Last Updated on July 26, 2023
Ever hear of milky oats? Picked at a particular stage of their growth, the tops of oats are tops for soothing frazzled nerves. Read on to learn about milky oats benefits and how to use milky oat tops.
WHAT ARE MILKY OATS?
If you often feel stressed and depleted by too much to do and too much to worry about, milky oats may become your new favorite herb. One of the top herbs for relaxation and stress, they’re often recommended by herbalists to help people experiencing burnout.
Some herbalists have described the conditions they’re helpful for as “emotionally brittle” or “crispy.” If that sounds like how you feel, consider adding them to your herbal rotation.
Picked at the ‘milky’ stage of their development, milky oats are the immature seeds of the oat plant (Avena sativa). If you catch them in the week or so window they’re at this stage and break them open, they’ll exude a milky liquid that’s prized for helping restore a depleted nervous system.
If left on the plant to mature, these seeds become the oats you’ve no doubt enjoyed for breakfast. Though we’re focusing here on the green, immature seeds, the mature oats you can make into oatmeal or bake in muffins has plenty of benefits as well. Check out this supercharged healthy overnight oats recipe for an extra-nutritious start to your day.
MILKY OATS MEDICINAL USES
Considered an especially helpful restorative herb, milky oats are recommended for people who feel burned out and emotionally drained. Herbalist Matthew Wood describes milky oat tops as a “very important tonic for the nervous system depleted by stress.”
Herbalist Maria Noel Groves considers milky oats a “nourishing tonic for the nervous system” and calls them out as a top herb for stress. They’re also sometimes recommended as an anti-spasmodic, anti-depressant, and cardiac herb.
HOW TO USE MILKY OATS
The easiest way to use milky oats is as a tincture. You can buy it already made or make your own if you have access to fresh oat tops. If you decide to make your own, unlike tinctures made from leaves (like nettle tincture or lemon balm tincture), milky oat tops are best put in a blender with solvent before macerating for a “profoundly more potent extract,” according to Groves.
She notes that their medicinal compounds are “dramatically diminished” by drying and recommends using them used fresh or tinctured in alcohol or vinegar.
You can also freeze them and use them for nourishing infusions long after their short harvest window.
Though they may not be as strong medicinally dried, many herbalists recommend using the dried tops as well. You can buy them from Mountain Rose Herbs, a top source for high-quality herbs.
Rosemary Gladstar recommends using milky oat tops in “a strong infusion (1 to 2 ounces of milky oats in 1 quart of water, steeped several hours or overnight).” They have a pleasant grass-y flavor that’s nice on its own or combined with other herbs in homemade herbal tea blends. I might add some nettle leaf or orange peels for added flavor and benefits, or add oats to my favorite lemon balm tea in addition to other herbs for sleep for extra help unwinding at the of the day.
Milky oats are best taken daily over a long period of time. Don’t expect them to have an instant effect, but rather gradually they may help recovery from long-term stress.
Do you love learning about plant medicine, too? Be sure to check out the best herbalism books to add to your home library.
Though you should always consult your doctor about using herbs, because milky oat tops are essentially the food oats most people enjoy without concern, as herbs go, they’re generally regarded as safe for most people.
The only contraindication I’ve found is for people with celiac disease due to cross-contamination concerns, or for people with a known sensitivity to oats.
WHERE TO GET MILKY OATS
Some herb farms will grow and sell milky oat tops during the short window that they’re available. Far easier to get, however, is a milky oat tincture, widely available online. (Here at Amazon, or from these sellers on Etsy.
If you can get them fresh, freeze an/or tincture some as soon as you can. A few growers might sell the dried milky oat tops, like this one on Etsy, or you can get them and other oat-based products at Mountain Rose Herbs.
Another option for tapping into the benefits of oats is the dried stems of the oat plant gathered at the same time as milky oat tops, generally referred to as oatstraw. Oatstraw is rich in minerals and is often included in nourishing infusions. It’s readily available to buy in bulk online. Great price at Vitacost, or you can get it on Amazon.
I’ll be covering oatstraw in more detail this winter, but you can read more about it here in the meantime.
Have you ever tried milky oats? Leave a comment and tell us what you think!
Interested in other useful herbs to consider adding to your rotation? Check out these popular posts:
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- Creeping Charlie: An Overlooked Medicinal Herb
- Yarrow Benefits & Uses
- Goldenrod Benefits and Uses
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Disclaimer: I’m a health enthusiast, not a medical professional. Content on this website is intended for informational purposes only and is not meant to provide personalized medical advice. I draw on numerous health sources, some of which are linked above. Please consult them for more information and a licensed professional for personalized recommendations.
Photo credits in cover and pins: VictorGrow, soupstock, Searsie
Susannah is a proud garden geek and energy nerd who loves healthy food and natural remedies. Her work has appeared in Mother Earth Living, Ensia, Northern Gardener, Sierra, and on numerous websites. Her first book, Everything Elderberry, released in September 2020 and has been a #1 new release in holistic medicine, naturopathy, herb gardening, and other categories. Find out more and grab your copy here.