Locations:
Search IconSearch

Can You Eat Corn Silk? 4 Health Benefits of Corn Silk

These silky strands can reduce cholesterol and inflammation, and more

corn husk silk

If you’re like most people, you toss corn silk straight into the compost bin or trash. These silky threads that cover ears of corn can be a nuisance to remove — from the cob, your hands and your teeth.

Advertisement

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

But Native Americans and people in China, Turkey and other countries think differently about corn silk. For centuries, they’ve been using corn silk as an herbal remedy for medicinal purposes. Today, corn silk — and products like corn silk tea and supplements — are growing in popularity. Registered dietitian Susan Campbell, RD, LD, explains why you might want to keep (and not trash) corn silk the next time you’re husking corn.

What is corn silk?

Corn silk (Stigma maydis) is the layer of glossy, thread-like strands found between the corn husk and ear. An ear of corn may have 300 to 600 corn silks. They’re a key part of the vegetable’s reproductive system and essential to crop pollination. The fibers trap the pollen that fertilizes the cob and helps kernels grow. Along with the husk, corn silk also protects kernels, helping the ear of corn retain its moisture and sweetness.

What nutrients are in corn silk?

Studies show that corn silk contains:

  • Carbohydrates.
  • Fiber.
  • Minerals like calcium, iron, sodium, potassium, zinc and chloride.
  • Protein.

Corn silk benefits

Despite centuries of herbal remedy use, there are limited studies on the health benefits of corn silk. Much of the existing research took place on animals and not humans. Still, certain studies suggest that consuming corn silk and related products may be good for your health.

Four benefits of corn silk for your health include:

1. Keeps your urinary system healthy

Corn silk extract can act as a powerful diuretic, making you pee more. “Increased urine flow can prevent the buildup of bacteria that leads to urinary tract infections (UTIs) and bladder infections,” says Campbell. And if you do get a UTI or bladder infection, corn silk extract soothes inflammation to ease pain.

Advertisement

Increased urination can also help strengthen your bladder. Healthcare providers sometimes recommend corn silk extract or teas for children experiencing bedwetting and adults with urinary incontinence. Corn silk may also prevent kidney stones and protect against kidney damage caused by certain medications or cancer treatments.

The diuretic properties of corn silk may also lower blood pressure. But Campbell cautions that people who already take diuretics or blood pressure medicine may be at risk for losing too much potassium. This could lead to low blood potassium levels or hypokalemia. “Low potassium is concerning because it can affect the way your heart beats,” says Campbell. “It’s always important to check with your healthcare provider before taking a supplement.”

2. Fights inflammation

The plant pigment or flavonoid that gives corn silks their light green, yellow, brown or red colors is also an antioxidant. In fact, corn silk has as much antioxidant value as vitamin C. “Antioxidants protect against inflammation and the effects of aging, as well as diseases like cancer and diabetes,” notes Campbell.

3. Lowers blood sugar

Corn silk extracts are part of Native American and traditional Chinese medicine for diabetes management. The extract may lower blood sugar levels and help prevent complications like diabetes-related neuropathy (nerve damage), according to one study. Other studies indicate that corn silk extracts may slow your body’s absorption of starchy foods, preventing spikes in blood sugar.

But if you’re already taking medications to lower your blood sugar, Campbell advises checking with your provider before beginning to take a supplement. “Blood sugar that is too low can be dangerous, too.”

4. Improves cholesterol levels

The flavonoids in corn silk may improve your cholesterol numbers by lowering triglycerides and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). “These unhealthy forms of cholesterol cause plaque deposits to form inside your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attacks and strokes,” Campbell explains.

Can you eat corn silk?

Yes! Corn silk has a mild taste and a sweetness you would expect from corn. You can save the silks after husking and use them fresh as a topping on salads, potatoes, soups, tacos and more. You can also dry and store corn silk for up to one year.

To dry corn silk:

  1. Separate the silk strands as much as possible.
  2. Place the strands on a cooling rack out of direct sunlight until the water evaporates and the strands feel slightly crispy. (This drying step may take a few days or a week.)
  3. Place the strands into a closed jar or paper bag and store in a cool, dry place.
  4. You can grind the dried strands in a blender to make corn silk powder and sprinkle it onto eggs, salads, casseroles and smoothies.

To make corn silk tea:

  1. Fill a pan with 2 cups of water and 2 tablespoons of fresh or dried corn silk.
  2. Cover the pan and cook over medium heat until boiling.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.
  4. Turn off the heat and let the tea simmer (still covered) for 30 minutes.
  5. Use a strainer to filter out the strands.
  6. Enjoy your tea hot or cold.

Who shouldn’t eat corn silk?

Healthcare providers don’t know much yet about the risks of consuming corn silk or products like teas and supplements. Check with your healthcare provider before taking a corn silk supplement, as there currently isn’t a recommended dosage. Dosage amounts typically vary depending on a person’s sex, age, weight, medications and health issues.

Advertisement

For now, Campbell advises against adding corn silk to your diet if you’re pregnant, breastfeeding or taking medications such as:

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Blood pressure medications.
  • Blood thinners.
  • Diuretics.
  • Insulin or diabetes medications.

But for many people, corn silk can add a healthy, fresh twist to your favorite dishes. So, don’t throw away those corn silks. Save them for your next tea, salad or smoothie!

Advertisement

Learn more about our editorial process.

Related Articles

Person in an apron, kitchen carrying a loaf of sour dough bread on tray
July 12, 2024/Nutrition
Is Sourdough Bread Healthy for You?

Sourdough can be healthier than some other bread choices — but that doesn’t give it ‘health food’ status

Bowl of horseradish
July 8, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Horseradish

This spicy root helps fight cancer, bacteria and inflammation

An array of meatless foods in different vessels on table
July 5, 2024/Nutrition
Going Vegan 101: A Beginner’s Guide

The meatless, plant-based eating style has countless tasty and healthy options

Hands cupping bowl of greens, chickpeas, whole figs, halved and tofu
July 3, 2024/Nutrition
4 Health Benefits of Figs

Packed with fiber and nutrients, this flower — yep, flower! — is great for your blood sugar, heart and gut

Assorted whole-grain foods, fruits, vegetables and nuts
June 21, 2024/Nutrition
Eating for Energy: Foods That Fight Fatigue

What’s on your plate can either help power you through your day or put you in nap mode

Person standing in front of oversized nutrition label, reading it
June 19, 2024/Nutrition
What Can You Learn From a Nutrition Label?

Information on serving size, calories and nutrients can help you make healthy choices

Piles of sugar alcohol
June 17, 2024/Nutrition
What You Should Know About Sugar Alcohols

Often labeled as ‘diabetes-friendly’ or ‘calorie-free,’ these sugar substitutes warrant caution

Person prepping mason jars with meals
June 14, 2024/Nutrition
Should You Eat the Same Thing Every Day? Learn the Pros and Cons

Repeating your meals can help simplify meal planning and counting calories, but it could also lead to boredom and nutritional deficiencies

Trending Topics

Female and friend jogging outside
How To Increase Your Metabolism for Weight Loss

Focus on your body’s metabolic set point by eating healthy foods, making exercise a part of your routine and reducing stress

stovetop with stainless steel cookware and glassware
5 Ways Forever Chemicals (PFAS) May Affect Your Health

PFAS chemicals may make life easier — but they aren’t always so easy on the human body

jar of rice water and brush, with rice scattered around table
Could Rice Water Be the Secret To Healthier Hair?

While there’s little risk in trying this hair care treatment, there isn’t much science to back up the claims

Ad