What Are the Benefits of Avena Sativa?

Avena sativa means "wild oats" in Latin. This plant, also referred to as oat straw or oat extract, was used as a medicine prior to being used as food. This plant may have sparked the phrase, "sowing your wild oats," due to its effect on sexual stimulation, according to "Prescription for Herbal Healing" by Phyllis A. Balch. Potential benefits are not limited to its impact on the libido, however. Wild oats are rich in B vitamins, phosphorous and calcium.

Oats belong to the haygrass family. (Image: Comstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Sex Booster

Wild oats may be a mild sexual enhancer, according to Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of "Natural Sex Boosters." However, he notes that most claims for sexual enhancement rely on research done in the 1980s by the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality in San Francisco, a company that marketed avena sativa products. In the animal kingdom, Balch notes that stallions that are fed wild oats are said to become lustful.

Inflammation Fighter

Wild oats can help you fight inflammation, advises the online-newspaper, The Oregonian. Molecules in oats called avenanthramides help reduce levels of inflammatory cytokines, which are immune system chemicals. Lowering cytokines is a good idea because when levels are high they raise risk for chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart disease, advise The YOU Docs columnists Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen in The Oregonian.

Heart Health Booster

Wild oats can boost heart health. Avena sativa helps you lower the "bad" low density lipoprotein, or LDL, cholesterol levels as well as overall cholesterol levels, according to a Canadian study published in the "European Journal of Clinical Nutrition." This is due to the main component of the oats' soluble fiber, called beta-glucan, according to lead study author J.T. Braaten of the University of Ottawa. Wild oats may help reduce your waistline at the same time, which further reduces risk for coronary heart disease, advises Venezuelan researcher N. Reyna-Villasmil, who authored a 2007 study published in the "American Journal of Therapeutics." Avena sativa helps you to lower risk for heart-threatening blood clots and keeps your arteries flexible as well, according to Oz and Roizen.

ADD Helper

If you or a loved one suffers attention deficit disorder or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, you may benefit from avena's sedative properties, according to Balch. Herbalists use avena to reduce symptoms of methylphenidate withdrawal and to alleviate mild depression for adults with such conditions. However, science is lacking for this use, making it controversial. Before you try any sort of alternative therapy, especially one that is controversial, you need to consult with your doctor, advises the National Resource Center on AD/HD.

Other Uses

You may see Avena sativa advertised as an aid to help combat osteoporosis because it can boost hormone levels that stimulate cell growth. However, evidence for this use so far is lacking, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Avena sativa also may help you if you have a condition called amenorrhea, which is when you've stopped having a period unrelated to menopause. That's because it is rich in minerals that potentially promote better thyroid function, according to UMMC. However, evidence for this use is based on traditional use rather than scientific study, so you need to consult with a doctor if you'd like to incorporate oat straw use into your regimen for treating this condition.

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