This week, we'll be investigating the properties of the Osha Root. The Latin name for this plant is Ligusticum porteri. It's other names include: Bear Medicine, Colorado Cough Root, Chuchupaste, Porter’s Wild Lovage, Indian Root, and Mountain Ginseng.
The root of the osha plant is a traditional Native American herb. Most Native American tribes treated this root with high regard as it was very crucial to their everyday needs. The tribal groups of the Zuni, Chiricahua, Tarahumara and Aztec were among the many groups who used this root. Osha got the name “bear medicine” because it was noted by Native Americans and early settlers that bears would seek it out when they first emerged from hibernation as a means to stimulate their appetite, as well as chewing it into a “cud” of sorts and then dripping it down and rubbing it into their fur. The related Ligusticum wallichii has been used for nearly 2,000 years in traditional Chinese medicine, and most of the scientific studies of osha were actually performed on the Asian species.
The osha plant is a relative of the carrot and parsley family. It is truly a mountain plant, and can be found in deep, moist soils rich in organic matter at elevations between 9,000 - 10,000 ft. in Taos County, New Mexico and other Rocky Mountain regions of the southwestern United States. Osha plants form large clumps, and in areas of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, can reach heights of 6 to 7 feet. They produce circular colonies with dozens of root crowns growing from a central root mass. The osha is sometimes confused in the wild with poisonous hemlock; the difference between the two is that the osha root is extremely “hairy” and smells like incredibly strong celery. This plant doesn’t like to be domesticated, and is all but impossible to grow under cultivation. Virtually all commercial osha is wild harvested, and because of this it is important to note that osha is seriously threatened in many areas due to over harvesting.
The main effects of osha are strengthening to the respiratory system, it helps make coughing productive, and does wonders for respiratory illness. The osha is also an excellent anti-bacterial and anti-viral, so it has a broad range of uses in helping the body fight off and recover from illness, and wounds both internal and external.
Osha is usually taken by tinctures, or tea infusion, although the root can be chewed to extract the juices that way or mashed up and placed on a healing wound. You will find osha root as a main ingredient in many natural cough syrups.
Ailments which indicate treatment with osha root include: sore throat, indigestion, bronchitis, cough, the common cold, influenza, pneumonia, herpes, AIDS/HIV, prevention of skin wound infections, body aches.
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. Herbs, however, can trigger side effects and may interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, you should take herbs with care, under the supervision of a health care provider.
It is not recommended to take osha root if you are pregnant or breast-feeding; if you are taking a narcotic; or if you are going into surgery.
Latin Name: Ligusticum porteri
Medicinal Actions: Antiviral, Carminative, Diaphoretic, Diuretic, Immune stimulating properties
Indications: sore throat, indigestion, bronchitis, cough, the common cold, influenza, pneumonia, herpes, AIDS/HIV, prevention of skin wound infections, and body aches.
Contraindications: While pregnant or breast-feeding; concurrently with prescription drugs or psychiatric medications; going into surgery.
Herbal Encyclopedia – Osha
Health Tips – Osha
- Osha Pastilles -
- 1 gram organic Acacia (Gum Arabic) powder - 4 grams organic Sugar - 3 grams Osha root powder - 1 gram organic Licorice root powder - Water or herbal extract/tincture of your choice -
Combine and mix dry ingredients in a bowl.
With a one ounce glass dropper, add one dropper-full of water or extract/tincture at a time to the bowl.
Keep adding one dropper full of water or tincture until the mixture holds together in a clump, similar to the consistency of cookie dough. Be careful not to add too much liquid. Form into small pastilles/lozenges/stars/hearts etc. Keep the shapes small as the pastilles will be strong! Coat the outsides with additional Licorice root powder if desired. Allow to dry on a screen or plate for a few days. Store in a glass jar.