Wild oat (Avena sativa) is a member of the grass family native to Scotland. There are approximately 25 varieties of the oat plants, and oat is now grown throughout the world. Avena sativa is the species that is used in herbal remedies. The mature seed of the oat plant is used as a cereal grain. However, much of the plant is used to maintain good health and to remedy disease conditions.
Before maturity oat seeds are in a liquid phase, and they are collected for use in tonics that treat nervous conditions. Wild oat is usually in this stage for two weeks during August.
The seeds mature in the late summer and early fall. If harvested then, the seeds are rolled or ground into oatmeal. If the seeds aren't harvested at that time, they are referred to as groats.
Once the seeds are harvested, the straw from the plant can be cut up and brewed as oatstraw tea. And the husks surrounding the seeds are used as oat bran.
The only part of this grain that is not used in alternative medicine is the root.
Wild oat is also known as oat, groats, oatstraw, and straw.
Avena sativa is Latin for wild oat, a name that does not provide the complete picture of this grain's use in alternative and conventional medicine. The old saying "sowing your wild oats" is based on the observation that stallions given wild oat experienced greater sex drives. Wild oat was thought to have the same effect on men, although that has never been scientifically proven. Nevertheless, dietary supplements containing wild oats are still advertised and sold as boosting the male sex drive.
Wild oat may not be an aphrodisiac or a means of promoting fertility, but the grain has numerous other health benefits.
In the past, people recovering from illnesses ate oatmeal because it was easily digested. Doctors advised overworked people to drink a beverage consisting of wine and oats. The drink was said to restore nervous energy. Oatmeal also served as a treatment for skin conditions.
In contemporary times, oatmeal is acknowledged as a rich source of bran and fiber. The grain is associated with treating high cholesterol. Whole oat products with at least 0.02 oz (0.75 g) of soluble fiber in each serving can reduce the risk of heart disease. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed manufacturers to make that statement, and add that the fiber product must be part of a diet that is low in cholesterol and saturated fat. A study published in the summer of 2002 reported that oat cereal is superior to wheat cereal in lowering LDL cholesterol levels in adult males.
A new use for the beta-glucans (complex carbohydrates) contained in oats is in the manufacture of functional foods for the management of Type 2 (adult-onset) diabetes. Functional foods are a relatively recent category of foods. They are not currently defined by any government regulatory body, but are commonly understood to be any potentially healthful food or food ingredient that may provide health benefits beyond the traditional nutrients it contains. Functional foods are sometimes called nutraceuticals.
Oat fiber is also used as a substrate, or growing medium, for Lactobacillus and other bacteria that are introduced into the digestive tract of patients suffering from severe infections of the pancreas. The "good" bacteria in the intestines help the body to fight off infections elsewhere in the digestive system. The oat fiber provides the bacteria with nourishment without causing any side effects to the patient.
Furthermore, pregnant women can benefit from the calcium and other trace nutrients found in oat straw.
Wild oat is recognized as a natural antidepressant and a mild sedative. It acts like a tonic to the nervous system, providing both nourishment and balance. Oat tea or an oat Bach flower remedy is used as a nervine (preparation given to calm the nerves).
In these capacities, wild oat can be used to treat conditions including headaches, depression, tension, insomnia, anxiety, and feelings of sadness. Wild oat is also a remedy for nerve pain and chronic fatigue.
An oatmeal pack may be used to treat skin conditions. The oatmeal facial is a popular treatment for promoting smoother skin because the textured oat sloughs off dead skin when used as a mask or scrub. An oatstraw bath can provide more relief for skin conditions and neuralgia.
Wild oat is also believed to help with nicotine withdrawal, a remedy recommended by German doctors. The wild oat extract is said to be effective when used for this purpose, and oat cereal is also said to be helpful.
Wild oat is available in various forms and is used in various alternative medicine traditions such as homeopathy. Commercial preparations include oatstraw tea, tincture, and the wild oat Bach flower remedy (a liquid concentrate called a stock). The packaged oatmeal sold in the grocery store can also be used for treatments.
Wild oat tea, which is also known as an infusion, is made by pouring 1 c (240 ml) of boiling water over 1–3 tsp (1.5–3 g) of the dried straw. The mixture is steeped for 10–15 minutes and then strained. Wild oat tea should be drunk three times a day.
When wild oat tincture is used, the dosage is 1 oz (1 mL) taken three times a day.
A flower remedy
Flower remedies are liquid concentrates made by soaking flowers in spring water. Also known as flower essences, 38 remedies were developed by homeopathic physician Edward Bach during the 1930s. Bach's wild oat remedy is taken to resolve conditions such as career anxiety and uneasiness about a lack of direction or commitment.
The daily dosage of the Bach wild oat flower remedy is 2–4 drops (1/8–1/4 ml) taken four times each day. The drops can be placed under the tongue or added to a glass of water. Another remedy is to add some stock to the bath water.
An oatstraw bath can provide relief for irritated skin and neuralgia. A bath is prepared by boiling 1 lb (500 g) of shredded oatstraw in 2 qt (0.95 L) of water. After boiling for 20 minutes, this mixture is strained and used in the bath. Another option is to place cooked rolled oats in a bag and the bag is put in the bath.
Wild oat has not been associated with any health risks when taken in proper dosages, according to Physician's Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines, the 1998 book based on the findings of Germany's Commission E. The commission is the German counterpart of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The European group's findings about herbal remedies were published in a 1997 monograph.
However, people diagnosed with gluten sensitivity (celiac disease) should consult with a doctor or health practitioner to determine if they can safely take wild oat internally.
There are no known side effects associated with designated dosages of wild oat.
There are no known interactions associated with the use of wild oat and other medications or herbs.
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Rebecca J. Frey, PhD