Common name: Milky oats
Other names: Oat seed (not to be confused with oat straw or oat leaf)
Latin name: Avena sativa
Affinity: Nervous system
Actions: Nervine tonic, sedative, nervine trophorestorative, antidepressant
Diseases: Anxiety(3), stress(3), insomnia(3), depression(3), mood swings(3)
Parts used: Milky oat seed when ripe
Characteristics: Oats is an annual grass that has been cultivated for over 5000 years and while the mature seed is commonly eaten as a food, the immature seed is used as a medicine (Singh et al., 2013). Oats is commonly cultivated in Northern American and Europe, but also in Russia and China. For just one week of the growing cycle of oats, the developing oat seed is filled with fresh white milk. If the undried seeds are harvested quickly and made into tincture, they make an excellent nervine trophorestorative agent (Winston, 2007).
History: Oat seed has a deep history of traditional use with both Eclectic and Ayurvedic physicians using it as a nerve tonic, cardiac, antispasmodic, and antidepressant (Hechtman, 2013; Singh et al., 2013). Oats also has a tradition of medicinal use in Europe, making its medicinal origins difficult to pinpoint (Leporatti et al., 2003).
Current applications: David Winston states fresh milky oats is, ‘the greatest nervous system trophorestorative’ (Winston, 2007). Trophorestorative refers to a food to nourish a particular organ or tissue, in this case, the nervous system. It is a slow acting tonic medicine that acts to calm shattered nerves, stabilise emotions, and reduce symptoms of drug withdrawal. It is used in women with premenstrual syndrome, menopausal anxiety, and mood swings and can be applied here alongside adaptogenic herbs.
Science: Avena sativa seeds are rich in important nutrients such as vitamins B1, B2, E, A, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, and manganese (Singh et al., 2013). The reason for the potent medicinal properties of fresh milky oats may be related to the high vitamin B content of the fresh seeds. B vitamins are an essential nutritive support for the nervous system (Prickett et al., 1934). Although there are no human studies on Avena sativa seeds, there is one study published in Nature that used Avena sativa fresh leaf and found it helpful in withdrawing smokers from nicotine addiction (Anand, 1971). The author claims to have obtained from remedy from an Ayurvedic physician in India who used Avena sativa for treating individuals addicted to opium.
Safety: Oat seed tincture is safe including for pregnant and breast feeding women.
Dosage: 2-5ml of tincture two or three times daily.
Brands: In the U.K., we recommend the company Viridian. In the U.S.A, we recommend the company Herb Pharm.
Anti-oxidant activity: Oat seeds have found to contain avenanthramides, compounds with free radical scavenging activity (Singh et al., 2013).
Research on humans
Nicotine addiction: This study was using tincture extracted from fresh leaf, but these data imply Avena sativa is useful in nicotine withdrawal (Anand, 1971).
Anand, C. L. “Effect of Avena sativa on cigarette smoking.” Nature 233.5320 (1971): 496-496.
Hechtman, Leah. Clinical naturopathic medicine. Elsevier Health Sciences, 2013.
Leporatti, Maria Lucia, and Stephanie Ivancheva. “Preliminary comparative analysis of medicinal plants used in the traditional medicine of Bulgaria and Italy.” Journal of ethnopharmacology 87.2 (2003): 123-142.
Prickett, C. O. “The effect of a deficiency of vitamin B1 upon the central and peripheral nervous systems of the rat.” American Journal of Physiology–Legacy Content 107.2 (1934): 459-470.
Singh, Rajinder, Subrata De, and Asma Belkheir. “Avena sativa (Oat), a potential neutraceutical and therapeutic agent: an overview.” Critical reviews in food science and nutrition 53.2 (2013): 126-144.
Winston, David, and Steven Maimes. Adaptogens: herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Inner Traditions/Bear & Co, 2007.