During this unprecedented upheaval of our day-to-day lives as a result of COVID-19, one herb I have consistently turned to to help with my frazzled nervous system and to manage my stress and anxiety has been Oats. In the world of herbal medicine, you'll often find Oats in two forms: Milky Oats and Oatstraw.
For a brief window of time in the spring, one can harvest the tops, or the seeds, of Oat (Avena sativa) to extract their medicinal, mineral-rich, milky goodness, often referred to as Milky Oats. This milky substance is best preserved in alcohol before the plant forms true seeds. This "milk" has a restorative effect on overworked adrenals and a depleted nervous system, which can be especially helpful during times like these. Milky Oats can be really helpful in managing anxiety and calming nervousness, improving sleep quality, and clearing mental fog. When used consistently over a longer period of time, it can replenish the nervous system and bring vitality to our minds and bodies. I like to imagine the milky gifts of Oat running over all my frazzled ends and tucking them in. Nourishing and soothing the rough edges of my being. Milky Oats are gentle, but powerful, medicine.
Oatstraw is also strongly nutritive and contains calcium, magnesium, silica, Vitamin E, some B vitamins, and beta-carotene. It is also serves as a tonic for depleted tissues and exhausted, anxious minds. Oatstraw is the foundation of many nourishing teas and a great choice for those with nervous system depletion, endocrine deficiency and general lack of energy and mental clarity. To extract the most mineral content, try making a cold infusion for at least 8 hours!
Both Milky Oats and Oatstraw can help people who are overworked or burnt out, providing much needed food and minerals for a depleted system. As a very calming and soothing herb, oats are also useful for sleep issues and insomnia, or any kind of mental or physical agitation. Oats, i.e. what you'll find in the grocery store, also contain much of this same medicine and mineral content - whether in your oatmeal or oat milk. Oats are great to have in your pantry as a cost-effective item with a long shelf life, especially when stretching out trips to the grocery store.
Oats are also high in fiber and great for keeping your digestion moving and healthy! Topically, Oats are great for soothing skin conditions including itchiness, dryness, and eczema.
Here's a recipe for Gluten-Free Banana Oat Pancakes for some Food as Medicine:
- 2 medium-sized ripe (starting to see brown spots) bananas
- 2 eggs (use flax seed eggs to make vegan!)
- 1/2 cup milk of choice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 ½ cups gluten-free old fashioned rolled oats
- 1 Tablespoon of maple syrup
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Oil of choice for cooking (we love coconut oil!)
- Begin by placing dry ingredients into a medium bowl. Whisk until combined.
- Then, mash bananas in a large bowl. Add eggs, milk, maple syrup and vanilla, and whisk until combined.
- Transfer dry ingredients into wet and mix until combined.
- Heat a large skillet over low/medium heat, and add oil for cooking. Spoon on about 1/3 cup of batter and let cook for 2-3 minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Repeat. Makes approximately 9-10 pancakes.