Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats (Avena sativa)

Parts used and where grown: The common oat used in herbal supplements and foods is derived from wild species that have since been cultivated. For herbal supplements, the green or rapidly dried aerial parts of the plant are harvested just before reaching full flower. Many herbal texts refer to using the fruits (seeds) or green tops. Although some herb texts discuss oat straw, there is little medicinal action in this part of the plant. Oats are now grown worldwide.

In what conditions might oats be supportive?

Â¥ anxiety

Â¥ eczema

¥ high cholesterol ¥ high triglycerides

Â¥ insomnia

Â¥ nicotine withdrawal

Historical or traditional use: In folk medicine as well as among current herbalists, oats are used to treat nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and weakness of the nerves. A tea made from oats was thought to be useful in rheumatic conditions and to treat water retention. A tincture of the green tops of oats was also used to help with withdrawal from tobacco addiction.1 Oats were often used in baths to treat insomnia and anxiety as well as a variety of skin conditions, including burns and eczema.

Active constituents: The fruits (seeds) contain alkaloids, such as gramine and avenine, as well as saponins, such as avenacosides A and B.2 The seeds are also rich in iron, manganese, and zinc. The straw is high in silica. Oat alkaloids are believed to account for oatsÕ relaxing effect. It should be noted that this action of oats continues to be debated in Europe; the Commission E Monographs do not endorse this herb as a sedative.3 However, an alcohol-based tincture of the fresh plant has proved useful in cases of nicotine withdrawal.

How much should I take? Oats can be eaten as a morning breakfast cereal. A tea can be made from a heaping U.S. tablespoonful (30 grams) of oats brewed with 250 ml (1 cup) of boiling water; after cooling and straining, the tea can be drunk several times a day or shortly before going to bed. As a tincture, oats are often taken at 3-5 ml three times per day. Encapsulated or tableted products can be used in the amount of 1-4 grams per day. A soothing bath to ease irritated skin can be made by running the bath water through a sock containing several tablespoons of oats.

Are there any side effects or interactions? Oats are not associated with any adverse effects, although those with gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) should use oats with caution.


1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 287&endash;8. 2. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arcana, 1991, 510&endash;12. 3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 96&endash;8.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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