Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Corn Silk and Goldenrod
I had my first taste of this season's local corn on the weekend and it was delicious! Nothing beats this time of year when the corn starts coming in. I'll often have a meal of just corn on the cob, dripping with butter and lightly seasoned. It's like candy, such a treat and something I look forward to every summer.
The other reason I look forward to corn season is for the silk. Corn silk has long been used in herbal medicine to treat and soothe all complaints of the urinary system, particularly UTIs and cystitis. Corn silk contains volatile oils, sterols and flavanoids among other constituents. It is diuretic, demulcent and anti-inflammatory.
Matthew Wood recommends corn silk for acute and chronic bladder and urinary tract irritation and painful urination.
Juliette de Baracli Levy treated the kidneys, prostate and bedwetting in children with corn silk.
Herbalist Charles Kane writes, "Corn silk tea is specific for the urinary tract. Not many other herbs can rival its focused soothing influence over the area. Use liberal amounts of tea for most any type of inflammation/irritation/pain centered around the kidneys, bladder, urethra, or ureters. For painful urination, be it from tissue irritation or outright infection, corn silk will give relief."
When I husk my corn, I gently collect and save the silk, drying it in my dehydrator or spreading it out on a clean dish towel in a cool, dark place with decent air circulation. I turn the silk periodically, and when it's completely dry I store it in glass jars to use in teas throughout the year. It has a very nice, mild corny taste that I really like.
To support a healthy urinary system, I especially like to blend my corn silk with goldenrod (Solidago species), a plant that grows abundantly around here and is just coming into season now. Goldenrod is anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and diuretic. It contains saponins, phenolic acids, volatile oils and flavanoids. Because it is antiseptic, it is great when a bacterial infection is present.
I suffered from recurring UTIs as a young adult and went through course after course of antibiotics. (Argh!! I have a rant about lack of education around antibiotic use and how it sets you up for more infections by wiping out good bacteria and leaving your system weakened and vulnerable, but I'll spare you.) As a result I ended up with a mild case of chronic interstitial cystitis, which is inflammation and ulceration of the tissues surrounding the bladder and urinary tract. Basically you get all the symptoms of a UTI, but there is no bacterial infection present. I manage it by drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and drinking corn silk and goldenrod tea. I rarely have flare ups now, and when they do occur they don't last very long.
So next time you're husking some fresh, local, non-GMO corn (and no one buys the pre-husked, plastic wrapped stuff right?), save your silk and dry it for tea. And don't forget to harvest some goldenrod while you're at it!
Paul Bergner's Materia Medica for the urinary tract
(The obligatory disclaimer: Please note that infections in the urinary system can be very serious, resulting in permanent kidney damage or failure if left untreated. Always seek professional medical assistance if you suspect an infection is present. But please also educate yourself about antibiotic use, urinary health and prevention and know that in a post-peak oil, zombie-fied world, you have options outside of conventional medicine, should you not be able to access it.)