corn in the first place. Symptoms may present themselves in the form of itchiness or skin rashes.
If you are allergic to tannins, then you may experience a reaction to this tea. It is best and safer to search for an alternative remedy.
If you are taking any form of prescription medication for diabetes or involving lithium, then you may need to speak to your doctor. This herbal diuretic tea may require you to adjust your dosage, something that should be monitored by your doctor.
When to Avoid This Tea
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding then you should not drink this tea, as there is not enough information to establish that this herbal tea is completely safe for you and your baby during these stages. Do not drink this tea in conjunction with other diuretic medications, particularly when prescribed for you. Overtaxing your body with diuretics may do you more harm than good; and chemical interactions with the tea may be harmful.
Avoid drinking this tea when taking medications for blood clotting. It may help to promote blood flow and alter your blood pressure and sugar levels, but it also may enhance or inhibit the effects of your medication in a dangerous way.
Make the most of this herbal tea in the safest way possible and it may prove to be a helpful ally.
Dr. Raphael Nyarkotey Obu is a Research Professor of Prostate Cancer and Holistic Medicine –Da Vinci College of Holistic Medicine, Larnaca City, Cyprus. He is the president of Nyarkotey College of Holistic Medicine at Tema, Com 7 Post Office, affiliated to Da Vinci College in Cyprus and the National President of the Alternative Medical Association of Ghana (AMAG). He can be reached on 0541090045. E mail: Oburalph30@yahoo.co.uk