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Botanical Name :Avena sativa
Species: A. sativa
Other names: Groats, Oatmeal
A now obsolete Middle English name for the plant was haver (still used in most other Germanic languages), surviving in the name of the livestock feeding bag haversack. In contrast with the names of the other grains, “oat” is usually used in the plural.
The oat (Avena sativa) is a species of cereal grain, and the seeds of this plant. They are used for food for people and as fodder for animals, especially poultry and horses. Oat straw is used as animal bedding and sometimes as animal feed.
Since oats are unsuitable for making bread on their own, due to their lack of gluten, they are often served as a porridge made from crushed or rolled oats (see oatmeal), and are also baked into cookies (oatcakes), which can have added wheat flour. As oat flour or oatmeal, they are also used in a variety of other baked goods (e.g. bread made from a mixture of oatmeal and wheat flour) and cold cereals, and as an ingredient in muesli and granola. Oats may also be consumed raw, and cookies with raw oats are becoming popular. Oats are also occasionally used in Britain for brewing beer. Oatmeal stout is one variety brewed using a percentage of oats for the wort. The more rarely used Oat Malt is produced by the Thomas Fawcett & Sons Maltings and was used in the Maclay Oat Malt Stout before Maclay ceased independent brewing operations.
Oats also have non-food uses. Oat straw is also used in corn dolly making, and it is the favourite filling for home made lace pillows. Oat extract can be used to soothe the skin conditions, e.g. in baths, skin products, etc.
The wild ancestor of Avena sativa and the closely-related minor crop, A. byzantina, is the hexaploid wild oat A. sterilis. Genetic evidence shows that the ancestral forms of A. sterilis grow in the Fertile Crescent of the Near East. Domesticated oats appear relatively late, and far from the Near East, in Bronze Age Europe. Oats, like rye, are usually considered a secondary crop, i.e. derived from a weed of the primary cereal domesticates wheat and barley. As these cereals spread westwards into cooler, wetter areas, this may have favoured the oat weed component, leading to its eventual domestication.
Oats are grown throughout the temperate zones. They have a lower summer heat requirement and greater tolerance of rain than other cereals like wheat, rye or barley, so are particularly important in areas with cool, wet summers such as Northwest Europe, even being grown successfully in Iceland. Oats are an annual plant, and can be planted either in autumn (for late summer harvest) or in the spring (for early autumn harvest).
Oats are generally considered “healthy”, or a health food, being touted commercially as nutritious. The discovery of the healthy cholesterol-lowering properties has led to wider appreciation of oats as human food.
Oat is the only cereal containing a globulin or legume-like protein, avenalins, as the major (80%) storage protein. Globulins are characterized by water solubility; because of this property, oats may be turned into milk but not into bread. The more typical cereal proteins, such as gluten are prolamines . The minor protein of oat is a prolamine: avenin.
Oat protein is nearly equivalent in quality to soy protein, which has been shown by the World Health Organization to be the equal to meat, milk, and egg protein. The protein content of the hull-less oat kernel (groat) ranges from 12â€“24%, the highest among cereals
Coeliac disease, or celiac disease, from Greek “koiliakos”, meaning “suffering in the bowels”, is a disease often associated with ingestion of wheat, or more specifically a group of proteins labelled prolamines, or more commonly, gluten.
Oats lack many of the prolamines found in wheat; however, oats do contain avenin. Avenin is a prolamine that is toxic to the intestinal submucosa and can trigger a reaction in some celiacs.
Although oats do contain avenin, there are several studies suggesting that oats can be a part of a gluten free diet if it is pure. The first such study was published in 1995. A follow-up study indicated that it is safe to use oats even in a longer period (Janatuinen EK, Kemppainen TA, Julkunen RJK, Kosma V-M, MÃ¤ki M, Heikkinen M, Uusitupa MI. No harm from five year ingestion of oats in celiac disease.
Additionally, oats are frequently processed near wheat, barley and other grains such that they become contaminated with other glutens. Because of this, the FAO’s Codex Alimentarius Commission officially lists them as a crop containing gluten. Oats from Ireland and Scotland, where less wheat is grown, are less likely to be contaminated in this way.
Oats are part of a gluten free diet in, for example, Finland and Sweden. In both of these countries there are “pure oat” products on the market.
Traditionally, oat straw was considered a mild â€œnervine,â€ an herb thought to calm and heal nervous symptoms. On this basis, it was used to treat insomnia, stress, anxiety, and nervousness. In addition, oat straw tea was used for arthritis, and an alcohol extract of oat straw for the treatment of narcotic and cigarette addiction. However, there is no evidence that it is effective when used for any of these purposes.
What is Oat Straw Used for Today?
Oat straw is widely marketed for enhancing male sexual function, and a combination of oat straw and saw palmetto is said to help sexual dysfunction in women. The same combination is supposedly helpful for enlargement of the prostate. However, the only evidence for these claims comes from unpublished studies conducted by the manufacturer of oat straw products. Because these studies are not available in full, it is not possible to judge their validity.
For example, one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of 75 men and women reportedly found that use of an oat straw product enhanced sexual experience for men but not for women. Unfortunately, it is not clear whether the results were statistically significant or exactly how the researchers arrived at their conclusions. Another study discussed on the same web page supposedly found that oat straw combined with saw palmetto produced similar benefits for women, but it is not clear whether this trial was double-blind.
It has been claimed that oat straw works by increasing the amount of free testosterone in the blood. Many oat straw websites state that, with advancing age, testosterone in the body tends to become bound up and inactivated, that this leads to numerous problems including failing sexual function, and that oat straw reverses this process. However, none of the parts of this argument are fully substantiated: the argument is speculation piled on speculation.
Oat straw has also been advocated as a stop-smoking treatment. However, despite promising results in one rather informal study, reported in a letter to the journal Nature in 1971, the balance of the evidence suggests that alcohol tincture of wild oats is not helpful for quitting smoking.
There are no known or suspected health risks with oat straw. However, comprehensive safety studies have not been reported.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider