Oats (Avena sativa)

Oats: Medical Uses

Oats are used externally for eczema, psoriasis, chickenpox, and shingles (herpes zoster).

Historical Uses

Oats have been used to stabilize blood glucose levels, soothe the nervous and digestive systems, reduce cravings for cigarettes, and reduce cholesterol levels. Used externally, they help stop itching from conditions as chickenpox and shingles.


Oats are grown as a crop in sunny, well-drained, fertile soil. Threshing separates the grains, which are then dehusked and rolled for cereals. Seeds are milled from the cultivated plant.

Part Used

• Seeds

Major Chemical Compounds

• Alkaloid

• Glycosides

• Fixed oils

• Iron

• Zinc

Clinical Uses

Besides their nutritive value, oats are an adaptogenic grain (they help with stress). They also lower cholesterol and help to relieve menopausal symptoms. Oats are used externally for eczema, psoriasis, chickenpox, and shingles (herpes zoster). Oats and a low-calorie diet help to lower blood pressure and improve lipid profiles. Oatstraw (dried, threshed leaf and stem of the oat plant) is approved by the German Commission E for “topical applications in herbal baths for inflammation and seborrheic skin diseases with pruritus”.

Mechanism of Action

Oats have a high vitamin and mineral content that helps to relax the central nervous system.


Use externally in oatmeal baths and soaps. Safe to consume in foods.

Oatmeal bath: 100 grams of oatstraw added to warm bath water.

Herb-Drug Interactions

None are known.

Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding

No restrictions are known.

Summary of Studies

Onning et ai. (1999). This randomized, controlled, double-blind study included 66 men who consumed 0.75 L/day of oat milk or rice milk. Results: Oat milk significantly lowered serum total cholesterol and decreased low-density lipoprotein levels, an effect that was more pronounced if the starting cholesterol value was higher. Serum triglycerides remained the same, as did high-density lipoprotein levels.

Saltzman et ai. (2001). This randomized controlled study of 43 adults was an 8-week study to determine a diet that decreased cardiovascular risk. A low-calorie diet that included oats showed greater improvement in lowering blood pressure and improved lipid profiles.

Oats: Recipes

Oatmeal contains unsaturated fat, protein, sodium, and vitamin E. It is used in hot and cold cereals, “natural” snack bars, and casseroles as a substitute for rice.

Herbal Bath Tor Dry Skin

Mix 1 quart of nonfat milk powder with ½ cup of finely ground oatmeal. Add ¼ cup of crushed chamomile flowers. Mix with warm bath water or put into herbal bath sack and float the sack in the bath. Soak for about 15 minutes. Rinse and dry.

Herbal Bath For Relaxation

Place 3 tablespoons of lavender flowers and 3 tablespoons of ground oatmeal into a cotton bath sack and let the sack float in the water as you bathe. Or hang the sack on the faucet while you fill the tub. Light candles and play soft, soothing music while you soak.