Corn Silk – what does it have to offer?

Summertime means picnics, cookouts, hots dogs, pie and corn on the cob.  Making that corn on the cob the yummy and even fun meal item on our dinner plate can be messy with those fine golden threads found days later floating around long after you’d thought they were all long gone.  But, what if, as it turns out, they were useful, even beneficial?  Let’s take a look at these fine silky fibres found wrapped around the ear of every corn cob.

Corn with silk
image courtesy of Livestrong.com

Upon searching for information, I’ve found that corn silk is an excellent source of Vitamin K, which is given to babies soon after birth to assist in clot formation.  It is also often used in a tincture or tea form to help with the following health issues:

  • Bedwetting
  • Cystitis
  • UTI
  • Gout
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Kidney Stones
  • Prostatitis

When using it in tinctures, it’s placed in a clean glass jar or bottle about 1/4 full.  A strong high proof alcohol is poured over it (Everclear, maybe) then sealed and placed in a cool, dry, dark place for 4-6 weeks.  The infusion is then strained out and stoppered with a dropper top.  As a tea, then fibres are chopped into very small pieces and added with other leaves, flowers or herbs you choose for your tea blend, sealed in a pouch or tea bag and stored in a dry dark cabinet.

*One note of caution here should be stated this should not be used either in tea or tincture form if you are on a prescription diuretic. Also nothing stated here should be taken as a diagnosis or treatment for any ailments or conditions nor as a substitute for a doctor’s diagnosis and prescription.

So given that corn silk does have beneficial properties, and most soap makers love using something useful, beneficial, even unique in their soaps, let’s try using corn silk in a bar soap.

I started by saving the silk from the husband’s ears of corn purchased from organic farmers selling at our local farmer’s market and organic stores. The dirty ends and pieces of trash, dirt and bits of husk were removed, the remaining portion washed and laid out in a thin single layer on paper towels for about 4 -6 days to dry.  Once dried, they were then chopped with very sharp scissors into 2-3mm pieces, then placed in a mortar & pestle to grind to as close to powder form as possible.  It’s harder than it sounds! It took about a dozen ears to finally have enough silk to try this.  Even with a dozen ears, it resulted in a remarkably small amount of silk powder.  Maybe about 2 tablespoons!

Making a tiny batch of standard milk soap using my regular oils and coconut milk, as though making a regular batch, we added 1/4 tsp of the silk to the lye solution and let its heat try to dissolve the silk.  As you  can see the silk is floating along on the top  and even though this was taken several minutes after the heat had built to its apogee you can see it’s still fairly intact. Rather disappointing but it doesn’t necessarily indicate nothing has been infused  into the lye solution.Corn Silk in Lye Solution

We stick blended the coconut milk into the oils.  These were at room temperature, which today was reading around 80°.  (I’m cold natured.)

OIls & Milk with Lye & Corn Silk added

 

Next we filtered the solids out of the lye & silk solution when adding it to the oils & coconut milk solution.  The reading for the lye & silk stood at 100°.

Strained Lye Solution

Stick blending the two solutions together it was noted this batch was slow to trace.

OIls & Coconut Milk

We used a silicone mold with 12 guest sized bar cavities for these and managed to perfectly fit 8 bars into it.  Now we wait.  Once these have firmed enough to be removed and they’re cured we’ll revisit this experiment to determine the final results.

Poured into guest sized molds

It’s been stated by several experienced soap makers and scientists that the vitamins rarely if ever cross through the saponification process and while this is disappointing to say the least, the ultimate goal for most soap makers isn’t a bar jam-packed with vitamins and nutrients as this is a wash-off product and as such the benefits simply go down the drain.  We really want something that feels truly wonderful while actively in use and that’s what I’m looking for in this.  Time will tell.

 

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