Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Meet Avena sativa – Oatstraw


Meet Avena sativa – Oatstraw

Family: Poaceae (AKA Gramineae or “true grasses.”)

Avena is a genus of some 30+ species, commonly called oats, which have been cultivated for thousands of years for food for two and four leggeds.

Parts used: Aerial parts – dried stems and leaves, flower bud (milky tops), seed (grain).

Harvest: Milky oats, oat straw, oats. Harvest the tops and you’ll get subsequent harvests.

Taste: Bland and sweet.

Humors: Moist and cool.

Actions: Nutritive, nervine, relaxant (some say sedative) - one that can enhance alertness (so it’s sometimes seen classified as stimulant – because of its nutritional actions), emollient, demulcent, rejuvenative, tonic (to the endocrine system, with an affinity to the adrenals, esp. in milky form, and to the digestive system and the integumentary system). It is sometimes noted as adaptogenic, antidepressant, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, anti-tumor/cancer, diuretic, neurotonic. It’s credited with reducing cholesterol levels and so is considered supportive to circulatory functioning.

Composition: Hollow stems, plugged at intervals with leaf-bearing nodes. Leaves are usually alternate with parallel veins. The leaves are often hardened with a form of silica making them stiff, rough, and sometimes sharp, which discourages foraging and grazing. The flowers are most often arranged in spikelets and are usually hermaphroditic (possessing male and female components and self-pollinating), with the exception of maize, which is anemophilous (wind pollinated). The fruit is called a caryopsis, meaning a simple fruit, one that we call grain.

Constituents: Carbohydrates, silicic acid, protein, flavinoids, saponins, alkaloids, and more. Rich in calcium and other minerals and vitamins too.

Contraindications: None, unless you are allergic oats, celiac, sensitive to gluten. So far, both research and experience demonstrate that gluten sensitivities aren’t triggered by using oat straw on the skin.

With respect to gluten, Henriette Kress says it best: “While oats doesn't by itself contain gluten, "normal" oats usually contain minute amounts of glutenous grains. This could be because of crop circulation (growing one grain after another means that some of last years crop will grow this year as well), because of the harvesters and grain storage not being completely cleaned between crops, or because the mill doesn't take care to clean out all gluten-containing grains. Whichever it is, gluten-sensitives do well to avoid "normal" oats.”

Some say Avena should be avoided during pregnancy and while breast-feeding, though this seems counter intuitive and intellectually contrary to me.

Medicinal use: Rich in calcium, phosphorus, and potassium and other nutrients, oats are good Food and Food is Good Medicine. Oats offer respectable nutrition and help to nourish the debilitated nervous system. As a nutritive herb, it is rich in silica, carotenes, and folic acid and is a good source of antioxidants and chlorogenic (phenolic/protective) acids.

Often referred to as an adrenal tonic by contemporary herbalists, it has proven itself, time and again, as a reliable ally for those who are exhausted and for convalescence. I’ve found it to be a sound ally during times of mental/emotional/physical stress, especially when tied to grief.

Addiction, anxiety, depression, exhaustion, nervous tension, stress and all similar conditions we understand and experience show how oats (as Food, water infusion, vinegar infusion, tincture and talisman) act as a strengthening tonic for mind and heart (and then some).

Oats are soothing & nourishing, used internally and externally, helping to calm pain from damaged nerves and to nourish the regeneration of damaged bones, lung, and muscles, and generally support healthy tissue growth throughout the body.

Nervous System: Avena is sometimes referred to as a nerve tonic, though I find that the references to “nerve tonic” point not to the physical aspect, but rather to the subtle associations of the nervous system … such as insomnia, depression and anxiety. I’ve found it, in all its forms, from tea to tincture, to subdue irritability and the resulting behaviors. Know what I mean?

Renal System: Oats are credited with prevention of scrofula, prevention of gravel and stones in the bladder and kidneys, clearing to urinary congestion. This sings the song of Food as Medicine to me.

