What is Osha Root?
For more than a millennia, Osha Root has been used by Native Americans. This perennial herb is found in deep rich soil in the mountains of the US and Mexico and is known by many different names: osha root, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licorice-root, Porter’s wild lovage, Porter’s ligusticum, bear medicine, bear root, lovage, wild lovage, Indian root, Indian parsley, wild parsley, mountain ginseng, mountain carrot, nipo, empress of the dark forest, overoot, Colorado cough root, chuchupate, chuchupati, chuchupaste, chuchupatle, guariaca, hierba del cochino or yerba de cochino, raíz del cochino, and washí (tarahumara).
It looks remarkably like wild poison hemlock but can be recognized by its roots. The root of the plant is very hairy and has an unpleasant celery like odor. According to a Navajo legend, the Navajo learned about the use of this plant from the bears. As they emerged from hibernation they would seek out the root to stimulate their appetite and increase energy and they would chew it into a paste, drop it on the ground and rub it into their fur.
Osha is difficult to grow under under cultivation so it is almost always wild harvested. Since it is dependent on mycorrhizal fungi and grows extremely slow, cultivation where Osha naturally grows has been more successful. A permit is needed to harvest osha root as it is an endangered herb and purchasing it from a sustainably harvested source helps to ensure the root is not damaged due to over harvesting. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to source.
Osha Herbal for Energy and Health
Osha can be used to treat sore throat, bronchitis, cough, common cold, influenza and pneumonia. It is thought to be a potent antiviral and antibacterial agent, which can help with bronchial infections and sore throats. Chewing directly on the whole Osha induces perspiration which can boost the body’s immune system and will create a numbing effect for sore throats. Tea made from Osha Root may also relieve some gastrointestinal discomfort and is also sometimes used to increase appetite. It can be used topically on cuts and scrapes because of its powerful antibacterial qualities. The root must be dried before use as it can cause blistering when fresh.
Ceremonial uses for Osha Root
Nearly every Indian tribe in North America uses a species of Osha Root, medicinally, ritually or symbolically. The plant is associated with good luck and protection and Elders are often given Osha Root as a gift. It has been used in rituals to promote love and fidelity and is also a good cleansing herb that can be used prior to ceremonies or rituals. It is often carried as a luck talisman.
Preparing Osha Root in a Tea
In order to make the Osha Root decoction, it must be made over a long, slow simmer. Take a handful of roots and several cups of water and simmer for at least 30 min, 5-6 hours is best. When finished, the tea will be a gray brown color. With Osha root a little goes a long way! This is a strong root and it’s all about quality not quantity!
Please read our Botanical Warning.
Please be aware that we offer natural botanical items for sale at the request of our customers. We are not experts in the use of wild plants. Therefore you must exercise caution when using these items. We provide information on uses for these herbs based on historical references and lore. While many of these plants may have medicinal value when used in the correct way, they may also be harmful when used inappropriately. We cannot advise you on how to use these items. We strongly suggest you seek assistance and information from knowledgeable people on the correct use of these botanicals. While most people can safely use Sweetgrass and Sage for cleansing, ingesting herbal products involves some amount of risk. We cannot be held responsible for inappropriate use of these plants.
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