April 16, 2023

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.

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.

Advertisement

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:

Advertisement
  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.

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!

Related Articles

Older couple standing in kitchen taking vitamins
February 26, 2024
Do Men and Women Really Have Different Nutrition Needs?

When it comes to getting proper nutrition, your assigned sex can play a role — but there’s more to it than that

Various cuts of red meat displayed
February 14, 2024
Is Red Meat Bad for You?

It has nutrients your body needs, but it also comes with some serious health risks

A roasted pork chop on a mound of vegetables with sauce, displayed in a white bowl
February 12, 2024
Is Pork Red or White Meat? And Is It Healthy?

Despite what you may have heard, pork is actually red meat (and it comes with the same risks as other red meats)

Flaxseed sprinkled on a salad in a white bowl on a dark wooden table
January 31, 2024
Flaxseed: A Little Seed With Big Health Benefits

Ground flaxseed is full of heart-healthy omega-3s, antioxidants and fiber, and easy to add to just about any recipe

Oranges in bowl and tofu meal in bowl
December 7, 2023
Should You Take Iron With Vitamin C?

This pairing has long been thought to help your body better absorb iron

Top view of a bowl of chili topped with sour cream and jalapeños with tortilla chips for dipping.
November 23, 2023
Recipe Adventure: How To Build a Better Bowl of Chili

From meat to beans, we’ve got some ideas to help you create the perfect-for-you chili recipe

Muffins and sweetbreads with frosting on trays at bakery.
November 21, 2023
13 Foods That You Didn’t Know Contain Dairy

Be sure to check the labels of common foods like canned tuna, bread, hot dogs and chocolate

Person during a consultation with their dietitian.
November 8, 2023
Could You Have a Fructan Intolerance?

A low-FODMAP elimination diet can help identify your symptoms

Trending Topics

close up of keto gummies
Do Keto Gummies Work for Weight Loss? Are They Safe?

Research is inconclusive whether or not these supplements are helpful

Person in yellow tshirt and blue jeans relaxing on green couch in living room reading texts on their phone.
Here’s How Many Calories You Naturally Burn in a Day

Your metabolism may torch 1,300 to 2,000 calories daily with no activity

Older person postioned sideways showing dowager hump.
Dowager’s Hump: What It Is and How To Get Rid of It

The hump at the base of your neck may be caused by osteoporosis or poor posture

Ad