Oats / Avena Sativa: A Tonic Herb That Nourishes & Calms

By Steph Zabel
Herbalist, Ethnobotanist and Educator

Oats are incredibly nourishing, especially for the nervous system. When used in the “milky” stage they feed nervous tissue and help to restore normal nerve function and vitality. This is one of my absolute favorite herbs since it is so gentle but so powerful, and makes a noticeable difference for anyone who is stressed, overly sensitive, depleted or worn out. To me, they are a prime remedy for most city-dwellers.

Oats are amazing for helping people to overcome nervous exhaustion, shattered nerves, or emotional instability. They help people who are over-worked or burnt out, providing much needed food and minerals for a depleted system, including magnesium, calcium and silica. As a very calming and soothing herb oats are also useful for sleep issues and insomnia, or any kind of mental or physical agitation.

In addition to its nutritive value, oat tea is a gentle way to restore emotional balance. Drinking daily oat infusions is a great practice for anyone who is constantly stressed or upset, and is especially good for driven types who work, work, work! I find oats to also be a lovely, soothing and supportive herb to use during times of loss or sorrow. Blended with other heart-healing herbs it feels like a sweet and comforting friend.

Oats come in a variety of forms. Everyone knows of rolled oats or steel-cut oats as a breakfast food. However, oat tops (the seed of the plant) or oat straw (the stems/leaves of the plant) are what I recommend for making nourishing teas. You can also take the tincture, but just be sure to look for milky oat tincture – this means that the oats were harvested at a time when the seed yields a milky substance when crushed. This is where much of its nutritional and medicinal value lies.



Use the dried oat tops or straw to make a nourishing tea blend. Add one big handful (½ – ¾ cup) to a glass quart jar. Pour boiled water over the herb, cover, and let steep overnight to extract as much of the medicinal and nutritive qualities as possible. Oats are a food-grade herb that can be taken consistently over long periods of time. Drink 1 – 2 quarts of overnight-steeped oat infusion per day.

Note: While they are one of the safest and gentlest of herbs, oats may not be suitable for people who have severe gluten intolerance due to possible cross-contamination from gluten-containing grains.


RECIPE: City-Dweller’s Tonic Tea

Oats are my go-to herb for feeling more calm and nourished. They blend beautifully with other gentle, soothing herbs to support the nervous system. Use the recipe below as a starting point, and switch out the linden for other herbs such as lemon balm, violet and/or chamomile as you wish.

1 cup Oat Tops
½ cup Linden
1-2 Tblsp. Lavender

Mix together all the herbs. Add ¼ cup of this blend to a glass quart jar. Cover with boiled water, cap, and let steep overnight, or at least 6 hours. Strain and drink at room temperature, or gently re-heat. 

Steph Zabel is an herbalist and educator based in Somerville, MA who helps urban dwellers connect with the plant world.  She teaches herbal classes, is available for individual wellness sessions, and is also the founder of HERBSTALK, a community herbal conference.  Learn more about her work at: www.flowerfolkherbs.com and www.herbstalk.org.







This Web site — Herbs and Botanicals  — is for general health information only. This Web site is not to be used as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment of any health condition or problem. Users of this Web site should not rely on information provided on this Web site for their own health problems. Any questions regarding your own health should be addressed to your own physician or other healthcare provider.