Avena sativa


Oats are highly nourishing, revitalizing, restorative and rejuvenating. Ancient legend says that Gaia herself was weaned on the milk of this flowering plant. And, this may not be far from the truth. Residues of Avena have been found on grinding tools found at the Grotta Paglicci, in Southern Italia, dated to approximately 32,600 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic period. The inhabitants of Grotta Paglicci are currently the most ancient hunter–gatherers known to process plants to obtain flour. The evidence shows they also developed technologies for complex processing of the oat plant portions before grinding.

Oats are the seeds; oatstraw refers to the entire flowering herb, with unripe seed pods and stalks combined; and, milky oats refers to just the unripe seed pods. For herbal use the plant is harvested in the milky stage, when the unripe seed pods are most loaded with nutrients.

Pregnant women, nursing mothers, babies and growing children, women with busy lives and tight schedules, overworked and stressed-out men, all benefit from integrating all parts of the oat plant into their daily diets.

All parts of this common plant nourish and tone the nervous system and are excellent allies when dealing with depression. Milky oats/oatstraw is an energizer, but it does this cumulatively, building energy slowly and consistently by deeply nourishing the entire body. It alleviates both physical and nervous fatigue. Taken before bed, milky oats infusion supports deep refreshing sleep.

Offering the most magnesium of almost any other plant, oats also contain abundant chromium, sodium, silicon, calcium, iron, niacin, phosphorus, riboflavin and selenium. Oats are a source of vitamin B complex, including folic acid, plus vitamins E, K, A and C, potassium and protein. Methods of use include daily consumption of 2-4 cups of oatstraw, infusion as a wash, or application of the warmed, moistened herb as a poultice. Over varicose veins, I always wash with an upward motion, so I follow the direction of blood flow to the heart. A warm oatstraw sitz bath is a comforting way to treat hemorrhoids.

Oats are well known as a love potion, probably due to their ability to nourish and strengthen the endocrine system and regulate hormones. Regular use of oats or milky oats infusion helps prevent prostate problems and "erectile dysfunction." Both help stabilize blood sugar levels, and have been used to nourish people with thyroid and estrogen deficiencies and degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis. Oatstraw/milky oats are fabulous for supporting anyone with debility.

All those B vitamins, plus calcium and magnesium, mean that oatstraw/milky oats are a supreme tonic for stabilizing emotions, balancing mood swings and helping to ease depression.

Oats are beneficial to the skin. I place dried oats into a small muslin cloth, wet it in warm water, and rub over my body to slough away dead skin and leave my skin glowing. This also helps relieve irritated skin conditions such as rash and eczema. Oatstraw/milky oats is a relaxing addition to any bath and also quite the beauty herb! I grind dried oats with almonds and clay, perhaps add some honey, and treat myself to a luxurious facial scrub.

Oats' benefits extend quite naturally to children. They taste delicious, are nerve soothing, calming, enhance focus and attentiveness and promote healthy growth of bones and muscles. A bowl of oat cereal or a cup of milky oats infusion is a great way for kids to start or end the day.

Known as Avena comune or biada, in Southern Italia, oats are threshed and ground into flour and used as a poultice to ease the pain of lumbago. The same effect is obtained by applying warm toasted seeds, put into a small cloth bag, on the affected parts.

Flower Essence Oat flower essence brings a feeling of stability during times of uncertainty and dissatisfaction.

Magical Lore In Scandinavian countries, people tie a bundle of oats to hang by the door for prosperity. Old wives suggest keeping a few oats in a magical bag for a prosperous life full of deep satisfaction.

Culture Oats are very easy to grow in ordinary garden soil. Sowing oats is one of our annual spring rituals; we have always made it a family affair. I love working up that first patch of soil, the rhythm of throwing seeds from bucket to earth, the sway of our bodies, the sparks of life force flowing from our hands, and the kids playing. In no time, the oat seeds have sprouted, grown green and thick, and then become tall and graceful. Next, we hear the gentle rattle of oat flowers in the breeze as they sing us to the harvest.

Oats are magic and I'm certain you'll want to plant some. We use ordinary oat seeds, the same seed that we would feed our ponies, and sow them very thickly so there's no room for weeds. Oats like to grow this way. A handful of seed thrown into a pot makes a magical, nourishing, sweet and soothing container garden for a city dweller. Do open your wild heart to gentle, restorative oats.

We gather our oats while the seeds are in the milky stage. At some point between the time the flowers emerge and the seeds harden, squeeze a plump bud and out will ooze a thick, sweet, white sap that tastes a bit like mothers' milk. This is the optimum time for harvest. For oatstraw we cut oat stalks as far down as they are green, then lay them out on screens, hang them in bunches, or make them into sheaves like the old-timers did. For milky oats we hand strip each flowering top, letting them fall into our waiting basket. We lay milky oats out on screens to dry, or tincture them immediately in alcohol or vinegar, sometimes right in the field!

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