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Milky Oats vs Oatstraw & Oatmeal

One question I get a lot is “Are Milky oats the same as Oatstraw, oat groats or oatmeal?” The short answer is - not really. When you look into the Materia Medica of Oats (Avena sativa) you’ll notice the details below but:

  • Parts Used – stems, seeds flowers
  • Energetics - moist, neutral temperature
  • Taste – salty
  • Plant properties - relaxing nervine, nutritive
  • Plant Uses - nervous system exhaustion or burnout, drug withdrawal, reproductive health, nourishment for bones, hair, teeth and nails
  • Plant Preparations - dried oatstraw in a decoction or nourishing infusion, fresh milky oats extracted in alcohol, dried oats made into oatmeal or baked goods, dried oats used topically

When we refer to “Milky oats” we are referring to the immature oat seed heads while they are in the juicy (“milky”) stage. If you are a gardener then think of your Okra plants. You need to visit them daily to catch the fruit just at the perfect size. Milky oats are similar in that they have a very short stage of growth. You’ll need to visit the plant daily as the seed heads mature so that you can catch them at the right time.

How do you know when they are ready?

When you squeeze the seed and a milky substance appears, this is the milky stage. As herbalists, we harvest these seeds (not the stalks) and immediately extract them with alcohol to preserve that milky essence. When you visit various apothecaries or shops you can find oats in both bulk herb and tincture sections but this is where the confusion surrounding the use of Avena sativa sets in.

Are milky oats the same as oatstraw?

Sometimes you will see dried immature seed heads sold as “milky oats” but now that you know what to look for, you’ll learn that the dried oat straw is used very differently than the fresh alcohol extract.

Moving on to “Oatstraw”, this can be harvested at any stage of plant growth, including during the “milky” stage. The entire stalk, including the seed heads, is harvested and then dried. This green and fibrous material is rich in minerals, especially those that are important for both the nervous system and the integumentary system (hair, bones, teeth, nails).

According to Nutritional Herbology (packed the book or I’d show it to you), dried oatstraw is high in calcium, magnesium, chromium, niacin, and silicon. The best way to extract these minerals is by decoction rather than infusion. A decoction is when we simmer the herbs in water for 20 minutes or longer. This was one of the herbs I used to have in our now archived “Healthy Heart Tea” but since decocting takes too much time for us Type A’s lol - we now have a new Heartfelt Relief Tea that can be infused

A fresh milky oats alcohol extract is a soothing restorative to the nervous system. “Milky oats people” as those whose nervous systems are fried or for people who have been “going, going, going” for far too long. “Type A burnout” similar to what we talked about last week when we discussed linden. You may have heard me mention David Winston, an amazing herbalist, and he describes the “depleted or drained” as someone who is emotionally brittle due to chronic stress and recommends using milky oats alongside adaptogens.

Another indication I like to keep in mind is for those who are not only “fried” and “burned out” but also running on the Dry side. Dry skin or mucus membranes may accompany this stressful state of depletion. Those with a Vata constitution are a little different but would definitely benefit from Milky oats.

Although Milky oats is a wonderful in so many ways, she also offers more subtle healing, especially for those who are going through addiction withdrawal or trying to quit smoking. You’ll find it in formulas dedicated to this very purpose too

From David Winston:

“[Fresh milky oats] is the finest nervous system trophorestorative in the materia medica. It gently and gradually helps restore nervous system balance, reducing anxiety, irritability, reactivity, and emotional lability. It is very useful for children or adults with ADHD (be sure to check for gluten sensitivity first), for drug withdrawal (opiates, cigarettes, alcohol, amphetamines, ecstasy), anxiety, and anxious depression.”

Such a powerful plant and to think that we can actually grow this in our own gardens! Depending on where you live of course =)

To bring it all together and to extract the best medicine, Milky Oats need alcohol and Dried Oatstraw requires decoction. Milky oats has a more immediate effect and is considered more specific to people who are going through acute nervous exhaustion. The effects of milky oats are felt shortly after regular dosing, usually within a few days or a week. Keep in mind though, extracts in general do not contain a lot of minerals and would not be used to support the body in that way.

Dried oatstraw, however, is prepared as a decoction. This method retains the minerals and supports both long term nervous system health as well as help to strengthen bones, hair, teeth, and nails. The best results are found through using it for several months to several years. It all depends on the person, health and desire to continue decocting Oatstraw.

Now Oatmeal is a whole new ball game and who doesn’t love oatmeal! When prepared as a gruel, oatmeal is also wonderfully demulcent. That slimy/ gooey part that is in your oatmeal has long been recommended as a soothing food for those with digestive troubles. Anything from constipation to diarrhea to ulcers! Caution for those with celiac disease though. Oats are considered a good source of soluble fiber, fat, and protein. Many people also use oats and oatmeal topically to soothe inflamed and sensitive skin conditions. You’ll find in lotions, soaps and poultices

Cautions:

  • Oatmeal may not be best for those with Insulin Resistance or Type 2 Diabetes as it can raise blood sugar.
  • Oats should probably be avoided by those with celiac disease (gluten-free oats may be tolerated).
  • There is also a possible reaction with those who have non-celiac gluten sensitivity.
  • This may be due to similar proteins found in wheat (gliadin) and oats (avenin).
  • OR, the two grains are often grown in rotation in the same fields and processed in the same facilities, leading to the oats becoming contaminated with wheat/gluten.

To watch the LIVE video click here 

Hopefully you’ve learned a little something about Oats <3

Loving you all,

Emily

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