Introducing...Avena Sativa!
by Gillian Nye

(as published in The Lighthouse Peddler, June 2011)

Heading towards Summer Solstice, days are lengthening and we humans have more time to do more each day! With this comes expanded inspiration, energy, and the need for balance as we figure out our personal recipe for happiness.

The synchronicity of nature is striking here as Oatstraw, the lovely Avena Sativa, becomes prime for harvest in the fields along the coast, the river, and especially throughout the hills of Sonoma county. Just as we may be feeling that we need a bit of support to keep up with all the things we so eagerly started in early spring, Oatstraw reminds us that “yes we can!”

Oatstraw is a truly amazing plant, feeding the body and the soul with it's nutritive and nervine qualities. The Oatstraw herb includes the green stalk, leaves and grain. The most medicinal are the green stalk and the milky, flowering tips, though oats themselves have been used for years to nourish people in times of illness, soothe irritated skin in a bath, and bring calm to an upset digestive system.

Oatstraw is sweet and nutritious, and is a primary herb for nervous exhaustion. Oatstraw benefits in states of depression, anxiety, inability to concentrate, melancholy, and weakness. It is a great tonic herb, can be taken over long periods of time and is safe for all ages!

Oats are high in iron, manganese, zinc, calcium, magnesium, and potassium (to name just a few of their vital mineral properties) and are ideal for people healing from chronic or debilitating illness. They are readily assimilated, mild to taste, and combine well with many other herbs, making them a perfect added bonus to tea blends! This is important because no “dis-ease” can be treated until we calm the nervous system and and open the receptors towards healing.

When I think of Oatstraw, the image of the oat grasses waving in the wind comes to mind and the idea that the plant “soothes the frayed ends”. There is a concept of the Doctrine of Signatures in herbalogy, with the idea that plants present themselves visually in a way that represents their medicinal qualities. Mullein for instance, is a prime respiratory herb, and presents itself long and tall like a spine, with the leaves branching off like our lungs. Oatstraw presents with the grassy ends at the tip of the plant, representing the ends of our nerves and the plant treats and feeds those nerves, replenishing the reserves of our bodies over time.

Oatstraw also works with the heart, clearing cholesterol from the blood vessels and lowering cholesterol levels. Drinking Oatstraw daily can help to support and rebuild the heart muscles and circulatory vessels, also easing heart spasms and palpitations. Oatstraw strenghtens the adrenals, helping to build energy, immunity, diminish allergies and bring hormonal balance to men and women. Oatstraw became a movie star when, in Woody Allen's Harold and Maude, Maude offered Harold some Oatstraw tea. The insinuation was that the tea is an aphrodisiac....this is true, although the plant is considered to be a mild sexual stimulant compared to some of the true love potion herbs. Oatstraw works around to sensual uplifting however, in that it calms the body and mind, opening the pathways to heightened desire and stimulates the nerves, thus making our senses more excitable!

A truly amazing and easy plant, Oatstraw is a great herbal ally to celebrate this summer, so go on and feel your wild oats!