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Herbal Monograph

Herb:  Oats  (Avena Sativa)

Other Names:  groats.    (2)

Character/Energetics:   warm, moist, sweet    (15) 

Meridians/Organs/Body Parts affected:    nerves, uterus, stomach and lungs    (14)

Part(s) used: seeds and the whole plant (9)     Straw (61)                                                                                                         

Identification & Harvesting:    An annual, light green grass with a bushy root.  Stalks are 2′-4′ high.  Tapered, linear-lanceolate, flat leaves in double rows, 20″ long and 1″ wide.  Cultivated worldwide.    (2)

The fruit and straw are gathered at harvest time, in August about four weeks after the rye harvest. 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.     (9)           

The crop is harvested when the grain is ripe, and the whole plant is dried and chopped. (The grain) is…milled to produce oatbran and oatmeal.  (15)

Native to the Med region (61)

Active Constituents:    Leaves — soluble oligo- and polysaccharides incl. saccharose, kestose, neokestose, beta-glucans, galactoarabinoxylans;  silicic acid;  steroid saponins:  avenacoside A and B;  amino acids avenic acid A and B;  flavonoids.  Oats — starch;  soluble polysaccharides, chiefly beta-clucans and arabinoxylans;  proteins incl gliadin, avenin, avenalin;  peptides;  steroid saponins avenacoside A and B;  sterols incl. beta-sitosterol;  fatty oils;  B-vitamins.  Straw — Soluble oligo- and polysaccharides incl. saccharose, kestose, neokestose, beta-glucans, galactoarabinoxylans;  silicic acid;  steroid saponins avenacoside A and B and amino acids avenic acid A and B;  flavonoids.    (2)

Seeds: 50% starch; alkaloids including trigonelline and avenine; saponins; flavones; sterols; vitamin B.

Plant straw: rich in silicic acid; mucin; calcium.     (9)

…flavonoids, many minerals,…steroidal compounds, vitamins B1 and B2, D, E, carotene, wheat protein (gluten), starch, fat    (15) 

Actions:    Leaves said to lower uric acid and inhibit hepatoxins in animal experiments of dubious reliability.  Oats lower serum cholesterol and hinder prostaglandin synthesis.  No information available concerning oat straw.    (2)

Nervine tonic, anti-depressant, nutritive, demulcent, vulnerary   (9)      

Primarily nervine, tonic;  also antispasmodic, stimulant.    (14)

               Oatstraw: antidepressant, restorative nerve tonic, promotes sweating.

               Grain: antidepressant, restorative nerve tonic, nutritive.

               Oatbran: antothrombotic, reduces blood cholesterol levels.  (15)  

Nerve tonic, stimulant, antispasmodic.    (57)

Valued today as a diuretic;  claimed to lower uric acid levels in the blood.  No research confirms it as an antispasmodic or nervine, nor have active principles been identified.    (61)

Conditions & Uses:    Leaves are used for acute and chronic anxiety, atonia of the bladder and connective tissue, excitation, gout, kidney ailments, neurasthenic and pseudoneurasthenic syndromes, opium and tobacco withdrawal treatment, rheumatism, insomnia, and stress, but their effectiveness for these indications is not documented.  Oats are used for gastrointestinal complaints, gallbladder and kidneys, cardiovascular disorders, constipation, diabetes, diarrhea, fatigue, rheumatism.  Again, effectiveness is not substantiated.  Straw preparations are used externally for inflamed, itchy seborrheic skin disorders, abdominal fatigue, bladder and rheumatic disorders, eye ailments, frostbite, warts, gout, impetigo and metabolic diseases.    (2)

Oats is one of the best remedies for ‘feeding’ the nervous system, especially when under stress. It is specific in cases of nervous debility and exhaustion, especially 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.   (9)            

Internal uses — bedwetting, gout, skin diseases:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion, gruel.  Calcium deficiency:  infusion*, gruel*.  Epilepsy, heart palpitations, nerve stimulant, occipital headaches, sexual neurasthenia:  tincture, fluid extract.  Kidney gravel:  tincture, fluid extract, gruel.  Nervous diseases, rheumatism, weakness due to nervous exhaustion:  tincture, fluid extract, infusion.

External uses — skin inflammation:  poultice, fomentation.

*Usually used in combination with other herbs when treating the indicated problem.

Oats are mainly used as a food for weak, debilitated digestion.  It is good to use during gastroenteritis, dyspepsia and ulcers.  The tincture and extract is a useful nerve tonic and uterine tonic.  Use oat straw tea for kidney and chest ailments.  The tea for children is good for bedwetting, colic and stomach problems.  Add a gallon of the infusion of the straw to a warm bath for gout, rheumatic problems, lumbago and sore kidneys.  A tincture or extract can be made from fresh oats which should be picked when the milky substance is present in the grain.  Its influence is directed to the brain and functions of the body.  It is a specific for weak nerves and can be used as a nerve tonic to help recover from disease.  It is important to remember that this remedy will help overcome most diseases caused by nervous disorders and exhaustion of all body parts.  It is especially effective for ovarian and uterine disorders.    (14)

Oatstraw: An excellent tonic for the whole system, used for both physical and nervous fatigue; it is ideal for depression. Oatstraw can also be used for thyroid and estrogen deficiency, for degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis, and for colds, especially if recurrent or persistent.   

