How does it feel?
Oat straw, and Oat seeds are different plant parts, all with an abundance of medicinal and nutritional benefits and applications.
Oat Straw has a grassy, new mown hay aroma and taste, additionally it is sweet and earthy due to its richness in carbohydrates and minerals respectively.
The milky oats are generally believed to work more quickly in an acute situation whereas the oat straw offers longer term regenerative support. An infusion of the oatstraw is a better building tonic than the tincture.
According to the herbalist and teacher 7Song, oatstraw is specific for people who feel they have been “pushed and pushed and now feels tired, out-of-sorts, or just plain disconnected much of the time no matter how much they rest or sleep.”
Oatstraw is highly nutritive, containing numerous minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins, along with a variety of other constituents which deeply nourish the entire body. This gentle restorative herb is for those that are cold, depleted, or tired.
What can I use it for?
Oat straw much like oats are a primary nervous system trophorestorative and nervine. It is a nutritive restorative to the nervous system, whilst also being able to relax and calm frazzled nerves. They will essentially ‘feed’ the nerve cells, building up their strength and improving their resistance to stress.
At the same time, they will act as an effective nervine, calming over-stimulated nerve cells, allowing time for them to recover from chronic long-term stimulation. Medicines of the oat also have an excellent nutritive profile, containing a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals.
The oat seed produces a milky, mucilaginous substance that acts as an emollient for the skin. It is particularly effective for the treatment of hot, dry, irritated and inflamed skin conditions. This can be used as a bath infusion by adding a generous hand full of oats into a muslin cloth, tying together the oat bag and infusing straight into bath water. The milk of the oats can then be squeezed into the water or applied directly onto the skin. Oat infusions can also be added into medicinal skin preparations such as cream.
Into the heart of Wild Oats
Oat is a highly esteemed herb, and is perhaps one of the best deeply nourishing restoratives of the nervous system. The various parts of the oat plant provide the raw materials that are specifically relevant to the structural and functional health of the nervous system. Particularly useful for deficiency conditions, they are a nourishing food during convalescence, and can be included in daily culinary rituals for those experiencing acute or chronic debility and exhaustion (2).
It will promote a sense of harmony, growth and vitality within the body. Oats have an excellent nutritional profile and this, in combination with its trophorestorative effects, make this herb an excellent whole body tonic that will restore a depleted and exhausted body.
Its primary activity is concentrated within the nervous system, where it restores damaged and overwrought nerve cells. However, Oats will also regulate the endocrine system, helping to balance whole body metabolism and regulate hormone production within the pancreas, thyroid and gonads.
Oat also soothes the external body as well as the internal. Its seeds are packed full of a sweet mucilage that soothes and calms hot, dry and irritated skin conditions by acting as an effective emollient.
Both oats and oat straw have a long history of medicinal use in Europe. In folk medicine, oats are used by herbalists to treat nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and “weakness of the nerves”. A tea made from oats was thought by herbalists to be useful in rheumatic conditions and to treat water retention. It is also traditionally used topically to sooth irritated skin, or as rolled oats, ingested for it’s nutritional properties.
A tincture of the green tops of oats was also used to help with withdrawal from tobacco addiction. It also has many other traditional applications such as to treat conditions such as headaches, migraines, shingles and fatigue. Oats tincture and oatstraw tea have been applied for a variety of degenerative wasting conditions such as multiple sclerosis and there is also a history of using Oats in epilepsy treatments.
The King’s Dispensatory writes ‘Oats extracts rank among the most important restoratives for conditions depending upon nervous prostration, and for the nervous exhaustion consequent upon typhoid and other low fevers, and the accidental disorders arising from these complaints, as weak heart, insomnia, etc. In enfeebled states of the heart muscle it acts as a good tonic to improve the energy of the organ, and is recommended to prevent relapsing cardiac rheumatism. It has been much used as a remedy to assist the morphine-consumer to throw off the habit, and to sustain the nervous system while undergoing that ordeal’.
