Avena Sativa - Let It Be Good To You

It's a lovely sun drenched summer afternoon. My grandSun is napping on a makeshift pallet on the floor of the family room. Various birds are musically winding down from a day of doing birdy things.  I am sipping on a tall cool glass of

avena sativa

or oat straw infusion. I took a long walk earlier, trying to get myself back moving again, and I tell you what...I ache! At times like these I remember the blessing that is oat straw.

Oat Straw Infusion

I try to drink about a quart of this particular infusion a day. Before bed, I boil a kettle of water, pour the whole thing over an ounce of dried oat straw in a pitcher, cover and let it steep while I sleep. The next day it can be strained and poured into a mason jar (or jars, depending on the volume of the pitcher) to be sipped throughout the day. 

It's mildly sweet taste is delicious on its own or as a superb base for lemonade, in smoothies, or any number of tea blends. Once of my favorites is spearmint, lemon balm, and oat straw. Another is to steep the oat straw with fresh ginger, a few cloves, and cinnamon sticks. The resulting brew, to which I added raw sugar and lemon, has been described as an iced gingersnap. Nice. 

Looking back over my journal, I see where I began swapping out my Earl Grey for oat straw on June 2nd, 2015.I had been taking a variety of herbal supports for an overall achiness in my body. Some of which comes from the osteoarthritis in my hips and the back surgery I had a few years ago. Sad to say, I know some of the pain and stiffness is from not being as physically active as I should be, real talk. 

So I had been taking a variety of herbal supports that were designed to alleviate pain such as white willow and wild yam.  I had also been taking horse tail and Solomon's seal in a 50/50 blend for lower back pain, as well as, for overall healing with my musculo-skeletal system. I began to wonder, however,  if I could do more on a foundational level as opposed to managing myself so symptomatically. 

I was going through a particularly harsh time emotionally as well and was really down and out on myself because I feared that this state of being was the way I was going to remain from here on out. That was just the way it was now: low energy, easily fatigued, and not motivated. Boo.

Around this same time, I joined a local community center, Northwest Activity Center, and took a jazzy stretch class that really reminded me how good it felt to be able to move inside of my body. The elder praise-dancer/teacher would dim the lights and put on some Kenny G. Me and about 6 retirees would lay on the mats with our legs up, butts touching the wall and practice putting our toes on the floor behind our heads...wow.  After physically working with my body for a while, I was able to add a low impact aerobics class to the routine as well. There was improvement from just getting active again even if I was starting slowly.  This gentle approach was appropriate for my body type and capabilities.  Easing into a new routine works best for me. But like I said, I began to explore more so the question of foundational herbal supports as opposed to symptomatic supports  and this is how I came back around to the humble powerhouse that is oat straw. 

If oat straw was a song it would be Lou Rawls, Let Me Be Good To You :-)

OK, but what is this "oat straw" you ask? Is oat straw the same as in oats? As in where oatmeal comes from?

Relax dear reader. I got you. 

As a matter of fact, it is. Its where that well known Quaker gets his cholesterol-lowering hook up. We have been so consumed with the dried cereal grain, that we have missed all the other beneficial stages of avena sativa! Oat straw is what is left after taking the tops of this grassy grain. The tops are what becomes our breakfast and cookies. Looking up "oats" on Wikipedia, we of course hear about oatmeal and porridges. There are mentions of oat based beverages, even beers. One mention of oat straw, aside from awesome dust free and absorbent bedding for horses, is to place it in a muslin bag and put in the bath tub to soften the water. There is one sentence that states, "Oat extract can also be used to soothe skin conditions." and the other medicinal reference is "Oat grass has been used traditionally for medicinal purposes, including to help balance the 

menstrual cycle,

treat 

dysmenorrhoea and for osteoporosis and urinary tract infections

.

"

I first learned about oat straw in my herbalism classes with Jim McDonald where he described it as a nutritive tonic for the whole body, especially nervous system. It also is high in calcium and silica which makes it good for bones, teeth, and nails. I again heard about oat straw infusions when I was listening to

Over 50 Radio on YouTube, and Susun Weed was a guest

. By the way, Over 50 Radio has a lot of great topics! I really like it even though I'm not yet 50. Anyway,I began drinking the infusion for a decrease in overall stiffness and achiness, to hopefully an increase energy, and to nourish my stressed out and exhausted nervous system.

Methow Valley herbalist Rosalee De La Forêt speaks of oat straw's ability to decrease 

inflammation in the body with 

regular use

 in her write up about this nourishing infusion. 

But wait, there's more! Milky Oats! 

-- and no, its not a breakfast dish...but there IS this

"Avena" that IS a Dominican oat breakfast drink

that looks and sounds yummy, but I digress... 

Ok, for real...Milky Oats!

Another aspect of avena sativa that folks wax long and lovingly about are the milky oat tops. I was intrigued by these milky oats. They just sound good, you know?  It sounds like it's going to take care of you. Something called milky oats had to be like a hug or a comfortable bed at the end of a long day. I ordered some oat straw from Mountain Rose Herbs and I noticed that the tops were included in there too. I got all excited to brew some milky oats! However I have since learned that the only way your preparation will have the milkiness is if you harvest the tops of the oat straw plants at a particular time when the milky sap is present. Therefore when making a infusion of oat straw, you do not get the milky oats bonus. 

