Oats are more than oatmeal – immature milky oats and oatstraw are highly medicinal! This amazing nervine herb soothes and calms frazzled nerves, inflamed, itchy skin, and digestive troubles.
Oats (Avena sativa)
Herbal Energetics: cool/damp
Parts Used: immature milk seed (“milky oats”), dried stalk (oatstraw), oats (mature seed)
Therapeutic Actions: antidepressant, antispasmodic, anxiolytic, cardiovascular, demulcent, emollient, galactogogue, hypolipidemic, nervine, nutritive, tropho-restorative, vulnerary
It seems so very hippie-woo-woo to say that medicinal herbs show up when you need them most. I am forced to believe that there is some validity to that statement these days. Just as I wrapped up the final chapters of my forthcoming book, after six months of non-stop home renovations, coupled with the busy life of a homesteading mama with a big family, I saw the first silvery glimmers of oats maturing in our rather feral front field. It would appear that this land was once planted to oats and a few areas had survived the overgrowth of blackberries and other invasives.
We all know oats – oatmeal, steel cut oats, oatmeal cookies (don’t you put any raisins in those – we can’t be friends if you do), and livestock feed all come to mind. They are nutritious and prepared right (ya know – without raisins) can be incredibly delicious. But they don’t often come to mind when you are thinking about medicinal herbs. And that’s a shame. Because for a short window of time each summer, the maturing seeds enter the “milky oat” stage and become a gold mine of medicinal virtues. If left to mature, those milky oats harden to the oats with roll and cut for food and feed. Even the seedless stalks, referred to as oatstraw, make mineral rich infusions! At virtually all stages of growth, oats offer both medicine and nutrition!
Medicinal Uses for Oats, Milky Oats & Oatstraw
Milky oats are favored among herbalist for those is weakened, depressed, debilitated state. We often suggest milky oat preparations (primarily tinctures – glycerin or alcohol based)) for those prone to anxiety, dealing with trauma, or overcoming addictions. Herbalist Michael Moore referred to it as an ideal herb for those with “crispy critter syndrome.” You know the type. Overburdened, burned out, used up — crisp, cracked, and brittle. I think of people in these states (myself, often, included) as dried out sponges. Drop a dried out, hardened sponge onto a spill and it does a rather poor job of mopping up the mess. Use a fresh, hydrated sponge and your task is quickly mastered. This is to say that milky oats softens us old, crusty dried out “sponges.” If you are the last person to fill your plate or reward yourself, if you shower gifts upon others but not yourself, if everything just feels like too much (it probably is – take a load off) – then this is the ideal herb to repair your fragile sense of wellbeing.
Oatstraw, though not entirely interchangeable with milky oats, serves to restore. Laden with minerals, oatstraw is an herb that I favor when folks complain about their output being greater than their input. Oatstraw is for nursing mamas, those with poor digestive function (often suffering from diarrhea) nutrient absorption, and those require considerable endurance and stamina during their daily lives. It can be a valuable asset to those with irritable bowels, providing cooling, soothing relief to abdominal cramping. It is a great nutritive for those recovering from acute illness and for those that are chronically deficient.
Mature oat seeds are an excellent source of nutrition. Gentle on the stomach, oatmeal is my favored “food remedy” for those coming out of the torture of the stomach flu or food poisoning, and even for expectant mama bothered by acute morning sickness. Thet are also a wonderful way to increase breast milk production for nursing mothers. When soaked in water, oats produce a soothing emollient mucilage that can be applied directly or whipped into various skin care that is perfectly suited for calming reddened, rash-y, and scaly skin conditions (Check out this lovely lotion recipe from Lovely Greens).
Safety and Precautions
Oats are largely considered safe, especially when used a food stuff, except for those with celiac disease. Some folks with certain bowel disorders may be bothered by the abundant fiber in oat food stuffs, so it is best to proceed with caution if you are one of these individuals.
I am a trained herbalist with a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine, I am not, however, a doctor. Posts in this blog are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Before using any herbs, check for appropriate dosage, drug interactions, and contraindications. Information contained herein is not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prescribe. Please consult your primary care physician regarding your specific health concerns.
Best Medicinal Preparations
Oatstraw benefits from long infusions to draw out its exceptional mineral content and impart its other healing virtues. Rolled oats and steel cut oats make great porridges, cookies and even savory crackers!
Milky oats are best prepared as fresh tincture either using alcohol or vegetable glycerin as a menstruum. Milky oats are “ready” when the seeds express a slightly stick liquid when pressed firmly. For more information on how to grow, forage, and harvest milky oats, check out this post.
Interested in learning more about common medicinal plants? Check out my new book The Backyard Herbal Apothecary!
Milky Oats Tincture for Dried Out & Used Up Conditions
- 2 cups 100 proof alcohol or organic vegetable glycerin
- 1.5 cups fresh milky oats tops
- Combine your chosen menstruum and the milky oats tops in a blender. Whirl for 20-30 seconds. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and allow the tincture to infuse for a minimum of six weeks. After infusion is complete, strain through two layers of tightly woven cloth (like these flour sack cloths) and pour into one or two-ounce amber glass dropper bottles or a amber glass pint bottle for dispensing.
Need another nervine herb to calm you down? Check out this post on kava kava!