Adaptogens are strengthening herbs that help us adapt to stress by interacting with the endocrine system. They help normalise metabolism and nourish the tissues. Examples include Licorice (Glycyrrhiza glabra), Ashwagandha root (Withania somnifera), Rhodiola root (Rhodiola rosea) and Ginseng root (Panax ginseng)Antioxidant
Antioxidant substances that protects against oxidation and degradation from free radical damage. Plants rich in antioxidant include bacopa (bacopa monnieri), bilberry (vaccinium myrtillus), green tea (camelia sinensis) and thyme (thymus vulgaris).Demulcents
Demulcents are soothing mucilaginous and silky herbs that can be taken internally to soothe and protect damaged or inflamed tissue. Examples include Slippery elm bark (Ulmus rubra), Marshmallow root (Althea officinalis) and Limeflower (Tilia cordata).Galactagogues
Galactagogues are herbs that encourage the flow of breastmilk. Examples include Fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare), Celery seed (Apium graveolens) and Shatavari root (Asparagus racemosus).Nervines
Nervines are herbs that soothe the nervous system and have a calming effect on the emotions. Examples include Oatstraw flowering tops (Avena sativa), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata), Lavender (Lavandula officinalis), St. John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Rosemary leaf (Rosmarinus officinalis), and Gotu Kola leaf (Centella asiatica).Relaxant
Relaxant plants promote relaxation and can reduce tension. Herbs with this property include passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and valerian (valeriana officinalis).Trophorestorative
Trophorestorative is a substance which has a healing and restorative action on a specific organ or tissue. Nervous system restoratives include oat straw (avena sativa), skullcap (scuttelaria lateriflora) and damiana (turnera diffusa).Vulneraries
Vulneraries are wound-healing herbs used internally and externally. Astringent herbs such as Witch Hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) and Shepherd’s Purse leaf (Capsella bursa-pastoris) directly stop bleeding and promote the formation of an eschar (scab). Mucilaginous herbs such as Plantain leaf (Plantago lanceolata) and Selfheal leaf (Prunella vulgaris) soothe inflammation. Some vulneraries are used internally to speed tissue healing, including Marigold flower (Calendula officinalis), Plantain leaf (Plantago lanceolata), Selfheal leaf (Prunella vulgaris), and Marshmallow root (Althaea officinalis).
What practitioners say
Nervous system: Oat (both oats and oat straw) is indicated in nervous exhaustion and weakness, depression, anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, ME, cerebral deficiency such as memory and concentration loss and also in drug withdrawal. Oats are a nervous system trophorestorative, restoring, rejuvenating and strengthening nerve cells.
The medicine of oats is indicated in all manner of neurasthenias’ – such as in shingles and other forms of herpes (both internally and topically). Also in the neuralgias, neuritis and chronic states of anxiety and depression (1).
Oat seed is indicated for the excesses in addictions, both sexual excess and drug addictions. As a nervine herb, oats are supportive in recovery from addiction (4).
Endocrine: Oat nourishes the endocrine glands, with a specific action upon the thyroid, pancreas and gonads promoting the release of oestrogen and thyroxine whilst also regulating pancreatic functioning including blood sugar balance. It is indicated in metabolic weakness, endocrine deficiencies (thyroid, pancreas, adrenal, gonad) and hormonal imbalances.
Urinary, kidney and reproductive: Oats are indicated in both urinary and reproductive weaknesses, such as bladder weakness, impotence, loss of libido and premature ejaculation (4). Oats nourish the reproductive and urinary tract, strengthening and toning the organs.
Skin: Oat is indicated in hot, dry, irritated and inflamed conditions of the skin such as eczema, psoriasis and dermatitis, where it can be applied externally as an emollient.
Oat straw: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, counterbalanced cross-over study assessed the effects of single doses of the green-oat extract (GOE) across a broad range of cognitive domains in healthy adults aged 40-65 years who self-reported that they felt that their memory had declined with age. Participants repeated over 6 sessions, receiving a single dose of either placebo, 800, or 1600 mg green oat extract (oat straw) on each occasion. This was repeated twice for each participant.
The study results showed improved performance in delayed word recall task in terms of errors, thinking time and overall completion time. Working memory span was also increased, but only on the second occasion that this dose was taken. These results confirm the acute cognitive effects of GOE, also suggesting that the optimal dose lies at or below 800 mg (3).
In a journal review of 36 accessions of Avena sativa L. in various central nervous system (CNS) test systems a physiologically significant inhibitory effect on monoamine oxidase B (MAO-B) and phosphodiesterase 4 (PDE 4), (two CNS enzymes closely connected to mental health and cognitive function) was seen. The findings provide some explanation by which oat straw may be effective for use in mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety (5).
Similar results were also reflected in a study carried out on elderly subjects using the Stroop Colour Word Test, a test used to measure attention and concentration and the ability to maintain task focus. Doses of Oat straw extract at 1600-mg dose or 2400-mg or a 0mg placebo were given, and the results demonstrated that Oat straw extract significantly improves attention and concentration and the ability to maintain task focus in older adults with differing levels of cognitive status (6).
