By Randy Kidd, DVM, PhD
Oats are always at the top of my list of recommended herbs. More formally known as Avena sativa, inexpensive and readily available oats have a long list of benefits, from simply nutritional to curative for many conditions. It's not surprising that oats have a long history of adding to our animal's health, as well as our own, whether taken internally or applied directly to the skin.
Here are some benefits of oats that you should know about and just a few of the reasons why I like to recommend them:
- There are plenty of natural, ready-made products that contain oats. Popular oat-containing products include: shampoos, conditioners, topical applications for skin conditions, and capsules and tinctures for a more concentrated dose of the healing essences of oats.
- Oats are nutritionally beneficial, and their healing powers can be utilized by applying oaten teas or poultices directly to the skin.
- To get the inner benefits of herbal oats all you have to do is cook some oatmeal and add it to your pet's food. Or, if you want to add even more oat power, there are tinctures and capsules available.
- Adding oats to a pet's diet is a simple way to impart many nutritional benefits. Besides nutritional benefits, many other benefits, from nervine to disease treatment, can be realized, too. First, let's take a closer look at some of the many health benefits associated with oats when they are simply added to a pet's diet.
Nutritive - Simply put, oats are nutritious, being naturally high in "good" nutrients and low in "bad" ones.
Oats are high in:
- Protein (interestingly, wild oats contain from 27-37% protein while cultivated varieties average about 17%). According to the World Health Organization, oat protein is equivalent in quality to soy protein. So, equal to meat, milk and egg protein.
- Soluble fiber (the fiber that helps keep cholesterol levels low)
- Levels of iron, manganese, zinc, and B vitamins (pantothenic acid, B5, and folate, B9)
Oats are low in:
- Gluten (some is present, but not nearly as much as in wheat)
- Genetically Modified Organisms (so far, oats are not grown using GMO)
Nervine - Oats are considered a nervine, an herbal compound that acts as a general nerve tonic, calming the nerves when necessary, stimulating their activity when needed. Oats are used for treating a variety of nervous disorders.
Herbal - Oats benefit several body organs and systems, including: skin, nervous system, stomach, spleen, lungs, and the urinary and reproductive systems. Herbal qualities of oats include:
Antitumor - Oats contains the antitumor compound b-sitosterol.
Digestive - Acting as a digestive aid to calm the intestinal tract.
Hormonal - Used to achieve hormonal balance. Also used as a uterine tonic.
Oats are also cholesterol lowering and reportedly good for treating a wide variety of diseases in humans and animals, including: inflammatory conditions, mental or physical exhaustion, depression, dyspepsia, insomnia, fevers, sexual dysfunctions and as a tonic during menopause or after parturition.
Oats can also be beneficial when applied externally (topically). Remember that an animal's skin is its largest organ, and there is an active absorption of many substances, thus adding whole-body benefits from external applications of oats. These unique health benefits of oats in grooming can include:
- Anti-inflammatory and Calming - soothes itchiness and eczema, thus helping calm the animal while he heals.
- Healing - High levels of minerals and vitamins in the seeds may help with skin healing.