Milky oats are the top or "aerial" parts of the plant. The immature seeds have a milky sap which is known for its relaxing effect on the mind. It is also said to be very good over the long haul to help rebuild the nervous system and adrenals that have been burned out, be it from stress, emotional crisis, drug addiction, alcohol abuse, and more. 

According to Jim McDonald

, "

In a nutshell, if you feel like you've "bottomed out", are unable to put things together to achieve your goals, dreams or aspirations, or feel overwhelmed at the thought of trying to break out of habits and/or addictive behaviors, milky oats are a must for a long term herbal regimen." 

I was on a mission to try these milky oats! I first obtained a bottle of HerbPharm oat seed tincture from the local health food store. It says right on the label "oat seed" and the Latin name "avena sativa" and under that it says "fresh milky seed" but what I found interesting is when I opened it and drew up some of the tincture in the dropper, it was clear. I recalled Jim saying that milky oats tincture will be cloudy and greenish. I went on and took that bottle, though not with the same precision as I have since approached my work with both oat straw infusion and milky oats tincture. The next tincture I decided to try was the Mountain Rose brand of milky oats tincture which to my pleasant surprise was indeed nice and cloudy. I have been taking a dropper full in the mornings and evenings when I remember. (That's the "precision" I guess I was referring to). 

My experience with Avena Sativa and Addictions

So, I was taking the milky oats tincture and that infusion and alternating with nettle infusion and, call it a coincidence if you wanna, but I see in my journal, on June 18th where that was the the day I committed myself to not smoking anymore. And as a matter of fact on that day I laid down the empty box of cigarettes and did not pick one up again until July 6th or so where upon I did have four in a four-day period around that time. I stopped again and did not have another one until a month later. (I'm working on what those incidents are tied to, got to handle the underlying issues!!)  And I just made the connection between the oat straw tea and taking the milky oats tincture and my ability to stop drinking beer and wine as frequently as I was doing and to finally be able to really address my smoking. I have been trying to address these stress vices for 20 years honestly. I must add that I had been doing other work too, listening to meditations and prayer and other self study practices, motivating videos and messages, however the tea was a new addition to that mix. I was drinking at least a quart of oat straw infusion every day. 

For the last two weeks I have just been drinking oat straw, with nettles only occasionally. Tonight I'm going to make another nettle infusion. I have noted in my journals how, on days when I felt extremely achy, taking the oat straw infusion and/or or the nettle infusion really helped. I had decided to just focus on oat straw in order to be able to report the benefits and or effects of that one herb, which I feel confident in speaking about now. I do want to add the nettle back into my routine for its particular properties which I will discuss in a separate post. But I am so excited by this personal confirmation! I see lists and lists of things that an herb can do, heal, fix, stop, start, you know almost to the point of miraculous. So I'm excited that, while I approached it as a nutritive tonic, specifically for achiness in my body associated with arthritis, I am truly thankful that I've had the opportunity to experience its healing and restorative properties as it relates to harmful, unhealthy practices that I had been struggling with for years.

In my opinion, it probably has something to do with the fact that it is a nutritive tonic for the nervous system, and repairs what stress has damaged, and subsequently changes the way the body responds to stress. What would normally trigger me lighting up a cigarette or would have me drinking glass of wine after I got home from work, doesn't get triggered in that same way anymore because my nervous system is more healthy. The stress didn't go away but my ability to handle it, channel it, deal with it has changed.

In closing...

I had been drinking the oat straw infusion for about three weeks or so when I began to notice a lessening in the achiness in my body. I stopped for a while because I ran out and I did notice the difference. So, I'm not sure yet if the results are only for as long as you are actively engaged in taking the infusion or if over time the benefits settle in to stay. 

I can definitely say that since starting the oat straw infusion I have noticed an increase in my overall energy. A gentle kind of steady energy not something that feels harsh and artificial as with a caffeine rush or other kind of super stimulating "energizer". A very mellow, positive, confident energy....when you feel "sure of yourself".  

I feel supported by this herb as I unwind negative habits and replace them with healthy ones. 

I'm really pleased by the way oat straw's gentle nourishment is interacting with my body. 

It sure is good to me! 

I love to share this particular herb with friends and family in the form of tasty teas and other drinkables. I think it would make a great addition to just about any beverage mix.

 I have been using oat straw as the base to my tea blends and for lemonade. It is a very mild flavored tea so that even if it infuses overnight the flavor is still mild enough to be used as a base for lemonade without someone saying, "what the heck kind of lemonade is this?" It actually adds a a slight richness and depth to the flavor that makes it an even tastier lemonade to me. You would prepare your lemonade as you normally do but use the oat straw infusion instead of plain water or as part of the water.  

Why not take a 30 day oat straw infusion challenge? I'd love to hear about it. You can get oat straw at the health food store or from

Mountain Rose Herbs

. And I personally prefer their Milky Oats tincture, until I can make my own. 

Until next time...

Peace!