Oats are an everyday grain and bowls of it fortify thousands of families around the world every morning. And yet few people seem to know anything about the plant other than its value as food. In fact, oats, particularly the milky tops (harvested when the tops are in their milky stage, after the oat begins flowering and before the seed hardens and becomes the oat grain we eat as oatmeal) and oatgrass stems (or oatstraw – the green stem of the oat plant harvested during the milky oat stage), have a number of medicinal effects too. Although oats are now grown around the world, this annual grass is actually indigenous to the Mediterranean regions of Europe and North Africa.
People use the seed (oat), leaves and stems (oatstraw) and bran (the outer layer of whole oats) to make herbal remedies.
The active ingredients in oats are minerals and trace nutrients such as silica, magnesium, phosphorus, chromium, iron, calcium, alkaloids, protein and vitamins A, C and B complex.
Fibre-rich oat bran and whole oats are used to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome and other digestive disorders as well as diarrhoea and constipation. The calcium and magnesium in oatstraw help build strong bones and, along with vitamin B, calm and strengthen the nervous system. In extract form, Avena sativa is used in synergistic combination formulas prescribed to:
- Improve the function of the urinary system (oats help reduce uric acid levels).
- Calm and help maintain a healthy nervous system, reduce the symptoms of stress and improve mental clarity.
- Help sleeplessness caused by stress.
- May help in cases of depression.
- In food form, oat bran may help reduce cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Flora Force Products containing Avena sativa
Domestic & culinary uses
There are too many uses for oats to list here, but you might like to try these healthy Banana Oatmeal Bars. They’re great for breakfast, packed lunches or teatime snacks.
Oats are not generally grown in domestic gardens, but if you have a smallholding, you’ll find the following information useful. Oats needs lots of moisture and like a cool climate and fertile, well-drained soil. Plant oats in very early spring – about one kilo of seed per 90 square metres. The Department of Agriculture, Forestry & Fisheries has some useful information at www.nda.agric.za/docs/Brochures/Oats.pdf
Acknowledgements & credits
Compiled for Flora Force by Judy Beyer
- European Medicines Agency. Assessment report on Avena sativa l., herba and Avena sativa l., fructus. 2008, London. www.ema.europa.eu/docs/en_GB/document_library/Herbal_-_HMPC_assessment_report/2009/12/WC500017998.pdf
- Herbal Academy of New England. Oats benefits: Getting to know Avena sativa. http://herbalacademyofne.com/2014/05/oats-benefits-getting-to-know-avena-sativa/
- Van Wyk, B-E. and Wink, M. Medicinal Plants of the World. 2004. Briza Books, Pretoria, South Africa.
- Photo of Oats by H. Zell (Own work)