Corn or maize as the rest of the world knows it, is a plant that the Aztecs and Mayans cultivated many thousands of years ago and yet, as old as it is, it is even more popular now than ever! It soon made its way to the Old World and has since found its way thoroughly into our lives in products on every isle of the grocery store! You probably eat more corn than you realize. Since the 1950’s, boxed, bagged or otherwise packaged food has taken over the average supermarket and corn has become practically unavoidable.
Are people eating all this corn? Not exactly. America’s beef, chicken and pork industries depend on one third of all corn for rapid animal weight-gain. Corn isn’t just food either; its multitude of derivatives show up in gasoline production (ethanol), construction materials, batteries, adhesives and paper products. Next time you’re at the store, try choosing foods that don’t contain corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, corn oil, corn starch, maltodextrin, xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, di-glycerides, ethyl acetate, acetic acid, citric acid and vanilla extract. And this short list only scratches the surface of substances derived from the corn kernel. Keeping corn out of your shopping basket is a challenge to say the least.
Why is corn so abundant in the average grocery store? Two primary reasons tell most of the story. The first lies in the fact that government favoritism to the corn industry makes this crop available to food manufacturers at an unnaturally low price. Because the US government allows lobbying of special interests, Monsanto, Cargill, Tyson and many other American multinational food producers leverage their deep pockets for a favorable corn market. After successful lobbying, the ensuing Farm Bill contains taxpayer-funded subsidies which push the price of corn below its cost of production. Farms get incentivized by the government to expand their corn acreage far beyond what natural supply and demand would suggest. The second reason corn appears on so many nutrition labels speaks to how much utility corn offers to the creation of processed foods. When broken down, derivatives of corn get used as a food filler, texturizer, emulsifier, sweetener, preservative, adhesive and many other applications. Government intervention makes corn so cheap that food manufacturers earmark large budgets for research and development to invent infinite ways to push corn into more products. The most versatile corn substances like maltodextrin and high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) create the highest margins for food makers and end up monopolizing the most profitable shelf at the grocery store – the eye-level shelf (waste-level shelf in the kid’s cereal aisle). Eat at any fast food or dine-in restaurant chain and avoiding corn becomes impossible. Is all this corn consumption such a bad thing?
- Diabetes and Obesity – Corn is a starchy, simple carbohydrate. When a person consumes heavy amounts of glucose (sugar), the pancreas works overtime to stabilize blood sugar. Long-term consumption of High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) has many obvious health implications while the average American adult now consumes over 150 pounds of sugar annually. HFCS is the cheapest and most pervasive sweetener in food today as manufacturers use it to sweeten practically all processed food and drink. After this laboratory-created sweetener was invented in 1957, it began its omnipresence into the human food supply in the 1970’s. HFCS gets produced by milling corn to produce corn starch, then processed to yield corn syrup (which is almost entirely glucose) while enzymes get added that change some of the glucose into fructose. A syrupy substance remains that yields more sweetness-per-ounce than natural sugar while its production happens at a fraction of the cost. As America’s palate shifts further to sugary foods, this pernicious sweetener not only shows up in desserts and sugary drinks, HFCS can now easily be found in “healthy” foods like yogurt, granola bars, cereal and many lunch meats.
- Pesticides and Genetic Modification – When you consume corn and its many derivatives, you consume a substance that has been contaminated with pesticides and genetically tampered with through cell invasion technology. Food and biotechnology scientists found a way to splice genes from the bacteria Bacillus Therugiensus (Bt) into the genes of the corn plant to make it fend off the root worm and other insects. Genetically modified corn was created for only one purpose – to fend off weeds and pests with inexpensive pesticides thus saving farmers millions in human labor costs. Like most genetically modified crops, corn seeds have been altered to be “RoundUp Ready” which gives the crop the unnatural ability to survive despite being sprayed with RoundUp pesticide (a chemical that can easily be found at your nearest hardware store that kills all living vegetation). Bt corn seeds are also genetically modified to sprout their own insecticide from within the plant as it grows. In fact, EPA regulation requires genetically modified corn itself (almost all the corn in America) to be registered as an insecticide. How does a food invention like this get approved for human consumption? Unlike food regulation in other countries, the American FDA allows crop seed companies to submit their products for regulatory approval along with their own health studies as evidence of human safety. The long-term health effects of genetically modified crops have never been studied. When consuming inexpensive processed foods that contain corn, it is almost guaranteed that the corn products used come from genetically modified sources and are contaminated with pesticides.
