Avena sativa, more commonly known as oats, has long been used as a cereal grain. People have eaten oats since prehistoric times, and they’re used to feed livestock as well. Oats are relatively high in protein (for a grain) and contain a number of nutrients and bioactive compounds, including saponins, flavonoids, starch, soluble fiber, alkaloids, sterols, calcium, iron, B-vitamins and the essential amino acids lysine and methionine.
While most people are familiar with oat cereal, many may not be aware of the range of medicinal properties attributed to Avena sativa. In India, Avena decoctions were given to cigarette smokers, as well as opium/morphine addicts to help them overcome their addictions.
Traditional healers claim Avena extracts have a calming and relaxing effect that is highly supportive of the nervous system. This property has not been studied in-depth, although one commercial company, Frutarom, claims their wild green oat extract, Neuravena®, improved cognitive performance and reduced cravings for cigarettes in unpublished, “in-house” clinical trials.
Avena sativa has also been touted for its apparent ability to heighten the sense of touch and make physical sensations more pleasurable.
For this reason, it is considered a natural aphrodisiac, although there are no published studies to confirm this. Still, Avena sativa is often an ingredient in herbal formulas used to enhance sexual potency.
Avena sativa can be used topically to reduce inflammation and treat dry skin, eczema and other skin conditions. The seeds can be ground to make a poultice, and it is also used as an ingredient in salves and lotions (Aveeno is a familar commercial brand in the US). It can be added to bath water to soften and soothe the skin.
Their high nutrient content makes oatmeal and other oat-based foods popular for increasing vigor, energy and stamina.
In recent times, the grain has attracted much interest for its ability to lower levels of “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. Oats also contain a class of phenolic antioxidants called “avenanthramides”, which are bioavailable and may also have anti-inflammatory effects.
The benefits of Avena sativa can be obtained simply by eating oats on a regular basis. Some of the common forms include steel cut oats, rolled oats, oatmeal and oat bran. Rolled, “old fashioned” oats are particularly popular with bodybuilders, as they’re nutritious, versatile and have a lower glycemic index than many other cereals.
Avena sativa extracts are also available in several supplement forms: capsule, tablets and tinctures. These are typically produced from oat straw, although extracts from seeds/kernels are also available. If you’re looking to experiment, we recommend the online retailer iHerb.com (be sure to use the coupon code FAT259 to receive $5 off your first order).
Since it is a food, Avena sativa has no recommended daily amount. It is generally safe and can be consumed without side effects.