Grain: The seeds have very similar properties to the whole plant and can be used for the same conditions.  (15)    

An important restorative in nervous prostration and exhaustion after all febrile diseases, and as a tonic an spermatorrhea, insomnia, etc.  Seems to exert a very beneficial action upon the heart muscles and on the urinary organs, speedily relieving spasmodic conditions of bladder and urethra.    (57)

Traditionally used for constipation;  arose as a nerve tonic and antispasmodic for nervous disorders, exhaustion or nervous debility.  Considered useful for spasmodic conditions of the bladder.  As a bath, a folk remedy for arthritis, rheumatism and skin disorders.  Once promoted as a treatment for morphine addiction, now for tobacco addiction.    (61)

Combinations: For depression it may be used with skullcap, damiana and lavender. For debility and exhaustion it will combine with whatever is indicated in that person.   (9)

For depression it may be used with skullcap and Lady’s Slipper. (8)

(Oatstraw) Combines well with vervain  (15)

Precautions: No known hazards or side effects with designated dosages.    (2)

For those sensitive to gluten (as in celiac disease), allow the                                      decoction or tincture to settle, then decant only the clear liquid for use.   (15)

No side effects.    (61)

Tincturing Process:

Applications:    Oats may most conveniently be taken in the form of porridge or gruel.

Fluid Extract: in liquid form it is most often given as a fluid extract. Take 3–5 ml 3x daily.

Bath: a soothing bath for use in neuralgia and irritated skin conditions can be made: 500 grams of shredded straw is boiled in 2 litres of water for half  an hour. The liquid is strained and added to  the bath. (9)

Powder:  up to 10 #0 capsules (60 grains), 3 x daily.    (14)

      Oatstraw–Fluid Extract: Take doses of 2–3 ml for insomnia, anxiety, and depression. (The tincture can be used sililarly.) Combines well with vervain. Also makes a nutritive addition to remedies for colds and chills to encourage sweating.

Decoction: Make from the whole dried plant, and use for the same ailments as the fluid extract.

Wash: Use the decoction as a healing wash for skin conditions.

Grain–Poultice: Use an oatmeal poultice for skin conditions such as                                      eczema, cold sores, and shingles.    (15)

Mostly used in the form of a fluid extract.  Dose, 10-30 drops.    (57)


Dosage:   see above.   

      (For high cholesterol levels) effectively reduces blood cholesterol levels, particularly low-density lipoproteins.–add 25 grams oatbran to breakfast cereal. Use as a simple, but also limit the intake of saturated fats and high cholesterol foods. (15)  

                  (For depression) antidepressant and restorative nerve tonic–take a decoction or 2–3 ml fluid extract; eat oatmeal as cereal….Combines well with vervain in tincture or add 10 drops lemon balm to the dose to enhance antidepressant action.    (15)   

4 oz. dried tops in a tub of hot water.  Steep 1 tbsp dried tops in 1 cup hot water for 10-15 min.  Tincture 25 drops 3 x daily.    (61)

General Notes:   The traditional staple of Northern Europe, oats are a warm, sweet food, ideal in a cold climate. Cereal made from oatmeal (the crushed grain) is a nutritious breakfast. For medicinal purposes the whole plant (known as oatstraw) is generally used and is gathered when the grains are ripe. The herb is a good restorative tonic, ideal for depression and qi (energy) deficiency.  Recent research has shown that oat bran, and to a lesser extent oatmeal, can help to reduce abnormally high blood cholesterol levels.

“…taking oats is a complete body overhaul from the inside to the outside.” 

Peter Holmes, 1989.

          Dr. Bach recommended his Wild Oats flower remedy for times of uncertainty and dissatisfaction.   (15)               

Seeds should be kept dry, or they undergo alteration and acquire a bitter taste.    (57)



(2)  PDR for Herbal Medicines (Medical Economics Co., 1998), pgs. 680-81

(8) The New Holistic Herbal by David Hoffman, pg. 219

(9) The Herbal Handbook by David Hoffman, pgs. 75-76

(14) Natural Healing With Herbs by Humbart Santillo BS, MH, pgs. 152-53

(15) The Complete Medicinal Herbal by Penelope Ody, pgs. 40, 150-151, 164-165

(57) Potter’s Cyclopaedia by R.C. Wren, F.L.S., p. 252

(61) 101 Medicinal Herbs by Steven Foster, pgs. 146-47


PHOTO: Wikipedia