By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Avena sativa-Oats

Family: Gramineae or Poaceae

Habitat: Widely distributed as a cereal crop. Dry wasteland, cultivated ground and meadows, especially on heavier soils.

Whilst used mainly as a food, oat grain does also have value as a medicinal herb. In particular oats are a nutritious food that gently restores vigour after debilitating illnesses, helps lower cholesterol levels in the blood and also increases stamina. The seed is a mealy nutritive herb that is antispasmodic, cardiac, diuretic, emollient, nervine and stimulant. The seed contains the anti-tumor compound b-sitosterol and has been used as a folk remedy for tumours. A gruel made from the ground seed is used as a mild nutritious aliment in inflammatory cases, fevers and after parturition. It should be avoided in cases of dyspepsia accompanied with acidity of the stomach. A tincture of the ground seed in alcohol is useful as a nervine and uterine tonic. A decoction strained into a bath will help to soothe itchiness and eczema. A poultice made from the ground seeds is used in the treatment of eczema and dry skin. When consumed regularly, oat germ reduces blood cholesterol levels. Oat straw and the grain are prescribed to treat general debility and a wide range of nervous conditions. They are  exhaustion that results from multiple sclerosis, chronic neurological pain and insomnia They are of particular value in helping a person to cope with the exhaustion that results from multiple sclerosis, chronic neurological pain and insomnia. Oats are thought to stimulate sufficient nervous energy to help relieve insomnia. An alcoholic extraction of oats has been reported to be a deterrent for smoking, though reports that oat extract helped correct the tobacco habit have been disproven. A tincture of the plant has been used as a nerve stimulant and to treat opium addiction. In an article riddled with errors, the Globe (February 28, 1984) reports that oat straw, usually taken as a tea, is a sexual nerve tonic. The German Commission E Monographs, a therapeutic guide to herbal medicine, approve Avena sativa for inflammation of the skin, warts.

By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL (https://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Description of Oats:

Avena sativa is a ANNUAL growing to 0.9 m (3ft) by 0.1 m (0ft 4in).
It is hardy to zone 2 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jun to July, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Wind.The plant is self-fertile. 

Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils, prefers well-drained soil and can grow in heavy clay and nutritionally poor soils. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils and can grow in very acid soils.
Needs full sun. It prefers dry or moist soil and can tolerate drought.

Cultivation of Oats:

Oats are an easily grown crop that succeeds in any moderately fertile soil in full sun. They prefer a poor dry soil and tolerate cool moist conditions. Plants are reported to tolerate an annual precipitation of 20 to 180cm, an average annual temperature range of 5 to 26°C, and a pH of 4.5 to 8.6. They thrive on a wide range of soils of ample, but not excessive, fertility. Well-drained neutral soils in regions where annual rainfall is 77cm or more are best. Loam soils are best, especially silt and clay loams. The plants are also. Oats have a long history of cultivation as a food crop and are believed to be derived chiefly from two species, wild oat (A. fatua L.) and wild red oat (A. sterilis L.). They are widely cultivated for their seed, used as a source of protein, as well as for hay, as winter cover, and are used as a pasture crop in the growing or ‘milk’ stage. Oats are long-day plants, grown in cool climates in the Old and New World temperate zones, succeeding under variable conditions. Oats usually are not very winter hardy, although winter hardy cvs have been developed. A very hardy plant according to another report, the cultivated oat succeeds as far north as latitude 70°n and is widely cultivated in temperate zones for its edible seed, there are many named varieties. Although lower yielding than wheat (Triticum spp.), it is able to withstand a wider range of climatic conditions and is therefore more cultivated in cooler and wetter areas. Hot dry weather just before heading causes heads to blast and yields of seed to decrease. Self-pollination is normal, but cross-pollination by wind also occurs. If you wish to save the seed for sowing, each variety should be isolated about 180 metres away from other varieties . Oats are in general easily grown plants but, especially when grown on a small scale, the seed is often completely eaten out by birds. Some sort of netting seems to be the best answer on a garden scale.

Companion plants:

Oats grow well with vetch but they inhibit the growth of apricot trees.

Propagation of Oats:

Seed – sow in situ in early spring or in the autumn. Only just cover the seed. Germination should take place within 2 weeks.

Collection: The fruit and straw are gathered at harvest time, in August. The stalks are cut and bound together. Leave them upright to dry and then thresh out the fruit. The straw is just the crushed dry stalks.

Avena_sativa_002Culinary uses of Oats:

Edible Parts: Oil, Seed.
Edible Uses: 
Coffee, Oil.