Oat seeds: In a systematic review of research into Oats and compounds found in oats discusses mechanisms by which beta-glucans present in oats may contribute towards the well known uses of oats in supporting a healthy cardiovascular system. The review discusses the therapeutic potential of high fibre diets for reducing high blood pressure and refers to oats as an excellent dietary choice to support via its high fibre content as well as beta gluons effects on the cardiovascular system. Beta gluons have also been shown to reduce all these risk factors to benefit the treatment of diabetes and associated complications. In addition, β- glucan also promotes wound healing and alleviates ischemic heart injury (7).
Oat seeds are well known as an important food type, both deeply nutritive and therapeutic due to their vast array of nutritional and medicinal constituents. A review of the multiple antioxidative and bioactive molecules in oats, the therapeutic potential of β-glucan and avenanthramides has been discussed. Both chemical groups have been found to improve the immune function, support detoxification, reduce blood cholesterol, and help with dietary weight loss by enhancing the lipid profile and breaking down fat in the body.
β-glucan is described as an insulin secretion regulator, preventing diabetes. Progladins in oats also lower cholesterol levels, suppress the accumulation of triglycerides, reduce blood sugar levels, suppress inflammation, and improve skin health. Saponin-based avanacosidase and functional substances of flavone glycoside are also shown to improve the immune function, control inflammation, and prevent infiltration in the skin (9).
Oat straw: In Ayurvedic medicine Oat straw is used as supportive treatment for various addictions, including opium addiction. A case report showed 6 out of 10 opium addicts gave up the drug after a treatment period of 27 to 45 days using a decoction of green oats. Oats have also even been used to treat withdrawal from tobacco. Likely this mechanism as a result of its restorative effect of Oat straw on the nervous system (7). Of course for serious addictions like this more holistic support is needed, but oat straw could provide supportive relief from the difficulties of quitting a habit.
Did you know?
Oats were one of the earliest cereals cultivated by man. Despite being native to Europe, oats were known in ancient China as long ago as 7,000 B.C. The ancient Greeks were the first people known to have made a recognisable porridge (cereal) from oats.
Oat is a plant native to most of Europe. It is a tall plant, reaching heights of up to 1-1.5 metres with grass-like stems and leaves. Its characteristic seeds hang down from thin but tough stems that emerge from the top of the plant.
These plants can be found most commonly in field margins of arable crops and in hedgerows and meadows. Oats have been cultivated for hundreds of years and there are now about 25 commercial varieties. The parts of the plant used medicinally are the grains, immature seeds (milky oats), leaf & stem (oatstraw).
Other botanical names:
Oats refers to the species Avena sativa, which is cultivated oats. Avena fatua is the true Common Wild Oat species.
Oats and oat straw are safe for use during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Seeds may decrease absorption of some drugs e.g. Lovastatin due to their mucilaginous quality.
Oats are often produced in factories containing wheat products, therefore they may contain gluten and are therefore contraindicated for use by people with Celiac disease.
Oat straw: Green tops of the common oat plant are used dried in infusions; tinctures; capsules.
Oats: Most commonly, oat seed/oats are consumed in the usual culinary way. For an effective application for medicinal purposes, oats must be consumed at around twice daily by a normal portion. They can also be prepared as a tincture.
Tincture (1:5 25%): Take between 3- 5 ml three times a day.
Infusion: To make an oat straw infusion, pour one cup of boiling water over one to three teaspoons of dried oat straw and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day
Bath infusion: For the treatment of neuralgia and irritable skin conditions a strong infusion can be made to add into a warm bath. Make this boiling 300- 400g of dried shredded oat straw in around two litres of water for half an hour. Strain the liquid and add to the bath. Alternatively, put the rolled oats into a muslin bag and soak it directly in the bath water.
As food: Rolled oats can also be used in normal food amounts to benefit from its nutritive properties.
Plant parts used
Oat straw, oat meal and oat seeds are three different plant parts all with an abundance of medicinal and nutritional benefits and applications. For the purpose of this monograph we have focused on Oat Straw with some comment on medicinal specifics for oat meal and oat seed.
Typically oat straw is gathered and dried, either used as dried herb, decocted or tinctured at 1:5 in 25% alcohol.
Oatmeal/ oat groats are prepared and consumed as a meal for example porridge.
