Avenae farina. Oatmeal.
Nat. Ord. — Graminaceae. Sex. Syst. — Triandria Digynia.
Seeds of Avena Sativa, Ground.
Description. — Avena Sativa, or the common oat, is too well known to require a minute description ; it has a smooth stem, from two to four feet high, with linear lanceolate, veined, rough leaves, with loose, striate sheaths; stipules lacerate; panicle equal, loose; spikelets pedunculate, pendulous, two-flowered, both flowers perfect, the lower one mostly awned ; paleae somewhat cartilaginous, closely embracing the caryopsis ; root fibrous, annual.
History. — Oats were known to the ancient Greeks and are at present cultivated in all civilized countries, principally as food for horses. They have been naturalized in Sicily, and have been found in the island of Juan Fernandez. Their native country is unknown. In the north of England, Scotland, and Ireland, in some parts of France, and other countries, oats form a large portion of the nutriment of the inhabitants. The meal, which is prepared by grinding the seeds, is made into a gruel, and is very nutritious and digestible, beside being somewhat laxative; it forms an excellent diet for the sick in many cases. The British colleges direct groats, which are the seeds deprived of their husks; and these, when ground into fine meal or flour, are prepared groats.
Oats contain, according to the analysis of Vogel, 66 per cent, of meal, and 34 per cent, of husk ; the dried meal consists of starch 59, saccharo-mucilaginous extract 10.75, albumen 4.3, oleaginous matter 2, ligneous fiber and moisture 24. Other analyses have been made, which vary from the above in quantity and elements, showing oats to consist of a large proportion of starch, some sugar, gum, oil, albumen, gluten, a nitrogenous body, epidermis, alkaline salts, etc.
Oatmeal is inodorous, slightly bitter, insoluble in alcohol, ether, and the oils; but alcohol and ether remove an oleo-resinous matter from it; it yields its nutritive properties freely to boiling water.
Properties and Uses. — Nutritive and demulcent. Good in habitual constipation, but not in dyspepsia, accompanied with acidity of stomach. In the form of gruel, either salted or seasoned with sugar, honey, or the pulp of fruit, it is an agreeable nutritive during convalescence from acute diseases, in the puerperal woman, and in some chronic diseases. Oatmeal made into a cake with water, baked and browned like coffee, then pulverized and made into a coffee, or infusion, forms a drink which will allay nausea and check vomiting, in a majority of cases, when all other means fail, and used thus is very useful in diarrhea, dysentery, cholera-morbus, and irritable conditions of the stomach. Oatmeal gruel may be prepared by boiling an ounce of the meal with three pints of water to a quart, straining the decoction, allowing it to stand till it cools, and then pouring off the clear liquor from the sediment. Sugar, raisins, or lemon-juice are frequently added to improve its flavor.