The Forager's Path - School of Botanical Studies

Plant Profile: Milky Oats


Avena sativa is the cultivated species and is most common
Avena fatua is the wild species


Common Names:
Milky Oats, Milky Oat Seed, Wild Oats

Southwest Habitat:

It is not common in the wild in the Southwest. I have seen it a bit in Oak Creek Canyon and along the Verde River. These patches are either too small to harvest from or have been wiped out by wildfires.
It is relatively straightforward to cultivate and some herbalists I know plant a patch in their garden each year specifically to harvest the milky seeds.

Energy & Tastes:

Slightly sweet to bland in taste and slightly demulcent/moistening
Mildly cooling, close to neutral in temperature
These terms – slightly, mildly, neutral – mean that many (most, all) people can use and benefit from this plant with little risk of being thrown out of balance energetically.

An excellent long term tonic for Vata
Very good for pitta
Kaphas are the least likely to need it but they can use it readily if it is warmed a bit with aromatic spices

Traditional Chinese Medicine:
A classic Yin Tonic, especially if combined with other herbs

Preferred Method of Preparation and Dosing:
This monograph specifically refers to the seed heads that are in a milky stage of development. These must be harvested and tinctured fresh.
There are other forms of oats – oatstraw and the breakfast cereal – that are nourishing but are not therapeutically related to the milky oat seed.
A fresh tincture is needed to preserve the therapeutic qualities of the fresh milky oat seed. Ideally, the tincture is made in a blender so the seeds can be broken up making a deeper extract available.

The dried seeds are significantly weaker.

The amount varies greatly from person to person. Some feel the affects with as little as 5 drops 3x a day. Others use larger amounts, even up to 5 ml 3x a day. As always, start low and increase as appropriate.

Dosing includes amount, frequency and duration. The duration is key here – this herb needs to be used over time, several weeks, for it to be most effective.

Herbal Actions:

Tonic nervine, meaning it is nourishing and strengthening to the nervous system
Slightly demulcent

Therapeutic Uses:

An excellent and treasured plant remedy for our current cultural lifestyle that is overworked, underslept, stressed out and running on empty. It is deeply nourishing to an overstimulated nervous system without being sedating.
This is THE herb to use for someone who is “burning the candle at both ends”.

Nervous System exhaustion – someone who is ready to have, or has had, a nervous breakdown. This state is referred to as burnout, neurasthenia, deep exhaustion both mentally and physically.
Because the nervous system is ether directly or indirectly related to many other systems in the body, the benefits of this plant can be surprising and far reaching. 
Consider this plant as part of the herbal plan if the stressed out nervous system has a negative effect on the heart, digestion, reproductive system, headaches or sleep.

Many people make the mistake of using energy herbs known as adaptogens when they are feeling exhausted. In many cases milky oats will work better because it supports the body in recovery rather than stimulating an already exhausted endocrine system.

Herbal Combos:

This is an herb that can be effectively used as a simple or…
Combine with Withania in equal parts. These two herbs are very similar in their nourishment of the nervous system.
Combine with Skullcap in equal parts. This is a classic herbal pair in the Western tradition.

Safety Issues & Contraindications:
In general, this is considered a mild herb in its energetics and chemistry. While individual exceptions are always possible, milky oats is considered to be very safe.


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