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Medicinal Uses for Oats: A Remedy for Burned Out and Used Up Folks

devon 7 Comments

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Oats are not only a valuable source of food -- they also provide amazing herbal medicine and virtually all stages of maturity

Medicinal Uses for Oats: A Remedy for Burned Out and Used Up Folks

Devon 7 Comments

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!

Oats are not only a valuable source of food -- they also provide amazing herbal medicine and virtually all stages of maturity

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.

Oats are not only a valuable source of food -- they also provide amazing herbal medicine and virtually all stages of maturity

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).

Oats are not only a valuable source of food -- they also provide amazing herbal medicine and virtually all stages of maturity

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.

FDA Disclosure

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.

Oats are not only a valuable source of food -- they also provide amazing herbal medicine and virtually all stages of maturity

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

This tincture is best prepared with alcohol, but vegetable glycerin is an alternative for those that are intolerant of alcohol or that have an addiction that could be triggered by alcohol. Adult dose: 1-3 droppers full (1.5-5mls), 3x daily
Author: Devon


  • 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!

Medicinal Uses for Milky Oats


Devon is a writer and author on subjects of holistic and sustainable living. She has a degree in Complementary and Alternative Medicine from the American College of Healthcare Sciences, and her first book, The Backyard Herbal Apothecary, was published by Page Street Publishing in Spring 2019. Devon's work outside of can be seen at,,, and in the magazine The Backwoods Home. Devon's second book, The Herbalist's Healing Kitchen, will be published Fall 2019.

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  • Kimber Hawkey July 4, 2018 at 4:31 pm

    Hi, how do you find milky oats?
    Thank you,

    • Devon July 4, 2018 at 4:54 pm

      Hi, Kimber. Oats reseed rather prolifically so you will often find them around the edges of fields where there was formerly a crop. Once your eye is “trained” to see them you can find oats in pretty random places. Here is the other post that I wrote that may be helpful to you:

  • Laura November 16, 2018 at 10:34 pm

    Hi Devon,

    Can you use dried Milky oats and what would be the measurement.


    • Devon November 17, 2018 at 2:57 am

      Milky oats are one of the herbs that need to be tinctured fresh for the nervine benefits.

  • Randy Gubersky July 26, 2019 at 1:27 am

    hi Devon, I am an organic, gluten free certified farmer that has set up a gluten free , organic oatmeal processing facility on my farm. I am interested in figuring out how to make oat straw tea ,so i could develop sales. I farm approximately 1000 acres, but only harvest half per year. [half is seeded to green manure], I usually have around 20 or 30 acres that are heavy with weeds that we usually disc under. If i could figure a way to pick the milky oat tops and the green stems ,i would like to make a tea and tincture. I am very aware of the incredible health benefits of oats, but i never knew much about oat straw tea or tinctures. Is there some information on how to make the tea at the precise growth stage of the oats, and how you dry it down to make the tea, thanks

  • Kate Haisch April 12, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! I made this oat tincture last night. However when I was squeezing my oats I realized only a very small percentage had the milky substance. I don’t know if I just missed the window or if I was a bit early. I guess in a large field only a few will be milky at the same time? Where I live these oats are abundant and grow continually for months on end. Even if the oat is not producing milk but it’s neighbor did do you think it will still be a successful tincture? I realized the entire field will probably not be in the same growth state and it is on a stock by stock basis. Thank you!

  • Julia Hobbs June 24, 2021 at 1:23 pm

    I made my tincture before I read this and didn’t blend the oats, I just soaked them in the alcohol for about 8 weeks and the strained them. There’s no flavor from the oats – do you think they didn’t really release their oaty goodness? Thanks! Next year I’ll do it your way!

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    Meet the Nitty Gritty Mama, Devon!

    I am an herbalist, farmer, cook, and forager. I get my hands dirty and am not afraid to do things the "hard way". Sharing my Nitty Gritty Life with you! Read More



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