Oats: More than breakfast food, powerful for stress

Did you know that oats are actually considered an herb?

Well, actually the whole plant is! Oats are the edible part that we normally eat but the whole plant (the straw and the tops) is good medicine!

In herbalism, the whole oat plant (Avena sativa) has been used as a healing and nourishing food for centuries. Only recently, have we exclusively been using it has a porridge and meal even though the whole plant is very nourishing.

Oats are known for their nourishment. Think about the last time you had a piping hot bowl of oatmeal. How did you feel afterwards? Probably, pretty content! Their nourishment extends past the stomach and extends to the nervous system. Both oat straw and milky oats (the green tops of the oat plant) are considered nourishing nervines - they feed the nervous system in a way that promotes resilience in times of depletion and stress.

It's recommended to use oat straw in the form of herbal infusion (strong medicinal tea) and the milky oats as tincture (strong herbal extract that usually contains alcohol). The oats themselves (rolled or steel cut) provide a nice coating to the digestive tract and can be helpful for those who have difficult having proper bowel movements due to nervousness and anxiety. If you are breastfeeding, they are also a powerful galactogouge (support a healthy milk supply). When used topically, oatmeal is a wonderful soothing remedy for skin conditions and wounds. Please be mindful that oats are highly sprayed with RoundUp- I highly recommend only purchasing and consuming organic.

I like to think of oat straw and milky oats as one of the biggest allies for the burnt out, overly depleted, person. As Black folks, and Black women especially, many of us can agree that we are constantly being pushed from all sides, systemically, professionally, and socially. We are definitely in need of resilience.

Oats a very safe herb that’s well tolerated by most people. If you are interested in trying it, I recommend purchasing it organic from a quality source like Penn Herb or Mountain Rose Herb and preparing it as an infusion. Simply add 1 cup of herb to a clean quart size mason jar. Fill it to the top with hot water. Cover with a lid and allow it to steep for 8 hours. Simply strain and enjoy!

P.S. Interested in learning more about herbal support for cold and flu season? Consider attending my Resilient Remedies course!


  • Felter, H.W. (1922). The eclectic materia medica, pharmacology and therapeutics.

  • Gladstar, R. (2001). Family herbal. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

  • Hoffman, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science principles and practices of herbal medicine. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press. 

  • Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007). Adaptogens: Herbs for strength, stamina, and stress relief. Rochester, Vermont: Healing Arts Press.

Image of a field of oats with a blue and green filter.

Image of a field of oats with a blue and green filter.