Common name: Wild oats
Botanical name: Avena sativa
© Steven Foster
The common oat used in herbal supplements and foods is derived from cultivated sources. For some 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 have been used in connection with the following conditions (refer to the individual health concern for complete information):
|Science Ratings||Health Concerns|
and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support and/or minimal health benefit.
In folk medicine, oats are used by herbalists to treat nervous exhaustion, insomnia, and “weakness of the nerves.” A tea made from oats was thought by herbalists 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.
The fruits (seeds) contain alkaloids, such as gramine and avenine, and 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 the relaxing action of oats, but it should be noted this continues to be debated in Europe. The German Commission E does not approve this herb as a sedative.3 However, an alcohol-based tincture of the fresh plant has reportedly shown some promise in countering nicotine withdrawal and helping with smoking cessation.4
A tea can be made from a heaping tablespoonful (approximately 15 grams) of oats brewed with 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water. After cooling and straining, the tea can be taken several times a day and shortly before going to bed.5 As a tincture, oats are often taken at 1/2–1 teaspoon (3–5 ml) three times per day. Capsules or tablets, 1–4 grams per day, can be taken. A soothing bath to ease irritated skin can be made by running the bath water through a sock containing several tablespoons of oats, then bathing in the water for several minutes.
Oats are not associated with any adverse effects.
At the time of writing, there were no well-known drug interactions with oats.
1. Weiss RF. Herbal Medicine. Gothenburg, Sweden: Ab Arcanum, 1988, 287–8.
2. Mills SY. Out of the Earth: The Essential Book of Herbal Medicine. Middlesex, UK: Viking Arcana, 1991, 510–2.
3. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 96–8.
4. Anand CL. Effect of Avena sativa on cigarette smoking. Nature 1974;233:496.
5. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 96–8.
Copyright © 2007 Healthnotes, Inc. All rights reserved. www.healthnotes.com
Learn more about Healthnotes, the company.
Learn more about the authors of Healthnotes.
The information presented in Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires September 2008.