- Environmental Damage– The environmental consequences of corn production don’t just compromise human health. Knowing that a large percentage of corn tonnage goes to feeding livestock, supplying these industries with an ever-growing acreage of corn cannot continue forever. Arable soil, water, and air all suffer from corn production. Years of pesticide usage cause healthy soil to become nutrient-deficient and absent of organic matter and beneficial microorganisms. Natural water supplies get contaminated while hectares of deforestation continue to steal our rain forests to accommodate the expanding corn acreage. Corn as cattle feed is a highly inefficient source of calories for humans. For a person to receive 300 calories of energy from corn, about 11 ounces of corn would have to be consumed. For a person to receive 300 calories from a steak, a corn-fed cow needs to consume almost seven pounds of corn to make this steak calorically available to a human. The natural resources consumed to support the beef-heavy western diet continue to strain our environment in many ways. Since grass, not corn is an animal’s natural diet; grain consumption imposes digestive havoc on the cow. The methane emissions from the digestive problems of millions of cattle across the country have been linked as a major contributor to global warming. As America’s appetite for beef, corn syrup and other processed foods continues to grow, so does the environmental damage that accompanies these habits.
Well, so far, this post has been a bit negative, but that is not a true reflection of how great corn really is - honestly, corn is awesome! Do not misunderstand me here, corn should be a part of your healthy diet, just not the highly processed – crap-corn, (as I like to call it) that most of us are currently getting. We need to be eating a better quality of corn. Buying it from a farmers’ market, buying organic or better yet, growing your own is best. For a real look into the subject of corn you might want to check out my book: The Great Corn Odyssey – The History and Health Benefits of Corn, you can find it available on my website, or on Amazon or at your nearest bookstore.
corn silk tea to your diet…
- Treats Urinary Tract Infections - Corn silk works as an anti-inflammatory agent for urinary tract infections. It basically coats the urinary tract lining and thwarts further irritation. Corn silk tea consumption helps soothe the inflamed bladder and the urinary tract. It makes you urinate, and thus reduces the risk of bacteria build-up in the urinary tract. It is also used to soothe the irritated prostate gland.
- Works as A Diuretic - The most common use for corn silk tea is its use as a diuretic, in fact for ages, it has been used as a natural potent diuretic agent. It helps flush out excess water and waste from the body, thereby reducing complications related to water retention. According to studies, usage of diuretics helps get rid of several health hazards including congestive heart failure and kidney diseases in the long run.
- Kidney Stone Preventative - Kidney stones are made of small crystallized deposits that can cause pain and annoyance. Corn silk has been used since the ancient days to prevent the occurrence of kidney stones. Corn silk usage can increase urine flow and decrease the chances of sediment formation in kidneys, which otherwise can eventually lead to kidney stone formation. However, remember that its use will not treat kidney stones that are already present.
- Helps Blood Clot Properly – Corn Silk (and the tea you make from it) contains vitamin K that helps in the blood clotting process. This ensures you do not experience excessive blood loss in the event of an injury.
- Lowers Blood Pressure - A lot of people suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure issues nowadays. For those that suffer from high blood pressure issues, corn silk tea is a rather gentle and natural way to help lower blood pressure. Because this tea is safe and gentle on the body, it makes it a preferred method for lowering high blood pressure as opposed to some over the counter medications which can come with some unexpected and unwanted side effects. At the same time, it can keep blood pressure from dropping undesirably low as well, which makes this advantage useful for those that suffer from diabetes.
- Helps in Regulating Diabetic Blood Sugar Levels - Taking corn silk tea helps those with blood sugar issues, as per the findings of studies conducted recently. A study that was published in 2012 in the International Journal of Biological Macromolecules showed the impact corn silk extract had on diabetes. The study was carried out on laboratory rats afflicted with diabetes, and the study authors noted that the application of corn silk polysaccharides helped reduce blood sugar levels. High blood sugar leads to a great many ailments like stroke, kidney problems, and diabetes. Another study that was published in 2009 in Nutrition and Metabolism Journal showed that corn silk tea aids insulin generation in the human body.
- Great Anti-Inflammatory - Corn silk is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. Traditional medicine followers are of the view that it can be used to reduce the pain caused by inflammatory ailments like gout and arthritis. The diuretic action of cork silk may prevent excess uric acid formation in the body joints, which leads to gout pain. However, it should not be taken as a cure for arthritis related conditions.
- Cholesterol Fighter - Cholesterol in the bloodstream leads to the onset of several critical ailments in the long run (including cardiac complications). Keeping cholesterol levels in the blood low is the key to staying healthy and avoid heart hazards, say the doctors. A study carried out by Jilin University scientists in China showed that corn silk consumption brings down cholesterol in rodents.
- A Wonderful Source of Vitamin C - Corn silk contains abundant amounts of vitamin C, which is ideal for boosting immunity. It also plays a pivotal role in regulating a myriad of functions in the human body.
- Obesity - Obesity is a major health menace affecting a large part of the human population. While obesity is caused by more than a single factor, some people put on excess weight owing to excess water retention and toxin accumulation in the body. Since corn silk helps eliminate excess water and waste from the body, many people find it helpful in maintaining a healthy weight and in avoiding weight gain. Drink corn silk tea two or three times a day for maximum benefits. However, it would be wrong to assume that it is a cure for obesity.
