Oats are a remarkably versatile food: they are nourishing for children, adults and the elderly, the healthy, the ill and the convalescing. Thanks to their impressive nutritional profile —high in protein, calcium and other minerals, while lowering cholesterol — they have been riding a wave of popularity in recent years in forms such as steel-cut oats, overnight oats, fermented oats, smoothie bowls and more.
But did you know that the rest of the oat plant has a whole other range of health benefits?
It is only the seed of Avena sativa that gets hulled, rolled and turned into oat flakes or flour. If you can get hold of the young stems of a fresh plant, they can be juiced for a vitamin and anti-oxidant boost.
The dried stalks, which are called oat straw, can be made into teas, tinctures, infusions and other herbal remedies. Oat straw has a mild, slightly sweet taste as a tea. For me it has an immediate comforting effect. Intuitively, the words that come to mind when I feel into the plant's energy are "simplicity" and "acceptance".
Calming and soothing, oat straw tea can help with managing stress, anxiety and depression. It is also useful for insomnia.
Oat straw infusions — letting the straw sit for several hours or overnight — are being used increasingly for digestive issues such as IBS.
One of the traditional medicinal uses for oat extract (likely in the form of a tincture) was as a nutritive tonic, to build up a weakened constitution after someone had had an illness or was withdrawing from a drug addiction. Apparently this started with opium in the 19th century, but it seems like an idea worth rediscovering in our time.
My favourite oat straw tea blend is to combine a teaspoonful of oat straw, rose petals and chamomile in a cafetière or tea ball and infuse for about 5 minutes. It is uplifting and grounding at the same time. An ideal evening tea, I call it "beautiful dreamer blend" when I make up batches for friends.