Updated: Jul 8
Author: Lee Reicheneder
Oat straw, also known as Avena Sativa has been cultivated and used as early as 2,000 BC and has a very long history nourishing people nutritionally and as a herbal medicine. In fact, the name Avena means ‘nourishment’ which is the simplest way to describe the wonder of this herb. It is believed that the oat plant has been used to nourish people for 3,000 years and possibly longer. It is believed to have first been discovered in the Fertile Crescent. The Fertile Crescent covered a vast area spanning from Israel to Europe and included Weston Iran. In Ayurveda this amazing plant is often referred to as the ‘herb of longevity’ with its perceived ability to bring integrity to the nervous system, provide emotional flexibility and ‘sexual flow’ something that has been touted for many years with various sayings related to this now ingrained into our culture.
The oat plant is a light green annual grass which has straight, hollow stems that produce spiked seed heads that hold grains (oats), and blade like leaves. The stalks of the plant can grow between 30-122cm tall. The plant is now able to be found in most parts of the world and they can go wild turning into a ‘weed’ very easily. The grow in sunny, dry weather and often prefer acidic soil. The flowers of these plants have both female and male organs which are pollinated with help from wind provided by mother nature. Furthermore, through out history this plant has been used to control soil erosion on many depleted landscapes. The plant does require good drainage and tolerates droughts very well. This makes it a very durable plant for places like Australia where drought occurs often, and it can grow almost anywhere provided it has full sun (doesn’t like the shade) and well drained soil. The plant can be easily mistaken for another plant during its early stages as it can look like many other grassy plants when it is still young. For this reason, it is important to be absolutely 100% confident that it is a oat plant prior to harvesting the plant for use. If you are even remotely unsure it is a safer option to purchase your oatstraw instead. You can buy oat straw, milky oats, and oats themselves in multiple forms from online retailers (Austral Herbs is a great place to start looking) and some shops.
The oat plant can be broken down into components and these are:
Milky Oats – immature oat seed heads which are produce a milky juice
Oat Straw – the entire stalk including seed heads, this is often dried for use
Grain – the grain produced by the plant which we use as oats.
The belief is that milky oats provides more immediate benefits (believed to be felt anywhere from hours to a week after consumption or application) and it is believed that the benefits from oat straw need to build up over weeks to years of regular consumption to feed the benefits. Both Milky Oats and oat straw hold similar benefits and risks, the main difference between them is milky oats provides a more immediate effect on the body when compared to oat straw which takes time before you notice anything. The oats themselves are used as food for people, in skin care products for people, in hair care products for people and the oats are also used as food for animals. It is believed that the oats themselves are beneficial in supporting people with cholesterol issues amongst many other health benefits. The oats are also a great source of soluble fibre, fat and protein. However, this article hopes to run through the benefits and risks associated with the herb oat straw.
Traditionally oat straw and milky oats have been used as a mild relaxant, nervous system restorative, to strengthen weaken constitutions, and to support those with shingles and multiple sclerosis. It has also been utilised to improve digestion, improve stress levels, improve the consumers overall mental health (particularly for those who struggle with depression or anxiety, and even to help people with sleep difficulties (insomnia). Although, there is limited (but increasing) scientific evidence to support many of the therapeutic claims held there is no denying this herb holds with it a long history and carries within it a high nutritional value which should not be overlooked. Oat straw is rich in:
Calcium - HIGH CONTENT – 41% of your Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) in less than ¼ cup
Iron – roughly 8% RDI from a cup
Zinc – Trace amounts only
Vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B9 (folate), D, E, & A.
Dietary fibre – HIGH CONTENT – roughly 70% of your RDI in less than ¼ cup
Sodium – roughly 20% RDI from a cup
Phosphorus – roughly 32% of your RDI in a cup
Manganese – roughly 4% of the RDI in a cup
Magnesium – (HIGH CONTENT – roughly 85% RDI from less than ¼ cup)
Chromium – (HIGH CONTENT – roughly 92% RDI from less than ¼ a cup)
The nutritional contents also contain trace amounts of silicon (2.8mg in a cup) and potassium (8% RDI in a cup). Furthermore, the high content of chromium in Oat Straw is believed to assist in the maintenance of healthy blood sugar levels while the steroidal compounds within this herb are believed to assist with digestive issues, organ support (particularly the pancreas and liver),and mood stabilisation. For those who struggle with eating disorders, loss of appetite, or anxiety fuelled eating problems the oat straw is believed to fuel the desire to eat food which in turn supports the consumer to increase food consumption. In addition, the oatstraw has for many years been used as a nervous system restorative agent and to help support effective functioning of the brain by improving alertness, clearing thoughts and improving cognition in the consumer.