Corn silk can actually be put to good use as a tea

August 19, 2020

Waste not, want not. Most gardeners mimic what they see in supermarkets and eat only parts of vegetables, tossing out plant parts such as the leaves of sweet potato and squash vines, young cucumber and bean leaves, and even celery and parsley roots – all perfectly edible. Sweet corn (Zea mays) offers not just edible ears, but also young leaves and the unopened tassels on the top of the corn, which can be eaten lightly steamed with butter.

Corn silk, the delicate stringy threads found atop every ear of corn, has long had a more sinister use. While the Marlboro man urged people to smoke tobacco, kids have mimicked their cowboy heroes using dried corn silk, crumbling it up and smoking it.

Smoking corn silk appealed to teenagers wanting to look as mature as the Marlboro cowboys. It let kids experiment with smoking without their parents catching them with tobacco. They would use dried corn silk just like tobacco – put a clump of it on a rolling paper, form the cigarette, and smoke it. Corn silk contains no nicotine, so the smoking had no long-lasting effects.  

But corn silk can actually be put to good use as a tea.

Some of the ingredients in corn silk, stigmasterol and sitosterol, have been shown to be effective in preventing heart disease, lowering high blood pressure by increasing natural insulin and lowering high cholesterol. The acids in corn silk are thought to help tone and condition your skin as well as regulating glucose levels in your body. Corn silk tea has even been used to treat congestive heart failure. Of course, you should check with your doctor before treating any disease.

Corn silk tea contains a fair amount of Vitamin K, which helps control bleeding. This tea has traditionally been used to treat kidney disorders because drinking corn silk tea increases your urine flow. Corn silk also has vitamin B6, vitamin C and vitamin E. It even contains some calcium, potassium, iron, selenium and zinc.

It is also rich in beta carotene, riboflavin, menthol, niacin, selenium and limonene, along with other essential nutrients. Because many of these compounds are not found in many foods, corn silk tea can be a good, healthy addition to your diet.

Besides drinking the tea, it is often used as a wash for rashes and boils.  The tea has been known to relieve itching of bug bites or minor cuts and scratches. The antibacterial and antiseptic properties even ward off infections.

Begin by removing the corn silk from ears of corn and letting it dry at room temperature for a few days. It will soon be crumbly, much like loose tobacco.

To make corn silk tea, add several tablespoons of corn silk to a few cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for a good 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the tea steep for another half hour.  Strain the tea and you are ready to drink it hot or cold.  You can add honey or a sweetener along with lemon, if you prefer.

So, don't throw away the corn silk; instead brew up some relaxing, vitamin-rich tea. It sure beats smoking it. And those Marlboro men that kids looked up to? Three of the men featured in the Marlboro commercials, Dick Hammer,  Wayne McLaren and David McLean, died of lung cancer. If only they had stuck to smoking corn silk.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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