Medicinal Oats

Oats are a soothing, demulcent, nourishing food. They are taken as an important restorative in nervous disorders, as they seem to support the heart muscles and urinary organs. The gruel, sometimes with lemons, or raisins added as flavoring, is a mild nutritious food of easy digestion in inflammatory cases and fevers. An oat and slippery elm gruel is sometimes useful in cases of croup, where overeating or eating of the wrong kinds of foods sometimes brings on the spasms. 

Oats are well-known for their external uses. Most of us have heard of oatmeal soap, which is used to stimulate the skin and cleanse the pores. Many people moisten oats and rub the skin with them for the same purpose. Oatmeal is sometimes used as a poultice or as a base for other medicinal poultices. Oatmeal baths are often used for kidney infections.

In India, oats are described as a perfect food, and an unrivaled fodder for horses.  It is also taken as an antidote for drug addiction, alcoholism, diphtheria, paralysis, and dysentery.

In China, oats are not domestically grown, although the wild oats are gathered and eaten during times of dearth.


Most of us are familiar with oatmeal for breakfast. They are high in protein, though they must be combined with beans, nuts, or other protein products to produce a complete balance of the amino acids. Some people have lived for extended periods on oats alone. They are an extremely rich and satisfying food. For centuries they have been the staple food of the Scots; coarse or whole oats were cooked in water and eaten with a sprinkle of salt. They also form the basis of cakes and biscuits peculiar to that country. 

Dr. Max Bircher-Benner, an early pioneer of food science and a vegetarian, devised a perfect food which he called muesli, containing all the ingredients needed for health and growth. It was made by mixing raw oats, honey, hot water, nut milk, the juice of half a lemon, two medium- sized apples, grated, and one tablespoonful of grated hazel nuts. This was fed to patients twice a day and nothing else; convalescing patients improved dramatically from the first day. Commercial muesli can be purchased but sometimes it can be rancid. Since it is so easy to prepare fresh, and so much nicer, no one need spend the extravagant amount that Muesli costs.  


Overnight, soak the desired amount of oats in water to barely cover. In the morning add nut milk (or nut cream), honey, grated apple, ground nuts, and either lemon or orange juice. You can warm the cereal if desired. Most people enjoy Muesli and it is easily digested. 

Many people eat preparations of granola which are largely based on oats, roasted in a honey-oil syrup with nuts, seeds, bran, etc. This preparation requires a lot of chewing, and most people don’t chew very well. Also, the cooked honey and oil can cause health problems, especially since the honey, when cooked, loses its enzymatic activity and the cooked oil has been proven to have carcinogenic properties. Better to roast the desired ingredients separately until lightly golden and, while still hot, mix in the honey and oil as well as the dried fruit desired. If the granola is soaked overnight before eating, it is more digestible. 

When the oats are cut, they are then called groats. Some people think that groats are superior in nutrition to the rolled oats. Oatmeal is the ground grain, and oats flakes are the flaked grains, which are heated and pressed. Jethro Kloss assures us that there is not a hair’s breadth difference between the steel-cut or the finely-flaked oats. The finely-flaked product is preferred because it is prepared much more quickly and is more quickly digested. He asked the Quaker Oats Company to describe their method of preparing the oats, and they complied, as follows:

“We are very glad to enclose a description of the manufacturing process for ... oats. The glumes of the oat grain are wrapped a bit more securely (than wheat) around the kernel, and remain on the oat until they are removed at the rolled oats mill. After removing the hull from the kernel from which rolled oats are made, the oats possess the entire bran, middlings, endosperm, and germ portion natural to the grain. Whole oat kernels (oat groats), steel cut oats, large or standard type rolled oats flakes, and small or  ‘quick’ type rolled oat flakes are all whole grain products. In the sense that refined is sometimes used as an antonym for whole grain, there are no refined oat foods. The oats go through an extensive cleaning process in which corn, wheat, barley chaff, and weed seeds are removed. The oats are then carefully sized to uniform diameter by grading. Only the plump sound-oats of good size go into (our) products. The clean graded oats are roasted and partially dried, after which they are cooled and passed to a large burr stone where the hulls are torn from the groats. The oats mixture is next bolted to remove any flour, and the hulls are then removed in special air separators. Any unhulled oats are removed in cell machines and the cleaning process is continued until the groats are free from hulls and then steel-cut. The clean groats pass to the steaming chamber where they are partially cooked with live steam and from which they pass to the rolls where the groats are formed into flakes. The rolled oats flakes are cooled in a current of air to about 110 degrees F., following which the product is immediately weighed and packed by automatic mechanical equipment.” Back to Eden (Original book), 83–85. 

Oat kernels look very much like wheat in structure. They have an outer covering of bran which protects the starchy endosperm and the germ that sits at the bottom of the grain. Because the oat kernel is soft, the nutritious bran is not removed. Whole grain oats contain seven B vitamins, vitamin E, and nine minerals, including iron and calcium. The quality and quantity of the protein in oats is far superior to that of wheat and most other grains. One ounce of oats has twice the protein of wheat or corn flakes. But the most important nutritional advantages are the soluble fiber and the GLA (gamma linoleic acid). 

Oat Varieties and Suggestions

Oat Flour—This can be made yourself by grinding rolled oats in a food processor or blender. Oat flour adds lovely flavor to breads and because of certain natural preservatives in the oats themselves, it improves their shelf life. Oats contain no gluten, which is needed for bread to rise, so it must be mixed with a flour containing gluten, such as wheat. Substitute one of every five parts of wheat flour with oat flour. If your recipe is for a quick bread, no addition of other flours is necessary. 

Oat Sprouts—Oat groats are very easy to sprout! Sprouting increases their nutritive values. Add them to sandwiches, salads, stir-fry and soups. Chop them and add them to your bread dough.  

Steel Cut Oats or Scottish Oats or Irish Oats—These are groats which have been cut into two or three pieces. Cooking time is considerably longer than for rolled oats. Bring them to a boil for five minutes; then turn off the heat and cover them for an additional ten minutes. These also cook well in a crockpot on low, overnight. Add liquid three parts to one.  

Old Fashioned Rolled Oats—Use two parts liquid to one part oats, and simmer for about five minutes.  

Oat Groats—Use two cups liquid—water, nut milk, broth, stock—and bring to a boil. Add one cup of oat groats (the whole kernel) and lower heat; simmer for about 45 minutes. This may also be done quite successfully using a rice cooker. These cook well in a crockpot on low overnight, but you may want to increase the liquid three parts to one, liquid to oats.  

Eat Raw Oats? They will not be as sweet as cooked oats, because heat breaks down the starch in oats into a sugar, but if you like them that way, they still have the same nutritional value. The fact is that you can add rolled oats into water that is no hotter than 110 degrees and they will still be considered “raw,” i.e. a live food with all its enzymes intact to aid in digestion and nutritional assimilation.  

Are you feeling your oats today?

 Judy Hallingstad