Oat Straw - An Overview
Oat straw (wild green-oat, Avena sativa) is an all-natural nootropic that is taken from the oat grain.
It is harvested from the plant during its “milky” stage, before it bears fruit. It is used for:
- Anxiety and stress
- Libido enhancement
- Anti Inflammation
- Improved cerebral blood flow
- Overall cognition
Humans in Europe have been using oat straw for thousands of years, and societies in the Middle Ages used to prescribe it for nerve health and mood.
Science is just now catching up to what indegenous cultures have known for a long time.
Avenanthramides are the main active compounds that give oat straw it’s nootropic properties.
It also can inhibit MAO-B and phosphodiesterase type 4 (PDE4), which may increase dopamine levels, improving mood and fighting depression.
What Does Oat Straw Do?
There is some evidence that oat straw can help people quit addictions and treat withdrawal symptoms.
It has been used for this purpose in traditional cultures, although clinical results are mixed.
Researchers saw that oatstraw increased the probability of successfully quitting opium in a number of patients.
However, a later double-blind study conducted by a different group of researchers did find that oat straw could help smokers quit. 2Schmidt K, Geckeler K. Pharmacotherapy with avena sativa – a double blind study, Int J Clin Pharmacol Biopharm. 1976
More research needs to be done on this subject, although it is likely that oat straw does have a positive effect on addiction recovery by providing a sense of calm and raising mood during withdrawal.
Many Western herbalists use oat straw tincture as a simple way to quiet temporary, mild anxiety, or to take the edge off low moods.
Oat straw is considered a “nervine” herb, acting as a non-addictive alternative to drugs like benzodiazepine. 3Kathy Abascal, Eric Yarnell. Nervine Herbs for Treating Anxiety, Alternative and Complementary Therapies. 2004
Although human studies on this subject are scarce, there is some clinical evidence from animal studies.
In one rat study, low dose oat straw led to an improvement of active stress response, an enhancement of shock avoidance learning and increased social behaviour.
Researchers concluded that wild green oat extract can improve behavioural initiative and anxiety response. 4Schellekens C, et al. An extract from wild green oat improves rat behaviour, Phytother Res. 2009
Oat straw can act as a vasodilator, meaning that it can affect alzheimer’s since it has been linked to vascular diseases. 5Suzanne Craft. The Role of Metabolic Disorders in Alzheimer’s Disease and Vascular Dementia: Two Roads Converged?, Arch Neurol. 2010
According to research, wild green oat extract supplementation can improve vasodilator function in systemic and cerebral arteries, suggesting a potential role in the maintenance of cardiovascular health. 6Wong RH, et al. Chronic consumption of a wild green oat extract (Neuravena) improves brachial flow-mediated dilatation and cerebrovascular responsiveness in older adults, J Hypertens. 2013
This nootropic has a long history of brightening emotions and fighting depression. There is some solid evidence it can help raise mood through multiple pathways.
Oat straw helps to prolong the effects dopamine which is good for mood. It does this by inhibiting monoamine oxide-B (MAO-B).
MAO-B is responsible for breaking down neurotransmitters like dopamine, which are responsible for mood regulation.
By inhibiting the action of MAO-B, oat straw can ensure that dopamine stays in the synaptic cleft longer, resulting in better overall mood, and lower depression. 7T Moccetti, et al. Bioactivity-based development of a wild green oat (Avena sativa L.) extract in support of mental health disorders, Zeitschrift für Phytotherapie. 2006
It can also inhibit levels of phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), an enzyme that can cause inflammation.
PDE4 is closely linked to higher levels of depression and anxiety, so preventing it may help feelings of subjective wellbeing.8Florian Plattner, et al. The role of ventral striatal cAMP signaling in stress-induced behaviors, Nat Neurosci. 2015 Aug 9Vasantmeghna S. Murthy, Ajish G. Mangot. Psychiatric aspects of phosphodiesterases: An overview, Indian J Pharmacol. 2015
Thinking and Problem Solving
Oat straw can improve overall cognitive performance. It can act as a vasodilator and lower inflammation, allowing you to think clearer, and perform mental tasks faster.
According to research, oat straw can have an effect on the left frontotemporal area, which is involved in cognitive tasks.
Scientists saw statistically significant differences during performance of concentration tests, and during mental arithmetic.
These changes suggest that oat herb extract might be effective in healthy subjects, resulting in a positive impact on cognitive performance .10Dimpfel W, Storni C, Verbruggen M. Ingested oat herb extract (Avena sativa) changes EEG spectral frequencies in healthy subjects, J Altern Complement Med. 2011
Another study looked at healthy older adults who self-reported age-associated cognitive decline.
Researchers saw that oat straw resulted in broad improvements to cognitive function over two separate testing sessions in terms of increased speed of performance across tasks, and on individual tasks assessing executive function and episodic memory.
Significant improvement in “thinking time”, “planning time” and “task completion time” compared to placebo, as well as fewer errors on taks. 11Kennedy DO, et al. Acute effects of a wild green-oat (Avena sativa) extract on cognitive function in middle-aged adults: A double-blind, placebo-controlled, within-subjects trial, Nutr Neurosci. 2017
There is also evidence that oat straw can help you focus and decrease symptoms of ADHD.
This may be due to its effects on dopamine (which is heavily involved in motivation and attention), and cerebral blood flow.
One study found that oat herb extract may acutely improve attention and concentration and the ability to maintain task focus in older adults. .12Berry NM, et al. Acute effects of an Avena sativa herb extract on responses to the Stroop Color-Word test, J Altern Complement Med. 2011
Oat straw has been used as an herbal aphrodisiac for centuries, and there is some evidence that is could improve desire and performance.
It may be linked to its antidepressant properties, which can affect libido.
It can also increase blood flow, which may be helpful for both male and female performance. 13Peter H. C. Lim. Asian herbals and aphrodisiacs used for managing ED, Transl Androl Urol. 2017
How Oat Straw Works In The Brain
Oat straw achieves its nootropic effects through a few different pathways.
It can inhibit MAO-B, which the enzyme that breaks down dopamine. This increases dopamine levels and can provide a significant mood lift.
It also inhibits phosphodiesterase-4 (PDE4), an inflammatory enzyme.
This effect may have a vasodilator benefit in the central nervous system, promoting enhanced blood flow in the cerebral vessels, aiding cognitive function. 14Rachel H. X. Wong, et al. Chronic Effects of a Wild Green Oat Extract Supplementation on Cognitive Performance in Older Adults: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Crossover Trial, Nutrients. 2012
Oat straw also has avenanthramides, which are bioactive compounds unique in oats.
These can also improve vasodilation, and they have proven antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. 15Meydani M. Potential health benefits of avenanthramides of oats, Nutr Rev. 2009
Oat Straw Potential Side Effects
Oat straw has no known side effects.
We strive to bring you the most up to date, research-based information about Oat Straw and other nootropics.
Something we missed? Do you use Oat Straw? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below.
About the author:
Erik Levi is a co-founder of HolisticNootropics.com and a certified holistic nutritional therapy practitioner.
As an NTP Erik takes a nutrition first approach to health. He has worked with many different people to help them use nutrition to optimize their quality of life.
Erik believes that mental health is a physiological process and cognitive enhancement is not something that can be achieved by just taking some pills with good Amazon reviews.
Instead, true cognitive enhancement comes with the right balance of nutrients, movement, and gratitude. Erik continues to stay up to date with the most current nootropic and holistic health research and promises to deliver the best solutions possible.
You can check out his personal health blog/podcast/YouTube Channel all under the name Holistic A-Hole.