Nigeria’s medicinal plant: Stigma maydis (Irukere agbado)
Abusinesswoman, Mrs Sola Famurewa, shared the story of how she used corn tassel (the male flower of the corn plant is known as a corn tassel. After the bulk of the plant growth is complete, tassels will appear on top of the plant) to cook a stew while she had measles when she was young. She ground the tassel and cooked with pepper, palm oil and locust bean. She said the stew was meant to purge out the measles from her system.
My visit to nature’s pharmacy today is still about the corn plant but I will discuss corn silk which is the shiny, thread-like, weak fibers that grow as part of ears of corn (maize). It is called irukere agbado in Yoruba. The Igbo call it Aji oka. It is an important herb used traditionally by the Chinese and Native Americans to treat many diseases. It is used traditionally for making tea as a healthy and medical drink by Asian communities especially in China. In fact, based on folk remedies, corn silk has been used as an oral antidiabetic agent in China for decades. It is also used as traditional medicine in many parts of the world such as Turkey, United States and France. For ages, corn silk tea has been used as a naturally potent diuretic agent which helps to flush out excess water and waste from the body, thus reducing the inches dramatically.
Corn silk, botanically called Stigma maydis is traditionally regarded as waste material. However, recently it is gaining much interest in Asian and African countries particularly due to its several health promoting effects.
For instance, several corn silk-derived extracts and bioactive constituents have been demonstrated to exhibit antidiabetic, antihyperlipidaemic, anti-obesity, anticancer, anti-hepatotoxicity, antinephrotoxicity and antimicrobial effects. Moreover, various studies have established that corn silk contains proteins, vitamins, carbohydrates, calcium, potassium magnesium, steroids such as sitosterol, stigmasterol, alkaloids and saponins. It is rich in phenolic compounds, particularly flavonoids, minerals, fixed and volatile oils and more which perhaps are responsible for the potential health benefits reported.
Most of these bioactive compounds present in corn silk exhibited antioxidant properties and confer health beneficial effects against several chronic and age-related diseases including diabetes, hypertension, cancer, hepatic and cardiovascular diseases. It also contains chemicals which might work like water pills (diuretics) and it might alter blood sugar levels, and help reduce inflammation. Corn silk is used for bladder infections, inflammation of the urinary system, inflammation of the prostate, kidney stones and bedwetting. It is also used to treat diabetes, high blood pressure, fatigue and high cholesterol levels.
It is used for the treatment of cystitis, edema, kidney stones, prostate disorder as well as bedwetting and obesity. It soothes and relaxes the lining of the bladder and urinary tubules, hence reducing irritation and increasing urine secretion. In addition, it possesses excellent antioxidant capacity and demonstrates protective effects in radiation and nephrotoxicity. It can be used as dietary fibre and as a food additive for the prevention of several chronic diseases. Various corn silk commercial products for medicinal uses are available in the market. Corn silk tea can be applied topically to deal with skin problems such as boils and rashes. It also helps alleviate itching and pain caused by skin wounds.
In a study titled, “Corn Silk (Stigma Maydis) in Healthcare: A Phytochemical and Pharmacological Review,’’ by Hasanudin et al, the potential of CS (corn silk) as a herbal drug for healthcare applications were highlighted. Pharmacological studies (in vitro and in vivo) have shown its remarkable bioactivities as antioxidant, hyperglycemia reduction, antidepressant, anti-fatigue and effective diuretic agent. Some of the studies have confirmed the earlier findings and new research discoveries have proven that CS is safe and non-toxic. In another study titled, “Antioxidant Activities of Iranian Corn Silk,’’ by Ebrahimzadeh et al, corn silk extract is said to bear antioxidant activity. Its constituents scavenge free radicals. The corn silk extract’s antioxidant activity may be related to the high amount of flavonoid and phenolic compounds.
A study titled, “Study of Kidney Repair Mechanisms of Corn Silk (Zea mays L. Hair)-binahong (Anredera cordifolia (Ten.) Steenis) Leaves Combination in Rat Model of Kidney Failure,’’ by Sukandar et al was aimed to determine the effects of combination of cornsilk and binahong extracts on kidney failure model in rat and the effects of the extract combination on oxidative stress. Taken together, results of this study show that corn silk in combination with binahong possesses renal function improving activity which is slightly better compared to the activity of each extract alone.
The effects of corn silk on blood glucose were carried out in a study titled, “The effects of corn silk on glycaemic metabolism,’’ by Guo et al. The conclusion is that corn silk extract markedly reduced hyperglycemia in alloxan-induced diabetic mice. The action of corn silk extract on glycaemic metabolism is not via increasing glycogen and inhibiting gluconeogenesis but through increasing insulin level as well as recovering the injured β-cells. The results suggest that corn silk extract may be used as a hypoglycemic food or medicine for hyperglycemic people. This is good news for diabetics.
In a study titled, “The Inhibitory effect of corn silk on skin pigmentation,’’ by Choi et al, the inhibitory effect of corn silk on melanin production was evaluated. This study was performed to investigate the inhibitory effect of corn silk on melanin production in Melan-a cells by measuring melanin production and protein expression. The corn silk extract applied on Melan-a cells at a concentration of 100 ppm decreased melanin production by 37.2 per cent without cytotoxicity. This was a better result than arbutin, a positive whitening agent, which exhibited a 26.8 per cent melanin production inhibitory effect at the same concentration. The corn silk extract did not suppress tyrosinase activity but greatly reduced the expression of tyrosinase in Melan-a cells. In addition, corn silk extract was applied to the human face with hyperpigmentation and skin colour was measured to examine the degree of skin pigment reduction. The application of corn silk extract on faces with hyperpigmentation significantly reduced skin pigmentation without abnormal reactions. Based on the results, corn silk has good prospects for use as a material for suppressing skin pigmentation.
A study titled, “High maysin corn silk extract reduces body weight and fat deposition in C57BL/6J mice fed high-fat diets,’’ by Lee et al was performed to investigate the effects and mechanisms of action of high maysin corn silk extract on body weight and fat deposition in experimental animals. The conclusion is that high maysin corn silk extract inhibits expression of genes involved in adipocyte differentiation, fat accumulation, and fat synthesis as well as promotes expression of genes involved in lipolysis and fat oxidation, further inhibiting body fat accumulation and body weight elevation in experimental animals. We have a weight loss remedy here!
By now, I am sure you will agree with me that there is no waste in nature. Get some corn silk and make tea out of it to enjoy the health benefits.