Seed – cooked. The seed ripens in the latter half of summer and, when harvested and dried, can store for several years. It has a floury texture and a mild, somewhat creamy flavour. It can be used as a staple food crop in either savoury or sweet dishes. Used as a cereal, it is probably best known as the breakfast cereal porridge but it can also be used in many other ways. The seed can be sprouted and used in salads, the grain can also be ground into a flour and used in making biscuits, sourdough etc. It is fairly low in gluten, and so is not really suitable for making bread. The seed is an especially good food for convalescents and people with stomach problems. Oat flour produced in the dry-milling operation currently is used as an antioxidant in food products. Oat flour inhibits rancidity and increases the length of shelf-stability of fatty foods such as vegetable oils. Whilst cultivated oats average about 17% protein, scientists screening thousands of samples of cultivated and wild species found that the wild species averaged 27% with some forms ranging up to 37%. Oats are also one of the cereals used as a basic ingredient for making whisky. Oats are harvested when grain is in the hard dough stage and straw is slightly green (when the moisture content of the grain is 14% or less). If too ripe, shattering causes seed loss. Crop is usually cut with binder and left in the field until dry and then threshed. In mechanized societies, oats are combined directly from standing grain. For this type of harvesting, crop must be fully ripe, usually when the straw has lost greenness and glumes have become white. Crop may be combined from windrow, or cut with a header harvester when the crop is dead ripe. Seeds are threshed and cleaned by winnowing, and artificially dried to below 14% moisture for storage. The roasted seed is a coffee substitute. An edible oil is obtained from the seed, it is used in the manufacture of breakfast cereals.

oatsMedicinal uses of Oats:

Actions: Nervine tonic, anti-depressant, nutritive, demulcent,vulnerary.

Part Used: Seeds and whole plant.

Indications: Oats is one of the best remedies for “feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. It is considered a specific in cases of nervous debility and exhaustion when associated with depression. It may be used with most of the other nervines, both relaxant and stimulatory, to strengthen the whole of the nervous system. It is also used in general debility. The high levels of silicic acid in the straw will explain its use as a remedy for skin conditions, especially in external applications.

Ellingwood quoting from King’s considered it specific for”spasmodic and nervous disorders, with exhaustion; the nervous debility of convalescence, cardiac weakness from nervous exhaustion. In general neurasthenia it promptly relieves the most unbearable occipital headache.” In addition he recommends it for the following patholgies: nerve tremors,choreaparalysis agitansepilepsy,convalescence following prostrating disease, palpitations of the heart,nervous headaches, overworked conditions of brain workers(!), general prostration from anxiety and worry, nervous dyspepsia,sexual neurasthenia, nervous breakdown and exhaustion.

Combinations: For depression it may be used with Skullcap and Mugwort.

Preparations & Dosage of Oats:

Infusion: pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-3 teaspoonfuls of the dried straw and leave to infuse 10-15 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

Tincture: take 3-5ml three times a day.Bath: a soothing bath for use in neuralgia and irritated skin conditions can be made: l pound of shredded straw is boiled in 2 quarts of water for half an hour. The liquid is strained and added to the bath, or the cooked rolled oats may be put into a muslin bag and used to bath with.

Other uses of Oats:

Biomass,  Cosmetic,  Fibre,  Mulch,  Oil,  Paper,  Repellent,  Thatching.

The straw has a wide range of uses such as for bio-mass, fibre, mulch, paper-making, building board and thatching. It has also been used as a stuffing material for mattresses and these are said to be of great benefit for sufferers from rheumatism. Some caution is advised in its use as a mulch since oat straw can infest strawberries with stem and bulb eelworm. Oat hulls are basic in production of furfural, a chemical intermediate in the production of many industrial products such as nylon, lubricating oils, butadiene, phenolic resin glues, and rubber tread compositions. Oats hulls supply about 22% of the required furfural raw materials. Rice hulls, corn cobs, bagasse, and beech woods make up much of the remainder. Oats hulls are also used in the manufacture of construction boards, cellulose pulp and as a filter in breweries. A handful of the grains, thrown into the bath water, will help to keep the skin soft because of their emollient action. An extract of oat straw prevents feeding by the striped cucumber beetle.

my oats fairy
Esoteric uses of Oats:

Oats straw: Keep a small amount in wallet or purse to draw in money and prosperity.

Oat meal: To invoke or worship Brighid.

The Chemistry:


  • Proteins; prolamines known as avenins
  • C-glycosyl flavones
  • Avenacosides, which are spirostanol glycosides
  • Fixed oil, Vitamin E, starch.
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