Ligusticum porteri, commonly known as Osha or Osha Root is a perennial herb found primarily in the southwestern United States and the lower rocky mountains. This herb has been called many different names over time, including, Porter’s lovage, Porter’s licorice-root, lovage, wild lovage, loveroot, bear root, cough root, Indian root, Indian parsley, wild parsley, mountain ginseng, mountain carrot, and empress of the dark forest. Native Americans observed the behavior of bears after chewing on the root. They assumed it was for health reasons when in reality, afterwards would be found nuzzling one another, as if given a love drug, hence both the names bear root and lovage/love root came into existence. Osha root’s side effects are slightly aphrodisiac due to the hormone oxytocin being found in the root and released during it’s consumption.
The Osha plant has a long history of medicinal uses. The Osha root is recognized for its anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties. It was an ultimate solution to almost any type of health concern among Native Americans. It possesses volatile oils and essential oils along with warm and bitter alkaloid. This aids in enhancing the flow of blood in the coronary arteries and brain, improves digestion, increases perspiration and stimulates the circulatory system, kidneys and the uterus. It also contains imperative elements such as lactone glycoside, phytosterols and ferulic acid. It can be used as internal medicines to cure infections in bronchitis, menstrual cramps, digestive disorders, nausea, fevers, sore throats, colds, dry and wet coughs, tonsillitis, toothaches and viral infections; and also as external medicines as a remedy for minor injuries and skin wounds and cuts to prevent infection. Because of the range of mechanisms it has, osha root is, arguably, the best American herb for lung and throat problems.
Osha in the Kitchen
Osha root is a member of the parsley family and was consumed by Native Americans. Apart from remedial benefits, bear root works magic in the world of cookery. This is because its leaves and seed have a flavor and fragrance that resembles chervil, celery and parsley. The best part of bear root is that it possesses no side effects or adverse reactions other than rare allergy.
To extract the hidden oils and medicinal properties, mash a handful of Osha and then boil the root in water. Simmer for an hour at the minimum though five to six hours is preferable as the longer the roots simmer, the stronger, and more beneficial the decoction. When finished, the water will be a translucent, grey-brown tint, reflective of the root’s color, and rich in beneficial plant-properties. This tea can be consumed as-is, or added to other recipes including soup, stews, and even stir-fry.
Finding Osha Root
Osha can be found in higher elevations of the Rocky Mountains, at elevations between 8,000 and 10,000 feet. 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. They thrive in deep, moist soils that are rich in organic material. Oddly enough, Osha Root defies cultivation and most of what is sold commercially comes from wild stands.
Side Effects and Caution
Osha root, although considered to be relatively safe for all, should not be consumed by pregnant women, nursing mothers or small children. This is because the herbal remedy contains high oxytocin levels, which may cause various health issues both for the unborn and young children. Pregnant women are advised to stay away from the natural herb as it may cause uterine contractions thus resulting in miscarriage. Drinking more than 6 cups of the herbal infusion each day is likely to result in diarrhea, loss of appetite, insomnia, vomiting, dizziness, and headache.