Latin name: Avena sativa
Common name(s): Milky Oat, Oat Straw
Plant family: Poaceae (grass family)
Plant Type: Grass
Planetary Association: Milky Oat is ruled by the Moon and the Air element. Astrologically this plant is related to the fixed air sign of Aquarius and can be a powerful remedy for Gemini's sensitive nervous systems.
The milky latex that oozes from the immature seed is a strong signifier of lunar rulership. The colour white, moisture and restorative qualities are all lunar concepts. We see that this plant is antipathetic to secondary ruler of Aquarius, meaning its energy and effect is opposite of Aquarian energy. Making this a perfect remedy for those with an excess of air.
Parts used: Stem/ stalk, can be fresh or dried. Fresh seed - before maturation during latex producing phase. The white goo is the latex of the plant, and is only preserved in fresh tincture preparations.
Habitat: Native to Europe, this is a widely cultivated plant in temperate regions
Folklore: Avena: Latin avēna, meaning oats – ultimately from the Sanskrit av, to satisfy oneself. sativa: Cultivated.
Nervous system trophorestorative, Thymoleptic (mild anti-depressant), Nutritive tonic, Demulcent, Vulnerary
Taste: Sweet, slightly salty. The salty taste in medical herbalism denotes mineral content. Not always tasting salty in the mouth.
Uses: This plant is one of the most relevant plants of our time. For the reason that it is more like a food plant. Having a gentle but powerful effect on the nervous system and skin. So many people in the Western world are dealing with chronic stress and nervous system dysregulation. Our society is full of constant stimulation and the nervous system rarely gets a break from sensory input. Having Milky oat tincture as part of your regimen softens the effect of overstimulation and repairs burnout and frayed nerves.
Milky oat is very neutral, making it useful for all constitutions.
Here are the most common conditions Milky Oat is used to treat:
Exhaustion, multiple sclerosis, vata & pitta constitutional types, anxiety, mild depression, chronic stress, poor concentration & memory, addiction (spedcifically tobacco and stimulants), Alzheimer's, chronic neuralgia, eczema, PTSD, ADHD.
Nervous System Trophorestorative
The main quality Milky Oat is used for is as a nervous system trophorestorative. A trophorestorative is nourishing and strengthening to a specific organ or system of the body. A true trophorestorative will restore function to a tissue or organ that has been damaged or exhausted. An important distinction needs to be made between adaptogens and trophorestoratives, they are not the same. In our practice we think of adaptogens as energy credit cards, they prolong your energy and minimize the stress response. This is only for a limited amount of time; and then you have to “pay back” your body with rest, nourishment and recuperation. This is where trophorestoratives are so valuable, they are actually addressing the root of the issue by tonifying the organ system and rebuilding tissues, not providing a band-aid solution.
We live in a time where most of us are living in a sympathetic (cortisol) dominated state. Our jobs are stressful, we are moving quickly through life and trying to check all the boxes on our to-do lists. As Sajah Popham says “this is one of the most culturally indicated plant medicines for our time”. This is such a powerful statement and speaks to the culturally accepted amount of stress that we live with. A lot of people are feeling the effects of this cultural norm and the nervous system often suffers as a result. At a time where herbal adaptogens are being mass marketed to us as a “cure all” for stress and the maladies that result from chronic stress; we need to change our perspective on how to cope with this. Taking adaptogens can be very useful; but they are not a remedy for depleted states.
Milky Oat is a soothing nervine and the rich mineral content and latex work on the physical tissues of our nerves. Taking the tincture has an almost instant calming effect; you may feel as though it is coating your nervous system. We love this plant because it is not sedating or stimulating, the effect is fairly neutral; making it suitable for most constitutions. Think of this plant medicine as food for the nerves and the stressed out state; in fact oats are a very nourishing food!
Skin / Connective Tissue
The demulcent and moistening qualities coupled with the mineral content has a rebuilding effect on skin, hair, nails and connective tissue (ligaments, tendons, fascia). This plant contains a lot of silica, vitamin E & B complex. These actions can help soothe itchiness and eczema.
Think of the latex as something that nourishes the “squishy” parts of the body.
There have been a few studies on Milky Oat helping with tobacco addiction and the cessation of smoking cigarettes. This plant will not help your willpower, rather it will decrease the symptoms of withdrawal and the anxiety associated with it. In a randomized placebo-controlled study people who were given a fresh milky oat extract achieved a significant reduction in tobacco use and the reduction was still being observed 2 months later. (Geckeler K et al Munch med Wochenschr 116 (11):581-582, 1974)
Milky oat is also specifically indicated for those who use stimulant based substances like cocaine, amphetamines, and caffeine. These substances often lead to a lack of sleep and a lowered sleep quality. If this is something you deal with please take some Milky Oat and use our Knockout tincture for better sleep quality, which you can find HERE
Preparations & Dosage: The only way to preserve the milky latex is to use a tincture of the fresh tops. You can make tea from the dried tops and stalks, they are still nourishing to the nervous system, although to a lesser degree. Using Milky Oat topically in baths is a wonderful way to soothe inflamed skin conditions.
Tincture 20-125ml / wk of a 1:3
Cautions: No known contraindications or herb-drug interactions.
Fun Fact: Oat straw was used to fill mattresses, and had a positive effect on those suffering from rheumatism (arthritic conditions).
Our favorite way to use:
Making a milky oat mocktail! This year we have been offering our first alcohol free tincture, A Milky Oat glycerite. The glycerine makes it a sweet delicious treat. We have to admit, it does look a little a cocktail that would be served in Shrek's swamp; or maybe a milky green crystal if you are optimistic. We promise it tastes amazing and you'll feel instantly calmed.
Here is the recipe:
1-2tsp milky oat glycerite or tincture
1 can of bubbly water - we prefer limoncello la croix
squeeze of lemon juice & slice of lemon to garnish
Hoffmann, David. Medical Herbalism: the Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Healing Arts Press, 2003.
Popham, Sajah. “Milky Oats - Avena Sativa.” Www.evolutionaryherbalism.com, 2018.
“Trophorestorative Herbs.” Herbpathy, herbpathy.com/Action-of-Trophorestorative-Cid658.