Native to the warm Mediterranean regions, oats have been cultivated for thousands of years as a source of food and folk remedies. Today, the oat plant (Avena sativa) is most famous for the nutritious cereal grain that it provides--think morning oatmeal.
The herb known as oat straw refers to the whole plant, including the leaves and stems. These parts of the plant are dried and chopped, and used in both internal and external forms by traditional herbalists. The grain itself is harvested in late summer, and milled to produce oatmeal and oatbran. Oatmeal, the ground grain, has a high silica content, and can be used externally for skin problems. Oat bran, produced from the coarse husks of the grain, is helpful for reducing cholesterol levels.
In traditional medicine, oat straw is used in various forms (liquid extracts, tinctures, and teas being the most popular) to treat a number of ailments, including arthritis and rheumatism; it's also taken as a diuretic tea to combat fluid retention. It is a concentrated source of silica (silicon dioxide), which among dozens of other functions is key to the development of healthy skin, hair, nails, and bones.
Some sources also recommend oat straw for treating shingles, herpes infections, and addictions. In Europe today, herbalists and alternative health practitioners prescribe oat straw extracts and tinctures as nerve tonics for weakened constitutions, for example. Many regard it as an excellent tonic for the whole body, and valuable for bolstering physical and emotional fatigue, from mild insomnia to anxiety. While the herb has been popular for these uses, there have been no clinical studies to verify these effects. Oat straw抯 soundest reputation by far is as a topical remedy for irritated and inflamed dry skin
Soothe itchy skin. Oat straw has rich emollient qualities due to its high gluten and mucilage content. Tinctures, liquid extracts, creams (available in Great Britain), and cooled oat straw tea compresses can be applied topically to sooth dry, itchy, irritated skin. A fine powder milled from the dried oat straw is also popular as a bath additive. The German government has officially approved of oat straw products for these purposes. A related product made from the same plant, called colloidal oatmeal, is widely used in the United States for rashes and itchy skin conditions such as sunburn and shingles.
Promote nail health. As a concentrated source of silica, oat straw supplements and herbal tea (as well as oatmeal) may help to strengthen nails that are cracking or splitting. Silica is a key ingredient in nails.
Help smokers quit. Several small studies in the 1970s suggested that oat straw liquid extract might help tobacco users kick the habit by easing withdrawal from nicotine. One study even reported success in using oat straw to treat opium addiction. Well-designed follow-up trials have failed to reproduce these successful results, however. In other words, its effectiveness for tobacco withdrawal purposes remains unclear.
For healthy nails: In addition to eating oatmeal for breakfast, make an oat straw tea by placing a heaping tablespoon of dried herb in up to 9 fluid ounces (1/4 litre, or a little over a cup) of water, and bring to a boil. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, and strain. Drink a cup of the tea (unsweetened or only slightly sweetened), several times a day as desired. Alternatively, place 1 teaspoon liquid extract into 1/4 cup water and drink the mixture twice a day.
For itchy skin, as a bath additive: Boil 3.5 ounces of chopped oat straw in 3 quarts of for 20 minutes. Then add to warm bath water.
For tobacco withdrawal, mix 1 teaspoon liquid extract into 1/4 cup water and drink three times a day.
When using oat powder in your bath, avoid contact with eyes and acutely inflamed areas.
There are no known drug or nutrient interactions associated with oat straw.
Some people may have allergic skin reactions (contact dermatitis) to oat flour. If this is true for you, avoid oat straw.
If you have celiac disease, avoid ingesting oats or oat straw preparations; they contain gluten.