By Lauren Stauber, certified Clinical Herbalist
Oats, Oatstraw, Common Oats, Wild Oats, Milky Oats, Oat Tops, Cat Grass
Avena sativa (common cultivated oats), Avina fatua (wild oats)
Seeds and stems
Neutral (can be slightly warming or cooling), moistening, sweet, yin and qi tonic
Nutritive nerve tonic, gentle relaxant/stimulant, demulcent, emollient, mild cardio-tonic, mild antidepressant, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac
Avena sativa is the "mother's milk" of edible and medicinal plants. The experience of being soothed, nourished and supported comes to mind when I reflect on this herb. Most people are unaware of the powerful healing properties of this easy to grow grass. Abundant with vitamins and minerals, protein, soluble fiber, beneficial oils, polysaccharides, steroidal saponins and more, Avena comes to us as a humble, but powerful healer.
Traditionally, Avena has been used as a long-term tonic to nourish, rebuild and revitalize a worn down nervous system. It is especially useful in recovery from illness, weakness, overwork, poor nutrition, chronic pain, sleep deprivation, insomnia, emotional distress, or just about any circumstance that excessively stresses and depletes the nervous system. Avena, when used in conjunction with lifestyle changes, helps get at the root of stress. It is also recognized as beneficial in addiction recovery, is a wonderful herb for pains that affect the body and the mind together, and is also helpful in relieving deeper pains in the muscles and joints. Avena takes the edge off nerves that are "on end" and presenting with an aversion to touch, actually enhancing pleasurable tactile sensation. Avena has been prized for its ability to revive a libido that has lost its "juice" and "spark", especially due to exhaustion and stress. The age-old expression "to sow one's wild oats" gives hint at this delightful little gift. It is recognized in Wise Woman communities as a woman's ally, helping to balance her hormonal cycles and support her through pregnancy, birth, post partum recovery and the many stresses of mothering, while also beautifying her hair, skin, nails, and teeth, not to mention strengthening her bones.
Externally, used as a poultice or in a bath, Avena offer relief from dry, itchy, irritated skin. Taking regular oat baths is thought to soften the skin, relax the muscles and nerves, and relieve aches and pains from the body. Ground oats also makes a lovely exfoliating facial scrub. With so many healing properties, from the skin to deep within, Avena is one of the staples in my herbal apothecary. It is truly a tonic for well-rounded well being. Cautions: Avena can be used safely by most people, including children and the elderly. One caution is in cases of people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, a small percentage of which have reaction to oats.
- Tea (infusion or decoction) of dried oatstraw or milky oat tops
- Tincture of milky oat tops (a premier restorative for the nervous system) in warm water or tea.
- Poultice of powdered plant or oatmeal
- Bath with infusion or decoction, powdered oats or oatmeal in a muslin bag
- Flower Essence (brings clarity and conviction to one's path in life)
A Simple Avena Decoction
4 Tbs. Oatstraw, Oat Tops, or a combination of both
1 qt. filtered water
Bring herbs and water to an ALMOST boil in a lidded pot. Lower to a simmer for 30 - 45 minutes. Turn off flame and let sit until cool enough to drink. Strain and sip throughout the day.
Stress Recovery Blend
2 pt. Oatstraw, Oat Tops, or a combination of both
1 pt. each Nettles, Ashwaganda, and Hawthorn Berry
1/2 pt. each Skullcap and Licorice root
Bring herbs and water to an ALMOST boil in a lidded pot. Lower to a simmer for 20 - 30 minutes. Turn off flame and let sit until cool enough to drink. Strain and sip throughout the day. This tea can also be made as a long infusion (2 - 8 hrs.).
Physio-Medical Therapeutics, Materia Medica and Pharmacy by T. J. LYLE, A.M.M.D.
King's American Dispensatory, 1898.
The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine by Brigitte Mars, AHG
Complete Herbal Tutor by Anne McIntyre
Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to Old World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood
Healing Wise by Susun Weed
Medicine Woman's Roots blog by Kiva Rose
The Bach Flower Remedies revised edition
The Natural Pregnancy Book by Aviva Jill Romm