Don’t you just love the look of this breakfast?! I’m not much of a cereal-for-breakfast person myself, but if I do have cereal, porridge is it! This is whole-oats porridge with rice milk, coconut yogurt, banana, apple, strawberry, mandarine, chai seeds, LSA (ground up linseed, sunflower and almonds).

I love food-herbs like oats. Food herbs are often also nutritive herbs, herbs that are packed full of nutrients; a whole-food multi-mineral/vitamin source. Oats is extremely rich in silicon, iron, chromium, sodium and magnesium. It also contains high levels of phosphorus and calcium, reasonable amounts of iron and selenium, and smaller quantities of iron, zinc, manganese and potassium. The magnesium-calcium-potassium team is a classic nervous system team and in herbs like this it’s present in beautifully synergistic or perfectly balanced ratio’s that the body loves.

Oats is particularly rich in vitamins like vitamins A and B3, but it also contains reasonable quantities of vitamins B1, B2, C, D, E, bioflavonoids and carotene. Other phytonutrients (plant nutrients) include a range of alkaloids, proteins, polysaccharides, prolamines, saponins, flavones, glycosides, folliculin-like hormone, fixed oil and starch. Like all plant foods, oats is packed full of hundreds, possibly thousands, of nutrients, some of which we don’t yet recognise or understand the actions of.

In herbal medicine, oats is primarily thought of as a remedy for the nervous system and referred to as a nervine tonic, a remedy that tones and restores the nervous system after illness or exhaustion or during recovery from addiction. It is extra special in its use for nervous exhaustion where we are wired but tired, or exhausted but unable to sleep. We sometimes see this situation in children when they are overtired. Nervous exhaustion can result in insomnia, fever, depression and feeling generally run-down and/or weakened.

In nervous exhaustion the nervous system has been overstimulated for too long and hasn’t had any restorative rest. It’s drained of all those wonderful nutrients it needs to stay balanced, such as the magnesium-calcium-potassium team, the B vitamins, and perhaps even the vitamin C and bioflavonoids.These are the kind of nutrients that get used up faster when we are under stress, and we tend to cope better with stress when they are in plentiful supply. For this reason, oats is also considered an ‘anxiolytic’ or a remedy that treats anxiety.

The nutrients and the herbal actions described above are a blending of content and actions from the the oats seed (sometime called the berry) and the oats herb or the green part of the plant. The uses are very similar, but its the green part of oats that is generally described as anxiolytic, whereas the seed is sometimes described as thymoleptic or antidepressant.

On a much broader, whole-body level, oats are wonderfully balancing for the endocrine system (think pituitary, thyroid, pancreas, adrenals, gonads). For example, oats can be helpful as part of a broader treatment plan for diabetes or thyroid deficiency (fatigue, depression, cold extremities, constipation and weight gain).

Herbalists might also use oats in formulas to treat chronic eczema, autoimmune disorders, premature ageing or impaired growth/development in children, heart disease, impotence, infertility and so on. In fact, I keep the word ‘weakness’ front and foremost in my mind as the broad symptom that needs addressing with oats. Oats rebuilds. It isn’t just a tonic for the nervous system, it’s a whole-body tonic.

Like all food herbs, it’s safe in high doses and is non-toxic. The only people who might need to take care with its use are those who are sensitive to gluten or wheat. Most of us with a milder sensitivity can use oats without any problems, but you can source ‘gluten free’ oats if it’s an issue for you.

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