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What is Oats?

Oats are hardy annual grasses able to withstand poor soil conditions and are best adapted to areas with a cool, moist climate. Russia, the US, Finland, and Poland are the world's major oat-producing countries. The plant grows to about 61 to 91 cm in height with straight, hollow, blade-like leaves. The flowers, which contain 2 or 3 florets, are clustered at the top of the plant. Oat grain grows enclosed in 2 hulls that protect it during development. It contains 3 main structures: the bran, endosperm, and the germ.

Scientific Name(s)

Avena sativa

Common Name(s)

Oats, Hafer (German), ma-karasu-mugi (Japanese), avena (Spanish)

What is it used for?

Traditional/Ethnobotanical uses

Derived from wild grasses, the oat was domesticated into today's cultivated plant. The oldest known oat grains were found in Egyptian remains from about 2000 BC. Scottish settlers introduced oats into North America in the early 17th century. Before being used as a food for humans, oats were used as a livestock feed in the form of grain, pasture, hay, or silage. Traditional medicinal uses of oats include the treatment of rheumatism, depression, chronic nerve pain, and loss of bladder control, and, externally, as a skin cleanser and softener.

General uses

Oats and oatmeal are used primarily as a food source. Use in celiac disease is debated. Benefits in dermatology, high cholesterol, heart conditions, and diabetes remain controversial.

What is the recommended dosage?

The recommended intake of beta-glucan for reduction of cholesterol is 3 g/day, an amount found in approximately 90 g of oats.


None well documented.


Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) when used as food. Avoid dosages higher than found in food because safety and efficacy are unproven.


Oat bran may decrease absorption of medications. There are reports of decreased absorption of statins and iron with oat bran ingestion.

Side Effects

Oat bran increases the bulk of stools and frequency of defecation, resulting in distention, gas, and possible perineal irritation. Oat sensitization and allergy have been described.


Data are lacking.


1. Oats. Review of Natural Products. Facts & Comparisons [database online]. St. Louis, MO: Wolters Kluwer Health Inc; February 2012.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.