First cultivated in Mexico some four thou~and

years ago, maize is the single most important

source of nourishment for many Central and

South American Indians. Grains of maize (ferment)

are also used to brew numerous beers as

well as chicha (Wedemeyer 1972).

Corn silk (stigmata maydis) plays a role in

Indian medicine. It also has some significance in

modern phytotherapy, where it is used as a

diuretic (Czygan 1989; Ratsch 1991a, 174-78*). In

addition, it is "smoked by the Indians in Peru as an

inebriant" (Roth et al 1994, 742*; Czygan 1989,

326). In the "drug scene;' corn silk is smoked for

inebriating purposes, both alone and as an

ingredient in smoking blends. In North America,

corn silk is one of the ingredients in the

ceremonial "tobacco" kinnikinnick. The silk (or, more precisely, styles) contains up to 85% alkaloids

of an as yet unknown structure (possibly

from the family of the ergot alkaloids or tryptamine

derivatives) that are able to induce states of

excitation and delirium when inhaled (Roth et al.

1994, 742*).
Literature

Czygan, Franz-Christian. 1989. Maisgriffel. In

Teedrogen, ed. Max Wichtl, 325-26. Stuttgart:

WVG.

Wedemeyer, Inge von. 1972. Mais, Rausch- und

Heilmittel im alten Peru. Ethnomedizin 2 (I/2):

99-112.

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