Some days – I hardly make it outside for more than 10 minutes. It’s atrocious, I know. When some days are spent entirely in the office, or at conferences, or in front of the computer screen, or prepping orders, or basically subject to a cerebrally confined space, my brain feels it. We can all relate to the feeling of taking a deep breath of fresh, crisp mountain air, or feeling the expansive awakening of the ocean breeze, or the calm still of a forest meditation. Our brain is wired for bliss, and it’s those moments of pure, magical connection when our brain gets a complete rejuvenation, an awakening like none other. When we go long periods without this awakening and stillness, it’s noticeable and kind of numbingly painful. Creative thinking fades to the recesses of our brain. Motivation becomes dampened and fleeting. The soft eyes through which we should view the world become a little harder and more judgmental. All, in part, because the brain is just foggy, stuck, and confined.
Short of quitting the day job for more adventurous time spent outside (although, definitely encouraged if you can), there is an herbal ally that I depend on for days like these to support my brain, nourish my nerves and provide that precious cerebral creativity that recedes when it goes unused. Milky Oat Tops (Avena sativa) provide just that. This simple plant offers so much both medicinally and nutritionally. The spikelets are the flowering bodies in the process of growing the mature seed. Just before they get to the mature seed, they grow through a “milky stage”, often in the spring (and if you want to tincture oats, this is the stage you want to do it). Just after this stage, the oat straw remains and is a fantastic source of minerals for making tea. The rolled starchy endosperm (oatmeal) is the mature seed and what can be eaten as food. Rich in beta glucans (soluble fiber), Avena also contains calcium, potassium, phosphorus, iron, manganese, zinc, Vitamins A, C, E & K, as well as amino acids and B-complex vitamins. The milky oat tops have a sweet flavor, with a moistening and neutral energetic suitable for almost every constitution. It really shines as a nervine tonic that’s moderately stimulating and as a neurotrophorestorative (brain tonic) and meant to be used long term – at least 4-6 weeks to replenish energy and effect the body.
I find milky oats to be ideal for the deeply exhausted individual. One who’s been disconnected from their creative source for too long a time, stuck indoors or pushed beyond their mental capabilities for too long. I often see this pattern with young entrepreneurs, new parents, or generally the vata individual who take on more pitta roles that they are not physically or emotionally equipped to handle. This may also show up as weakened, debilitated nervous exhaustion with low libido, slow recall, forgetfulness, tiredness that gets worse as the day progresses, weepiness at the end of the day, dull headaches, and that “blah” mental malaise feeling. All of these patterns need time and intention to build back up – these are not quick fix issues. That’s why milky oat tops need to be taken tonically for several weeks – to build up your system and nourish the body from a deeply core level.
Here is my formula for Magical Milky Oat Brain Tonic Tea, designed to support and enhance brain activity, nourish your nervous system, fill the body with nutrients and increase peripheral blood flow. This can be taken daily, multiple times per day and can be consumed indefinitely! There are two methods of prep depending on the season: a hot infusion or an overnight steep and sipped chilled or room temperature the next day (for those hotter summer days).