Oats (oat seed):
- Saponins (incl avenacosides A and B)
- Alkaloads (inclindole alkaloaid; gramine; trigonelline and avenine)
- Sterols (avenasterol)
- Beta glucans
- Starch and protein (incl. gluten)
- Minerals (esp calcium) (1)
- Vitamins A, C, E, K, & B-complex
- Minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, silica, and zinc
- Proteins (prolamines-avenues)
- C-glycosyl flavones
- Avenacosides (spirostanol glycosides)
- Fixed oil
Oats are native to Europe and Southwest Asia, occurring naturally in croplands and disturbed areas such as grain fields, oilseed crop fields, fallow fields, roadsides, pastures, waste places, and gardens.
According to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status of Wild Oat (Avena fatua) is classed as ‘least concern’. The species Avena sativa is commonly cultivated.
Herbal Medicines are often extremely safe to take, however it is important to supply herbal medicines from a reputed supplier. Sometimes herbs bought from unreputable sources are contaminated, adulterated or substituted with incorrect plant matter.
Some important markers for quality to look for would be to look for certified organic labelling, ensuring that the correct scientific / botanical name. A supplier should also be able to tell you where the herbs have come from. There is more space for contamination and adulteration where supply chain is unknown.
How to grow
- Oats should be planted in an area that receives full sunlight in a dry soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5.
- Sow the seeds of oats directly outdoors at a depth of 6mm at the beginning to middle of spring in the early spring, whereas perennial varieties can be planted either in the early spring or in autumn.
- Depending on the variety oats, seedlings should be planted 25 to 30cm apart (small) or 45 to 60cm apart (larger varieties of oat).
- Keep the ground moist to allow the seeds to germinate. Continue to do so as the plants begin to grow.
- Mulch with fresh compost or manure to help the oats retain moisture, but it will be necessary to water them periodically whenever the soil begins to dry out.
- If the area you live in gets plenty of rain you may not need to water your oats at all.
- Oats should be planted in an area that receives full sunlight in a dry soil with a pH of 6 to 7.5.
Stress and Burnout Tea Blend
Blend equal parts of:
- Lemon verbena
- Lime blossom
Infuse 2 heaped teaspoons in a small/ medium size tea pot of boiling hot water for up to 15 minutes. Strain and drink twice daily to bring a sense of calm and balance to your day.
All of the above listed herbs work to support the nervous system.
- Mills, S.Y. (1993). The essential book of herbal medicine. Editorial: Penguin.
- Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical Herbalism: The Science Principles and Practices Of Herbal Medicine. Hardback (1st Edition). Independently published.
- Kennedy, D.O., Jackson, P.A., Forster, J., Khan, J., Grothe, T., Perrinjaquet-Moccetti, T. and Haskell-Ramsay, C.F. (2015). Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial. Nutritional Neuroscience, 20(2), pp.135–151. doi:10.1080/1028415x.2015.1101304.
- Wood, M. (2004). The practice of traditional western herbalism : basic doctrine, energetics, and classification. Berkeley, Calif.: North Atlantic Books, Cop.
- Bioactivity-based development of a wild green oat (Avena sativa L.) extract in support of mental health disorders. Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie. https://www.thieme-connect.com/products/ejournals/abstract/10.1055/s-2006-954926?device=desktop&innerWidth=412&offsetWidth=412. Published: November 23, 2006. Accessed September 26, 2022.
- Berry, N.M., Robinson, M.J., Bryan, J., Buckley, J.D., Murphy, K.J. and Howe, P.R.C. (2011). Acute Effects of an Avena sativa Herb Extract on Responses to the Stroop Color–Word Test. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(7), pp.635–637. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0450.
- Mushtaq, A., Gul-Zaffar, Z., A.D. and Mehfuza, H. (2014). A review on Oat (Avena sativa L.) as a dual-purpose crop. Scientific Research and Essays, [online] 9(4), pp.52–59. doi:10.5897/sre2014.5820.
- Chen, J. and Raymond, K. (2008). Beta-glucans in the treatment of diabetes and associated cardiovascular risks. Vascular Health and Risk Management, [online] 4(6), pp.1265–1272. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2663451/.
- Kim, I.-S., Hwang, C.-W., Yang, W.-S. and Kim, C.-H. (2021). Multiple Antioxidative and Bioactive Molecules of Oats (Avena sativa L.) in Human Health. Antioxidants, [online] 10(9), p.1454. doi:10.3390/antiox10091454.