Integumentary & Skeletal Systems:  Oats support and strengthen the bones and tissues, including veins, strengthening their connective tissues & increasing their flexibility. Avena is cooling and soothing to dry, itchy skin. For years I used a long-brew infusion to add to my baths (and to sip while bathing) to manage my “winter skin” which was a significant challenge during my corporate days, working in those horrid-dry “environmentally controlled” buildings.

It’s a nutritive addition to the diet as it is rich in silica, which is necessary for building the outer layer of skin, hair and finger/toenails. Oats, in all forms can harmonize hormones, protect adrenal glands, support the thyroid, and improve the strength of veins. It’s also credited with powers to increase the libido, as any notable nutrient-rich Food/Medicine should! Oatstraw infusion can be an ally while taking the L Dexamethasone (Decadron), use to counter the side effects from chemotherapy, which can cause excessive energy followed by exhaustion. It’s supportive to many in easing hot flashes, frazzled nerves and other menopause “symptoms” (infusion or tincture: 25 gtt. bid). Micheal Moore lists: Angina pectoris, as an adjunct for fear of death, constant guarding against pain; Functional neurocirculatory disorders; To prevent anxieties when insomnia is feared; General insomnia in sthenic individuals; Narcolepsy; Menopause, with sense of pressure and pain in ovaries, uterus, sacrum, bladder with nervousness and sense of confusion; or with melancholia after hot flashes; Premenstrual syndrome (PMS), with easily startled disposition, easy adrenergic discharge, jumpy; Appetite poor, nervous, weak (with Trifolium); Hysteria with adrenergic-induced exhaustion.


Chakra association: I’ve not yet settled on a single chakra, as oats – in all of its parts – seem so supportive to us – in all of our parts – the whole body and being.

Culinary use: Nutritional infusions, Nutritional vinegars. All manner of cooking and baking. Oat straw as a Tisane/Tea.

resources:
David Hoffman, Medical Herbalism
David Winston, davidwinston.org
Guido Masé, aradicle.blogspot.com
Henriette Kress, Practical Herbs & henriettes-herb.com
Michael Moore, swsbm.com
Rosalee de la Foret, herbalremediesadvice.org
Susun Weed, multiple books
A Modern Herbal, by Mrs. Maude Grieve
Culpepper’s Complete Herbal
Wikipedia – for some of the botany descriptions
Personal notes from multiple sources
Personal experience


Dance with Avena sativa – Oatstraw

Avena Columbiana – a Central American stewed oatmeal beverage
2 servings
¼ c oats (cracked or rolled)
1 c water
1 cinnamon stick
1 clove (or more, to taste)
2-4 T sugar (to taste)
1 c milk

Combine the oats and the water in a pan, bring to a simmer, and adjust the heat to gently simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the cinnamon, clove, sugar and milk, bring up to heat and gently simmer another 20 minutes. You want the oats to be silky-soft.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool, remove the cinnamon and clove, then chill for (at least) a few hours.

In a blender, puree until smooth. Add water if too thick. Enjoy chilled, in a fine, stemmed glass.


Oat Tonic from Susun Weed
Nourishes and rehydrates
A little something extra for sick young ones, nauseated moms, those recovering from any gastro-intestinal problems, including surgery.
1 c oats
1 c water
1 t lemon juice (or vinegar)
1 t raw honey
1 t water
Pour boiling water over oats and let stand overnight. In the morning add remaining ingredients.
 Mix well, strain through a cloth. Take by the spoonful.

Nourishing Oatstraw Infusion
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the, from my perspective, most obvious dance… the nourishing oatstraw infusion, brewed in the Wise Woman tradition.

1 ounce (by weight) of oatstraw
1 quart of boiling water

Place your oatstraw in a quart vessel (I use a canning jar or one of my French presses), pour the hot water over the herb, give it a loving stir, lid it and let it steep 4-8 hours for a mineral rich – and quite tasty – beverage.

And so much more. Trust your Knowing and sense of Play - have fun and be well by Nature!

rose
Walk in the Woods, LLC
Whiting Mills
Winsted, Connecticut

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