Oat straw (Avena sativa) is a medicinal herb and popular nootropic. As the name suggests, it’s taken from the straw part of the popular cereal grain.
Lots of people are aware of the health-boosting qualities and fat burning benefits of oats. Eating a bowl of porridge for breakfast can help lower cholesterol and set you up for the day by providing an ongoing supply of energy. Fewer people realize the value of the straw section of the plant.
As a nootropic agent, oat straw can offer a surprising array of cognitive benefits and it’s often used to reduce neurological pain and anxiety. Oat straw boasts very good stress reducing abilities as well. The pharmacology of the ingredient is also interesting. It provides numerous nutrients, including calcium, which allows it to calm some of the symptoms of arthritis and osteoporosis.
Historical Value as a Nootropic
People have been exploiting the brain-boosting capabilities of oat straw for many thousands of years and it’s sometimes described as being a “nervine herb”. This is an umbrella-term that is applied to herbal ingredients that have the ability to act on the nervous system and produce beneficial results including improved neural function and stress reduction.
Historically, oat straw was also often used as an aphrodisiac and male potency booster, but these days scientists are more interested in its value as a nootropic and its use in this role can be traced back to the Middle Ages when it was used as a tonic to strengthen and improve cognitive function. Saint Hildegard of Bingen (1098 – 1179) favoured its use so much she said it was her favourite “happiness herb”.
How Oat Straw Benefits the Brain
The combination of natural compounds provided by oat straw benefit the brain in a number of different ways:
The participants who took part in one study received either 800mg or 1600mg doses of oat straw and both doses were shown to be capable of boosting cognition. Cognitive function was assessed by measuring the participants’ attention levels, spatial-working-episodic memory, and executive function. Measurements were taken before the dose was provided and several times in the following six hours. The data obtained showed even an 800mg dose of oat straw was capable of providing excellent results.
Improved Cerebral Blood Circulation
Oat straw boosts nitric oxide levels and improves circulation by providing vasodilation. This is probably one of the reasons why it has such a good reputation as an aphrodisiac. When the blood supply to the penis is improved, erection quality is improved too. By providing extra blood to the brain, oat straw can be very good for causing a rise in mental function as well. The brain needs oxygen and nutrients to function. The blood carries both these things to it, and a better circulation improves the supply. After one 24-week study, involving 37 adults (aged 60+), supplementation with 1500mg of oat straw was shown to improve cerebral vascular responsiveness by 42%.
Relief from Stress and Anxiety
Oat straw reduces stress and anxiety by boosting alpha brainwave activity. Alpha brainwaves are also known to be important for rapid learning ability and memory formation and recall. The stress-reducing capability of oat Straw is further enhanced by its ability to increase dopamine release, thereby furnishing the body with an improved sense of satisfaction and pleasure. The results of one study, conducted in Germany and involving EEG brainwave monitoring equipment, show supplementation with oat straw boosts brainwave activity in the area of the brain that governs cognition. The subjects involved were able to perform better during arithmetic testing and made fewer errors.
Supports Long-Term Memory
Oat straw has been shown to improve long-term memory by prolonging cAMP activity in the brain. Using the Stroop Color-Word Test to ascertain memory capabilities, the scientists in charge of one study analysed the benefits provided by doses of 1600mg of oat straw per week and supplementation provided a 65-74% improvement in memory. The study can be read online in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine’s (July 2011).
Protects Against Cognitive Disease and Decline
Oat straw suppresses the activity of the inflammatory cytokines that are involved in some brain disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and manic depression. Science shows the ingredient also has a beneficial effect on monoamine oxidase-B (MAO-B) and can, therefore, help protect against cognitive decline due to ageing. As people age, MAO-B levels begin to rise, leading to a fall-off in dopamine hormone levels that can result in decreased mental function.
Oat straw offers a great deal of value as a nootropic ingredient. Not only does it have the ability to boost cognitive function in healthy individuals, it also offers protection against mental decline, be it due to ageing or disease. Oat straw has been used for hundreds of years, It’s a natural ingredient that’s as kind to the body as it is to the brain, has never been the focus of controversy, and is known to be well tolerated and does not have a reputation for causing nasty side effects.