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Zea mays


Zea mays


No documentation

Vernacular Name

Corn, Maize silk, Cornsilk, Mother’s hair, Indian corn, Maize jagnog, Yu mi xu


Zea mays is native to Central America but is cultivated globally. Z. mays teas, powders and extracts are available commercially in Europe, the United States, Japan and China and its use is based on its traditional reputation.  Most of the analytical work conducted on Z. mays has been demonstrated in Japan, China and the Middle East, though it is limited in scope.  During the flowering stage of the plant, the stigmas are collected and rapidly dried.  Traditional use as a diuretic may be supported by the potassium content of the dried stigmas.[1]

Conventionally, the plant grows to a height of measure 2-3m, though some varieties have been known to grow to a height of measure 7m.  The stalk of the Z. mays resembles bamboo, but is lighter in color and not as dense.  On average, the internodes are roughly 20 cm-30cm in length, separated by the large, flag-like leaves which reduce in size the further up the stalk they are.  The inflorescence from the female Z. mays is commonly referred to as the “ears” are a seeds which are wrapped tightly in the leaves.  Until the time of harvest, the seeds are not visible.  Each of the seeds are roughly 0.5 cm in diameter and grow tightly around the Z. mays cobs in a linear fashion.  The seeds are typically yellow, but can be brown, blue, black or red, depending on the variety of Z. mays. From the top of the seed cluster, grows a tuft of silky, hair-like strings, which, in reality, are elongated stigmas.

Origin / Habitat

Z. maysis an herbaceous plant first cultivated in Central America 5,000 years ago.  Since then, it has been propagated throughout both the North and South American continents.  In North America, Z. mays has been used as food, clothing, and medicine.

Chemical Constituents

cis-alpha-terpineol, 6,11-oxidoacor-4-ene, citronellol, trans-pinocamphone, eugenol, neo-iso-3-thujanol, cis-sabinene hydrate.[2]  

Plant Part Used

The stigmas of the female flowers harvested prior to the fertilization period.

Medicinal Uses




Most Frequently Reported Uses



Dosage Range

0.5–1.0g powdered herb, 1-4 times per day.


Most Common Dosage

Tea: 0.5gm placed in cold water, then boiled. Several cups of tea per day may be used as a diuretic.[1]
Also available as a homeopathic medicine.

Standardized to 

There is no known standardization for Z. mays extract.



The diuretic and uricosuric properties have traditionally been attributed to Z. mays. The laboratory studies confirm that extract of Z. mays causes diuresis by increasing glomerular filtration rate and inhibiting sodium, potassium and chloride tubular reabsorption, thereby increasing their urinary excretion.[3],[4]

Z. mays also has antioxidant activity as reported in laboratory studies.[5],[6] The main constituents of Z. mays with antioxidant activity include the volatile compounds cis-alpha-terpineol (24.22%), 6,11-oxidoacor-4-ene (18.06%), citronellol (16.18%), trans-pinocamphone (5.86%), eugenol (4.37%), neo-iso-3-thujanol (2.59%), and cis-sabinene hydrate (2.28%).[2] Theantioxidant activity of Z. mays may support its traditional uses in for cystitis, gout, kidney stones, nephritis, and prostatitis.[7]

Z. mays has been reported in a laboratory study to inhibit tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF) and Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced adhesion molecules and leukocyte adhesion to endothelial cell surface.[8] By interfering with this leukocyte adhesion or adhesion molecule upregulation, Z. mays may be an important therapeutic target for the treatment of bacterial sepsis and various inflammatory diseases, like arthritis and autoimmune conditions. The extract did not alter the production of TNF by LPS-activated macrophages and failed to inhibit the cytotoxic activity of TNF. Further laboratory and human studies are needed to support the use of Z. mays for inflammatory diseases or bacterial sepsis.


No documentation

Interaction and Depletions

Interaction with other Herbs

No documentation

Interaction with Drugs

Based on pharmacology, use with caution in individuals on diuretic medications or medications for blood pressure, as Z. mays may increase fluid loss and lead to electrolyte imbalances.

Precautions and Contraindications

Side effects

There are no known side effects when Z. mays is taken in recommended dosages.


No documentation

Age limitation

No documentation

Adverse reaction

No documentation

Read More

  1) Native American Herbs

  2) South Africa Herbs


  1. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Stuttgart: MedPharm CRC Press.; 1994.
  2. El-Ghorab A, El-Massry KF, Shibamoto T. Chemical composition of the volatile extract and antioxidant activities of the volatile and nonvolatile extracts of Egyptian corn silk (Zea mays L.). J Agric Food Chem. 31Oct2007;55(22):9124-9127.
  3. Maksimović Z, Kovacevic N, Milovanovic Z. Diuretic activity of Maydis stigma extract in rats. DiePharmazie. 2004;59:12.
  4. Velazquez DV, Xavier HS, Batista JE, de Castro-Chaves C. Zea mays L. extracts modify glomerular function and potassium urinary excretion in conscious rats. Phytomedicine. May2005;12(5):363-369.
  5. Maksimović Z, Malencić D, Kovacević N. Polyphenol contents and antioxidant activity of Maydis stigma extracts. Bioresour Technol. May2005;96(8):873-877.
  6. Maksimovi ZA, Kova N. Preliminary assay on the antioxidative activity of Maydis stigma extracts. Fitoterapia. February2003;74(1-2):144-147.
  7. Ebrahimzadeh MA, Pourmorad F, Hafezi S. Antioxidant activities of Iranian corn silk. Turk J Biol. 2008;32:43-49.
  8. Habtemariam S. Extract of corn silk (stigma of Zea mays) inhibits the tumour necrosis factor-alpha- and bacterial lipopolysaccharide-induced cell adhesion and ICAM-1 expression. Planta Med. May1998;64(4):314-318.

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