oats

It’s such a gentle, kind, reassuring plant. I so enjoy sitting with it and letting it calm me. One night I drunkenly stumbled into the yard and it waved in the breeze, inviting me to sit.
It told me it has been with me always before and will be with me for the
always to come. It’s an old man who has seen everything and cannot be
shocked. It reminds me that part of the wisdom of age is in already
having made all the most outrageous mistakes of youth.

Oat straw is the base of so many of my tea
blends. I learned from Michael that the horrible, tan lifeless stuff
you’ll sometimes see in commerce is generally straw that is left over when the
ripe seed is harvested for grain, a by-product. The plant has already succeeded in
its mission of setting seed and exhausted its life force in the process.
It’s the hay, literally the straw. What I call “oat straw” would, I suppose, more
correctly be called “oat grass.” It’s the young, green new growth. It is
vibrant and full of life, working on building up energy reserves so
that it can flower. But, you know, it’s convention, it’s called oat straw. I’m not going to start
calling it “oat grass” just yet.

I learned from Susun Weed
to make oat straw as a nourishing strong infusion. She taught us to
make single-herb infusions from oat, nettles, red clover and comfrey.
Nettles I found to be too drying. Red clover blossoms too expensive, red
clover leaf nice but I got sick of it. Comfrey too controversial. Oat,
however, was just right. When I learned from Phyllis Light
to go ahead and decoct everything, I changed my technique. The
resulting brew from simmered oatstraw became my daily tonic, soothing
and healing me. I add other herbs, and think of them as the accents.
Oats are like the flakes in the muesli, and the other herbs are the
raisins and nuts.

I often take the same approach to the tincture of the milky oat seed. I recently reviewed all the custom tincture blends I have made for people over the years and realized that almost all of them are based on milky oat seed. It restores the resilience of the nervous system, and just about everyone needs that. Some people come to see me for a mental health primary complaint, but then others speak of the emotional strain of coping with some more physical primary complaint. Either way, milky oat. It’s a fairly neutral herb, so it’s not as likely to throw someone off balance, or to overcorrect. Especially if someone is wobbly, I like to include a strongly centering herb to keep them grounded, rooted at their center.

Of course, we generally think of oats as food. I like herbs like that. They are familiar and accessible. I’ve
never harvested the ripe seed for food myself. The kernel from A. fatua is so
tiny compared to A. sativa anyway. Oatmeal, though. It feeds the
microbiome of my gut and soothes my itchy skin in the bath. I buy it at
the store, but remind myself where it comes from. Thank you, Old Man
Oat!

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