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Not only is oatstraw (Avena sativa) incredibly nourishing, it has an affinity for the nervous system. It is a GREAT herbal remedy for stress. Drinking an oatstraw infusion daily with not only nourish and tonify your nervous system, it is also builds healthy teeth and bones because it is high in calcium.
Avena sativa L.
Plant Family: Poaceae
A. sativa, or the common oat, is a popular cereal grain that has been eaten for at least 3,000 years. Although this is one of the main uses for this plant, various parts of the plant, such as the young seed and the oatstraw, are nutritive and have nervine qualities, and are thus a favorite amongst herbalists for supporting the nervous system. This plant is highly valued for its ability to restore balance and a sense of calm in weak and stressed out individuals.
A. sativa is a grass with erect stems and long blade-like leaves. Its flowers consist of inconspicuous spikelets, each floret containing 3 stamens, and a feathery stigma. This floret matures into the oat that is edible, and at the immature stage, exudes a white milky substance (referred to as 'milky oats') and harvested for its medicinal value. The whole plant is referred to as 'oatstraw.' 2,3 Oat descended from A. sterilis as a cross between wheat and barley, and spread as a weed from the Fertile Crescent to Europe.2 Believed to be domesticated around 3,000 years ago around the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, it eventually spread to the wet and cooler climates in Europe and became a popular cereal grain, claiming its place as a major food staple in the Poaceae family alongside wheat, barley, and rice.1,2 There are several species that are thought to have similar medicinal qualities, particularly A. fatua and A. barbata3
Oats have been cultivated since ancient Roman times as feed for horses. The British emigrants introduced oats to North America in the 17th century and they have been cultivated here ever since.2 Today, most cultivated oats are primarily bailed and sold as feed4, however much is grown for food as well and will continue to be cultivated in larger and larger quantities as its health benefits become more widely known. The biggest oat-producing countries are Russia, Canada, United States,2,4 Australia, around the Baltic Sea, Sweden, Finland, Poland, and Germany.4
The best time to harvest the seed is when it is immature, or in its milky phase, and then to tincture it the same day.3The oatstraw is best harvested when the seed is mature5, it should then be dried but still retain green in the stems.6
The popular oat has been a healthy addition to the diet of many Europeans for generations. Scotland is thought to be where the trend of eating oat porridge for breakfast began.7 There are many nutritional and health benefits found in the oat grain itself and it is often attributed to having the same soothing and nourishing effects as the oastraw tea and the milky oats tincture, all of which are helpful for weakness, debility, and convalescence. Green oat herb or oatstraw preparations have been used traditionally in Europe since the Middle Ages to boost mental health and as a restorative to the nervous system.8 Hildegard of Bingen, a nun and herbalist born in 1098 C.E. in present-day Germany, considered oats to be one of a few of her favorite 'happiness' herbs alongside fennel, summer savory, licorice, and hyssop.9
Oat tea has been used traditionally as a sedative and found especially useful in cases of insomnia and nervous disorders.
Oatstraw is a highly beneficial nervine, nutritive, and sedative. It is prized amongst herbalists for its gentle and supportive nature. The milky oats are generally believed to work quicker in an acute situation whereas the oatstraw supports the nervous system over time.3.10 Hence the tea of the oastraw is a better building tonic than the tincture.10Either of these preparations are good for the type of person that has, according to the herbalist and teacher 7Song, " 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." 3 The milky oats have been used in withdrawal from nicotine (and a variety of other substances) as they seem to have a more psychoactive effect which enhances mood.10,11 Oatstraw is highly nutritive, containing minerals such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamins, and a variety of other constituents which deeply nourish the entire body and are especially soothing to the nervous system. This gentle restorative herb is for those that are cold, depleted, tired, and have "frayed nerves"3,10,12 or for the type of person who drinks too much coffee and is chronically burnt out. 13 It is also helpful for soothing and nourishing inflammatory skin conditions, building up strength in degenerative wasting conditions, and for enhancing the mood.5,14 Oat grain is a vulnerary (promotes wound healing)12,13 and thus very popular in commercial cosmetic preparations such as exfoliating body washes or soothing bath gels.13,14According to naturopath John Lust (the nephew of naturopathic pioneer Benedict Lust), various types of baths of the oatstraw herb could be used to address specific ailments. For example, fully submerging the whole body in a tub infused with oatstaw assuages liver and kidney problems and occasional joint pain, whereas a sitz bath can alleviate urinary and digestive concerns. Additionally, he suggests a foot bath in oatstraw for tired feet. He mentions its use in supporting the female reproductive system and suggests its use as a uterine tonic as well.15 Herbalist Rosemary Gladstar highly recommends oatstraw in pregnancy, especially when the woman experiences nervous exhaustion. Further, a tea of oastraw is also helpful in easing menopausal symptoms.14
nervine, stimulant, antispasmodic15,17 vulnerary nutritive12,13 tonic, sedative
young milky oats as a fresh tincture
dried oatstraw as a tea or bath
oat grain as a food or external body wash or bath
silicon dioxide occurs in the leaves and in the straw in soluble form as esters of silcilic acid with polyphenols, monosaccharides and oligosaccharides. Oat straw contains a high content of iron, manganese, zinc, chromium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, niacin and a variety of other nutrients18 and saponins, alkaloids such as avenine, trigoneline, sterols, flavanoids, and calcium.5,12
The Commission E approved the topical use of oat straw in baths for inflammatory skin issues especially in cases where extreme itching is present.19
In Vitro laboratory tests are being conducted in order to support the claims made for oats efficacy as a nervine and sedative. Two enzymes closely connected to mental health and cognitive function were isolated yet were found to vary immensely in potency, depending on extraction methods.8 A double-blind, randomized, crossover study on 7 elderly patient showed that oat herb extract may improve attention, concentration, and the ability to maintain focus in older people.20 Further, one other such double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled crossover study, suggests that oat herb extract might have a positive impact on cognitive performance, particularly impacting the left frontal temporal area of the brain.21
Specific: No known precautions.
General: We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
For educational purposes only This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
By Teresa Steadman
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