This herbal remedy has several external uses as well. It can be applied topically to help relieve the pain related to skin problems such as rashes and boils. Using it in this manner is a good way to apply the antibacterial and antiseptic qualities of this tea in order to help prevent infections on afflicted areas. Apply it topically to help relieve pain and itching related to small scrapes, bug bites, and minor cuts as well.
The list below provides even more uses for corn silk tea, while these have not yet been as thoroughly researched as the uses listed above, consuming corn silk tea can offer you so much that I wanted to list as well. A study published last year in the Life Sciences Magazine showed that corn silk has an antioxidant named maysin that battles oxidative stress and prevents the onset of certain types of cancer. Another study from South Korea, published in 2014 stated that maysin has immunity booster properties for human beings.
- Relieves Skin Pigmentation Issues - A number of studies have shown that the consumption of corn silk can help in coping with skin pigmentation issues. This can be helpful for people afflicted with vitiligo.
- Balances Minerals in the Body - Taking this tea helps balance the levels of vital minerals in the human body, which is essential for healthy living. It helps retain the ideal level of sodium in your body. Besides, corn silk can also remove extra potassium from the body. Sodium plays a pivotal role in the development of mental and cognitive abilities and the regulation of blood pressure.
- Aids in Edema Recovery - Edema occurs when the heart either fails to function or becomes weak. Because of this, the heart will not be able to pump enough blood to various body parts. This leads to weakened kidneys and fluid storage in the knees and lungs. According to studies, using corn silk may aid recovery from pulmonary or peripheral edema.
NOTICE: In general, consuming corn silk tea is safe, and adults and children can take it without major concerns. However, you need to keep a few aspects in mind before starting its use:
- Consuming of corn silk can result in a reduction of potassium levels in the blood. This may lead to skin problems and allergies.
- In most cases, women who have conceived or are breast feeding can take corn silk tea in moderate amounts. However, it is not advisable to drink this tea in larger amounts as it can lead to uterus stimulation and even miscarriage. So, it makes sense to seek medical advice before starting the use of corn silk tea if you are pregnant.
- While this is not very common, a small percentage of people are allergic to corn. It is possible that they will develop an allergy after drinking corn silk tea too. The reactions are, however, not very serious, and are only limited to the skin.
- You also need to be careful about the chances of corn silk interacting with specific medications. This is because the use of corn silk reduces blood sugar levels. The same happens when you use specific diabetes drugs. If you use both at the same time, your blood sugar levels may fall dramatically, which is not desirable. The same can be said about those coping with high blood pressure. People who have blood sugar in high amounts or are dealing with elevated blood pressure levels should take this tea after consulting a doctor.
- If you are using blood thinning medications, taking this tea will reduce their efficacy.
Anyone who has ever prepared an ear of fresh corn for dinner may be familiar with the thin thread like strands that we typically pull off with the husk of the corn. Most of the time, these strands, also known as corn silk, are thrown away as many people do not realize that they actually have a great many benefits to offer us. It is a little-known fact that corn silk tea can actually be prepared and made into a beneficial tea, which was used by people in many cultures for a variety of reasons. Native American Peoples have actually used Corn Silk Tea as an herbal remedy since 5000 BC. Research today has shown us that they were right to have faith in such an unlikely remedy, as corn silk tea is incredibly rich in many disease fighting antioxidants and polyphenols. Corn silk is also rich in vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin K, C, and potassium as well.
Once you take off the green husks that cover the corn cob, you get another layer of stringy stuff. This, of course, is the corn silk. You can use it in both fresh and dried forms. You need to pull the golden-green strands off the corn and store them in a pot. If you want to store them fresh, put them in an airtight container and store it in the fridge. It lasts for a couple of weeks this way. Based on the weather, you may need to completely dry the silk for a few days, after which it can be stored for a long time.
There is no way you can eat the corn silk directly – it is not very palatable, though if you were to eat it, it would not harm you. You should take organic and fresh corn and gather the corn silk to get the maximum benefits. If you grow your own corn that is perfect!
Below listed are two methods to prepare corn silk tea.
Method 1 – The most common method.
- Dry or fresh corn silk
- Lemon juice
- You will need to boil water for some time.
- When it starts boiling, drop the dried or fresh silk on top.
- Let it boil for a few minutes and then allow it to steep for a few additional minutes.
- This will turn into a brown hued caramel-like liquid.
- Strain and serve the tea. You may have it both cold and warm.
- Some people prefer adding lemon juice to add to the taste and flavor of this tea.
- Leftover tea can be kept in the refrigerator for a few days.
Method 2 – Corn Silk Sun Tea.
This method is ideal for obtaining the greatest natural benefits of corn silk. This is also the method that our ancient ancestors used to make corn silk tea.
- Dried corn silk, chopped
- This method does not need boiling.
- Pour some water in a glass jar with a lid.
- Add the dried silk corn in the water.
- Put on the lid and then keep the jar out in the sun for an entire day.
- At the end of the day, bring the jar inside and add some honey to it and stir well.
- Keep it in the refrigerator and serve chilled.