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Cornsilk (zea mays) is used in herbal medicine primarily for the treatment of urinary tract, kidney, and bladder issues. To many, it is easily recognizable as the silky threads that are between the husk and the corn in a fresh ear of corn. This herb is also referred to as Indian cornsilk and maize silk.
Cornsilk has diuretic properties, which basically means it increases how often a person urinates. As urination is one of the primary ways that the body rids itself of toxins, it can be used as a general detoxifying agent. This diuretic effect can also be used to treat conditions complicated by water retention, such as edema and premenstrual syndrome.
Urinary tract infection treatment can be enhanced with the addition of cornsilk. Frequent urination can help flush bacteria from the bladder and provide some relief of discomfort. It is important to note that, while the herb may help to relieve the symptoms of a urinary tract or bladder infection, it will not treat the infection itself. Individuals who think they may have an infection should consult their physicians.
Kidney stone and prostatitis treatment can similarly be complemented by the inclusion of cornsilk. Once again, the “flushing” of bacteria can reduce symptoms of prostate infection. Extra stimulation of the kidneys and increased urination can help to reduce the size of kidney stones. It can also increase the chances of expelling a kidney stone spontaneously.
The diuretic effects of cornsilk are mild and generally considered safe in most individuals. Care should be taken while using any diuretic, however, as excessive urination can drop potassium levels too low. The resulting condition, called hypokalemia, can cause abnormal heart rhythms, temporary paralysis, and loss of muscle control. If untreated, hypokalemia can lead to death.
There is some evidence that cornsilk may lower blood sugar levels, and it may be included in herbal preparations used for this purpose. Many people who are managing diabetes with only diet and exercise have successfully incorporated the herb into their regimens. Use of the herb in conjunction with diabetes medications, however, is not advised. The combination can cause dangerous drops in blood sugar levels.
Zea mays is primarily distributed as an herbal supplement, and thus, distributors of the herb are not required to conduct studies to prove its effectiveness. It is widely accepted that the herb has diuretic properties, but there is little scientific evidence to substantiate its usefulness for treating specific conditions. Like many herbal remedies, however, cornsilk has been used for centuries and has much anecdotal support.
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