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Oats: The Soothing Cereal of Herbs

Avena Sativa is one of the more ubiquitous plants that many people don't realize is also a medicinal herb. Commonly called Oatstraw or Milky Oats, this grassy plant belongs to the Poaceae or Grass family and is grown worldwide in temperate regions as a cereal crop.

As an annual grass that usually grows to around 3 feet tall, this plant has stems that are straight and hollow and small spikes that hold grain seeds. Interestingly, this plant was historically used to fill mattresses, which was thought to be especially useful for people with Rheumatic complaints.

If you’d like to harvest this common plant, the seeds and straw are gathered in late spring to summer, depending on your climate. When harvesting plants, always make sure you are certain you’ve correctly identified the plant and that it is in a clean location. Herbs on the side of the road or in public parks may be covered with road pollution and other toxic chemicals. If you find a clean and safe source, always ask permission and leave an offering as an act of gratitude. Water is great for this, especially in California.

What Can I Use Oats For?

Other than being a delicious cereal, Oats have a number of herbal medicinal actions:

  • Nervine Tonic

  • Emollient

  • Anti-depressant

  • Nutritive

  • Demulcent

  • Vulnerary

  • Sedative

Avena Sativa also has many medicinal uses:

  • Good for nervous conditions of all sorts, especially ones that are depressive in nature

  • Raises energy levels, increases stamina, and treats general debility without causing overstimulation

  • Helps maintain muscle function during training and exercise

  • Supports overstressed nervous systems and nervous exhaustion

  • Helps support recovery after long illnesses

  • Treats nervous insomnia

  • Topically is emollient and cleansing

  • Soothes itchiness and Eczema

How Do I Prepare Oats?

Just like Cleavers and Nettle, Oats are excellent prepared as an overnight infusion:

  1. Fill quart jar with ⅓ cup of Oats

  2. Pour boiling water over herbs

  3. Cover and let steep overnight (this helps capture the minerals and vitamins that make Oats so nutritive)

  4. Strain and enjoy as a nutritive nervine infusion

As a tea for depression, Avena Sativa is great with Skullcap (Scutellaria laterifolia) and Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris or douglasiana).

Oats are also great in a bath:

  1. Boil 1 pound of Avena Sativa in the biggest pot of water you can find

  2. Strain

  3. Add tea to bath and sooth your skin

Ready to learn more about herbs?

If you're interested in learning more about herbs, healing and vitality, check out Artemisia Academy’s Herbal Apprentice Program. I recently completed this program and learned so much about Oats and dozens of other herbs, as well as how to make medicines and form intuitive and reciprocal relationships with the plants we work with.

Much of the information I shared in this post comes from Artemisia Academy’s Herbs for the Body Class (in the Herbal Apprentice Program) and Andrew Chevallier’s Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, both great references for accurate information about medicinal herbs. It is so important to have more reliable information on the internet about our herbal allies, so I’ll be writing more blog posts about our herbal friends for you all to enjoy.