Oats, Avena sativa
proteins (avenins), alkaloids, sterols, flavanoids, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, starch, fats, vitamin B
nutritive, tonic, nervine tonic, anti-depressant, demulcent, vulnerary, antispasmodic, mild cardiotonic, diuretic
Soothing, neutral, balancing, nutty, sweet
No contraindications have been noted. Some people with celiac disease may be sensitive most likely due to cross contamination.
Most people are familiar with oats that are used for cooking and to make oatmeal. While that is a nourishing food, oats used for medicinal purposes are picked early at the ripe green stage. In medicine the oat straw is used as well as the dried or fresh milky top. Oats has traditionally been used for nervous system exhaustion. It is a tonic herb that can be used for chronic fatigue, muscular exhaustion, anxiety, nervousness, irritability, depression, and loss of libido. The person who will be fed and nourished by oats often has debilitating exhaustion and fatigue, and may feel irritable or have palpitations. It is very beneficial for those who have a heavy work load and large amounts of stress. Oats are balancing, neither overly stimulating or overly depressing the system. Oats have also been used as a cardiotonic helping to improve a weakened heart muscle. This may be attributed to it’s tonic, nutritive, normalizing effect.
Donnie Yance states in his book Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism:
It is this kind of normalizing action provided by oat seed extract that has led me to consider it a secondary adaptogen.
It is also beneficial in addiction and substance abuse, assisting the person with withdrawal symptoms. Because of its high nutrient content and tonic effect, oatstraw is said to be a great herb for rheumatism and the health of bones, hair, teeth, and nails. Oats can be healing to skin conditions, such as eczema, and itchy rashes including chicken pox and poison ivy. It is soothing and moistening to the skin.
Usual Preparation and Dosage:
A tincture can be made of the entire dried aerial portions however many herbalists believe that an extract of the fresh milky oat tops is ideal. It is also common to juice the fresh milky oat tops and use it for its healing restorative power. It is this milky portion of the tops that many feel has the greatest power to nourish and restore the exhausted state.
BHP: 1-5 ml 1:5 strength tincture or .6-2 ml 1:1 extract 3x a day
Pour 8 oz. boiling water over 1-3 teaspoons dried herb, steep 10-20 minutes. This is a common herb used for nourishing infusions (see recipe below for more details).
Boil 1 pound shredded oatstraw in 1-2 quarts water for 30 minutes strain and add to bath. Rolled oats can be placed in muslin bag under hot water faucet as bath fills.
Commission E: 100 grams dried herb per bath.
Bioregion Growing and Harvesting:
Oats are a common grass and cereal grain that grows 2-4 feet tall throughout the US, Canada, and Alaska in the form of Avena fatua, though they are native to Europe. Avena sativa is the common cultivated oat. However the two are very similar. Oats are pale green in color with a long hollow straw stem that is jointed. It has rough narrow long leaves. The flower forms spikelets where the seed or tops rest and form bunches at the very tip drooping slightly to point downwards.
It likes disturbed soil, meadows, and drainage ditches. The seed ripens from late spring to early summer. The milky oat portion is harvested just after it flowers but before the grain hardens. At this stage the top will produce a milky substance when pressed. The top and straw is harvested at the green stage and used fresh or dried for medicinal purposes.
Oats are easy to grow and can be planted in the spring in soil rich in organic matter. They prefer full sun and moderate water. Harvesting occurs approximately a month after planting. Harvest when the plant is still green and the oat tops are producing milk. Slide the tops of the spikelets with your hand as shown in the above video. The straw can be harvested and cut while green as well. If not used fresh, tops and straw can be dried on screens and stored for later use.
Avena Botanicals shows you how to harvest the Milky Oats in this video:
Recipe: Nourishing Oat Infusion
1 ounce (by weight) dried oatstraw and tops
1 quart pure water
You can see the full instructions with photos of each step in my article How To Make a Nourishing Infusion.
Medical Herbalism, David Hoffman
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism, Donald Yance
Wild as the Day Is Long: The Restorative Medicine of Avena, Kiva Rose
Medicinal Plants of the American Southwest, Charles Kane
Oats Benefits: Getting To Know Avena Sativa, Herbal Academy of New England
Growing 101 Herbs That Heal: Gardening techniques, recipes, and remedies, Tammy Hartung