No one will deny that we’re living in challenging times in a difficult World. And how do we hopefully find opportunity for self nurturance, personal quiet time, and creativity, while negotiating the changes that are coming with a new world order? Old ways are no longer reliable, old beliefs and habit patterns no longer predict outcomes or provide answers. At the end of a busy and fast-paced day, can we sit down, raise our feet and check in with ourselves? Through creating spaciousness and perspective, we are able to find meaning, so needed in order to move gracefully forward.
A plant worth pondering is the most familiar oats, Avena sativa. Of European ancestry, oats is not only a breakfast porridge. Its milky seeds and straw have been relied upon for their healing and nourishing properties since olden times, especially for nervous exhaustion in its many forms. Accounts dating back to the Egyptians tell of their cultivating oats for both food and medicine.
In an overstimulated world. how do we nourish, nurture, and rejuvenate ourselves to not only survive but to thrive? A simple key for me is finding nourishment in the gifts of the plants. Preparing teas from these green healers allows us to stop and sit with a cup, infused with calm, presence, softness, spaciousness; creating moments of silence, increasing distance between thoughts, and offering new possibilities for inspiration, conscious awareness, and poise. In challenging times, or even coming out of a long, cold winter with a tired immune system, a tea or tincture will offer an opportunity to nourish the body, slow the mind, and allow our Spirit to claim its presence in our consciousness. I usually mix oat straw with a few of my other favorites–red clover flowers, lavender buds, nettle leaf, alfalfa, rose petals and perhaps a pinch of chamomile. Within a few minutes of sipping, the fog begins to lift and I am able to reclaim my relationship with myself. My nervous system feels fed. The sweet, slightly viscous tea soothes my heightened emotions and reminds me to flow with life’s currents, rather than willfully pushing to reach a destination through engaged efforting.
So, what’s the difference between oat seed and oat straw? They both come from Avena sativa, but are harvested from different parts of the plant and at a specific time during the growing season. Avena is an introduced grain to the United States and non-native. In the Rocky Mountain west, Avena is an annual. It is easy to establish and requires full sun, good soil, and moderate moisture. For their medicine, the seeds are harvested fresh and early, in their juicy (“milky”) stage. The straw is cut and dried also at that time.
Avena can easily find itself in a home pharmacy as a tea beverage, a traditional alcohol tincture, a vinegar, in an ointment or salve, a body wash, compress or medicinal food. Oats are a whole body tonic, offering health and vitality to the nervous system, the skin and hair, and bones. For myself the tonic quality comes through my experience of deep calm, deep nourishment and the ability to embrace the more peaceful dimension of now. Nothing feels as important as taking in this moment, soothing Heart and Soul, with the gentle reminder that my value is in being, not in doing.
On a more esoteric note, the early 1900’s gave us an amazing British homeopath, Dr. Edward Bach, who studied the healing powers of 38 plants, prepared their medicines using a simple homeopathic method. He called these medicines flower remedies. Bach made personal observations of the personality type and behavior patterns matching each remedy. Of Wild Oat, Dr. Bach spoke of it as offering the essence of clarity and self-realization, restoring an inner sense of order, decisiveness, and direction with greater sense of meaning and purpose in life. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it? Wild Oat flower essence can be found in most health food stores as an ever-popular “Bach Flower Remedy”.
Christina MacLeod, Westcliffe, Colorado, February 21, 2013