Oats give pride of place to medical use

Oats are to the north of Europe what barley is to the south, but remains little present in the far north (Russia, Scandinavia). Its first known uses date back more than 4,500 years and its use lasted during the Copper Age and then the Bronze Age, in temperate regions of Europe and Asia.

A little bit of mythology

The importance of oats for the Germans made it play a significant mythological role: this mythology is rich in demons among which we can cite the aprilochse , the erntebock , the graswolf , all agrarian figures, as well as the loki’s hafer , that is to say the demon of oats (from hafer in German, “oats”).

A little history

If we believe the Sanskrit origin of the word avena , it is quite possible that oats accompanied men during the great Indo-European migrations to the areas today occupied by the Slavic and Germanic populations. This explains the pre-eminence of oats for these peoples, in particular the ancient Germans, of whom Pliny knew the nutritional character that they devoted to this plant. Oatmeal, and the bread made from it, was an obvious food staple . These peoples “eat oatmeal bread, especially when other grains are scarce. “

What are the main pharmacological properties of the green aerial parts of Oats?

Traditional properties:

Oats are traditionally used as a winter food . In Chinese medicine, the seed stops sweating and the whole plant stops bleeding . In the West, tradition attributes to oats a usefulness as a mineral potentiator, because of its richness in silica , as a fortifying and anti-asthenic tonic (with the unshelled fruit). It is used to calm nervousness and treat insomnia (action attributed to the fat ). As an emollient plant, its decoction is used to prevent constipation andtreat eczema, frostbite, sores .

Nutritional and metabolic properties:

Oats are a very nutritious plant because of their richness in nutrients , which makes them a strengthening plant at the start of the day. WHO research has shown the equivalence of its proteins with those of meat, milk and eggs.

  • Action on satiety:

Oats prolong the feeling of fullness due to its viscosity which slows the exit of food from the stomach and delays appetite-related signals in the intestine.

  • Hypoglycemic action:

A stimulation of insulin secretion by the saponins could be demonstrated.

  • Hypocholesterolemic and hypotriglyceridemic action:

Oats reduce total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol as was shown in a randomized clinical trial in 2010. This decrease is accompanied by a reduction in waist circumference when the plant is used as part of a low calorie diet. .

Oats slow down the inhibition of the activity of HMG-CoA reductase, an enzyme involved in the synthesis of cholesterol . It sequesters cholic acid and chenodeoxycholic acid (the main bile acids) in the stool and increases their faecal elimination . This activity is due to the β-glucans of the plant, glucose polymers linked by beta-1,3 or beta 1,4 bonds (unlike cellulose which contains only beta 1,4 type fibers), this which gives them interesting solubility and viscosity properties, which allows them to fix cholesterol and bile salts in the stool.

  • Intestinal action:

Oat bran is commonly eaten to treat constipation . Thanks to its soluble and insoluble fiber, oats can support digestive health. In vitro , it exerts a prebiotic effect making it possible to modulate the intestinal microbiota.

Neuropsychic properties:

The neuromuscular stimulating properties of oats are attributed to trigonelline . In addition, avenin is invigorating . In fact, oats strengthen muscle functions during training and physical exercise. It is also made to consume horses before the horse race to stimulate them and give them dash.

Its moderate sedative and sleep-regulating action is attributed to gramin , whose molecular structure is similar to that of serotonin and dopamine. The presence of tryptophan promotes the synthesis of serotonin. This would explain the proposed use of the mother tincture in smoking cessation , or even in opioid withdrawal .

Other properties:

  • Thyroid stimulating effect:

This activity, which has been observed and widely used in medical practice, is linked to the nutritional properties of the plant.

  • Moderate hormonal action:

Oats promote the release of testosterone on its transport protein (SHBG).

  • Emollient action in external use:

Oats have a soothing activity for sensitive or irritated skin , which explains the interest of certain oat-based cosmetics in certain irritative dermatitis.

  • Antioxidant:

The antioxidant properties of oats are the subject of increasing work, in particular to evaluate their benefits in cardiovascular health .

  • Antitumor, diuretic

Are there any precautions for use with Oats?

Contraindication :

  • Not recommended in cases of hyperthyroidism (especially Graves’ disease).
  • According to the EMA, taking oats is not recommended during pregnancy or breastfeeding and in children under 12 years of age.

Precautions for use:

  • Avoid consuming excessive bran or oatmeal.
  • According to the EMA, oat preparations may impair the ability to drive and use machines due to the presence of alkaloids .

Drugs interactions :

  • It is advisable to consume oat bran within 2 hours of taking any medication.

How to take Oats and in what dosage?

Dry form:

  • Oats for food, in the form of flakes or flour.

Liquid form:

External use (for emollient purposes):

  • Application of compresses impregnated with non-alcoholic extract or oat decoction.
  • Oatmeal baths: pour directly into the bath 1L of decoction (100 g / L to boil for 20 minutes then filter) or else 50 to 60 g of oatmeal.

Oats in masterly preparation of standardized extracts in liquid form (EPS)

In combination with horsetail and alfalfa :

In the case of osteopenia, osteoporosis in peri-menopause and established menopause , in particular in a context of rough or incipient hypothyroidism.

In association with ginseng and rhodiola :

For physical and mental overwork, with weight loss and poor thyroid function.

In association with tribulus and nettle root :

In sexual asthenia, hair loss, loss of vitality and sarcopenia.

In combination with ginkgo biloba :

Against the intellectual overwork of the post-fifties, the cardiovascular and metabolic risk increased in a context of fatigue, weight gain and / or low thyroid.


Medical bibliographic sources and clinical trials :

  • Brown L. et al., Cholesterol-lowering effects of dietary fiber: a meta-analysis, Am J Clin Nutr., 1999
  • Maki KC et al., Whole-grain ready-to-eat oat cereal, as part of a dietary program for weight loss, reduces low-density lipoprotein cholesterol in adults with overweight and obesity more than a dietary program including low-fiber control foods , J Am Diet Assoc., 2010
  • Queenan KM et al., Oat beta-glucan, a fermentable fiber, lowers serum cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic adults in a randomized controlled trial, Nutr J., 2007
  • Lasztity R., The Chemistry of Cereal Proteins, Akademiai Kiado, 1999
  • Wolever TMS et al., Physicochemical properties of oat b-glucan influence its ability to reduce serum LDL cholesterol in humans: a randomized clinical trial, Am J Clin Nutr., 2010
  • Thompson SV, Effects of isolated soluble fiber supplementation on body weight, glycemia, and insulinemia in adults with overweight and obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials, Am J Clin Nutr., 2017
  • Clemens R. et al., The future of oats in the food and health continuum, British Journal of Nutrition, 2014
  • Lyly M. et al., Fiber in beverages can enhance perceived satiety, Eur J Nutr., 2009
  • Connoly ML, In vitro evaluation of the microbiota modulation abilities of different sized whole oat grain flakes, Anaerobe, 2010
  • Othman RA et al., Cholesterol lowering effects of oat β-glucan, Nutr Rev., 2011
  • European Medicines Agency, Community herbal monograph on avena sativa l., Herba, 2008


Clementine. M.
Naturopath – Aromatherapist / Herbalist – Phytotherapist
Consultant in Clinical Phyto-aromatherapy and Ethnomedicine

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