The humble oat (Avena sativa) has a long history of medicinal uses use that continues to this day.
For at least 4,000 years, healers have found oats especially valuable for skin care.
Check the labels on high-end soaps, lotions, and hair-care products. You’ll be surprised at how many contain some form of oats. Dermatologists often recommend oatmeal-based creams and body washes for patients with exzema, psoriasis and other skin conditions.
Researchers say the anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory compounds found only in oats called avenanthramides are responsible for oat’s ability to soothe itching and irritated skin.
You don't need an expensive drugstore oat preparation to ease the itch of poison ivy, hives, swimmer’s itch, dry “winter skin,” and the sting of sunburn, diaper rash, and other minor skin irritations. Try a tepid oatmeal bath for quick, inexpensive relief.
The less processing the oats have had, the more avenanthramides the bath will deliver. If you have a grain grinder or blender, simply grind a cup of whole oats, available at a health-food store, to a fine flour. But ordinary rolled oats--even instant oatmeal--will work, cooked or raw. (Use the unflavored kind, though.)
Pour a cup or two or plain, uncooked oat flour or rolled oats into the cut-off leg of an old pair of pantyhose or a tube sock, tie it loosely, and set it under the faucet as you draw a tepid bath. Let the oats soak for a while in the water, periodically squeezing the stocking-bag to release the liquid,
As you soak in the tub, rub the bag of oats over your skin like a bar of soap to increase the soothing effect.
The tub gets slippery during an oatmeal soak, so take special care getting out.
Just pat yourself dry and you'll behind a protective, moisturizing barrier to continue the oats’ skin-soothing work.
Margaret Boyles lives in a wood-heated house in central New Hampshire. She grows vegetables, eats weeds, keeps chickens, swims in a backyard pond in summer, snowshoes in the surrounding woods in winter, and commutes by bike whenever possible.