Osha is one of the herb of so-called “bear medicine”. In many cultures the bear is considered to be the prime healing animal, which uses herbs for its own good. In case with Osha, bears will roll on it and cover themselves with its scent; it will have the same effect as catnip for cats. Also first thing to do after hibernation a bear will eat osha, if it can find it, to cleanse its digestive system.
Osha, or Ligusticum porter belongs to the family Apiacea (Umbelliferae). It is a perennial herb used for its medicinal properties. Osha is also known by the other names, such as Colorado Cough Root, Indian Root, Mountain Ginseng, Wild Lovage, Mountain Carrot, Empress Of The Dark Forest, Bear Medicine, Nipo, and Porters Lovage.
Osha possesses the characteristic of umbel flower shape and leaves that look a little like parsley. It is pretty high, grows in aspen groves among their roots that makes digging very difficult. It has long thin hollow stalk with large fern-like divided green leaves (and golden in autumn). The seeds and flowers are at the top of the plant and spread out in the form of an umbrella. Osha’s flowers are white and the seeds have a sweet celery-like smell, as well as the entire plant.
The plant can be confused with poisonous hemlock, but the Osha’s root is quite hairy and possesses a strong smell similar to celery. It is brown on the outside and yellow on the inside, with a soapy feeling when you touch it.
Osha grows throughout the entire Rocky Mountain range from Mexico to Canada.
The plant does not like to be domesticated. For that reason, the most available osha is taken from the wild. It inhabits dry, upland meadows and ravines. It can be dried in the sun without harm and will last for years in the dried form. Because of the potent antibacterial and antiviral substances in the root it will not rot. The plant prefers moist, fertile ground.
Osha is already facing extinction in the wild.
For medical purposes the root of the plant is used. Although it is the root that is used medicinally, the leaves and seeds make excellent culinary additions.
Osha root can be found in the dried form, in the form of tinctures and root extracts. A simple cough syrup can be made at home. Mix the ground root with twice the amount of honey, steep for an hour, then press out when cool and use the liquid. You can also find Osha root in the form of tea (remedy in cold and sore throat) and powdered root (excellent on skin wounds to prevent infection, and is used to make cough syrup) in the market. A tea of the boiled root loosens phlegm and combats viral colds and flu. An infusion of the roots is used externally to treat body aches.
Root tea, or a stronger thick boiled decoction, can be used like echinacea for the treatment of respiratory infections such as flu, colds, sore throat, and typical upper respiratory congestion. It is more effective than Echinacea and goldenseal when one is already acute and congested.
Most over-the-counter Osha formulas for colds and flu combine Osha with Echinacea and goldenseal in an alcohol based tincture. Make sure to read labels carefully if you are sensitive to either herb. Osha is also sold in capsule form in combination with Lomatium root, which is another reputed immune enhancer.
The plant is famous for its antiviral, diaphoretic, carminative, diuretic, and decongestant properties. It also stimulates the immune system. Osha is an antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, febrifuge, and antirheumatic. It is very effective in case of viral infections of the sinuses, throat, and upper and lower respiratory systems. Osha induces sweating and helps eliminate toxins through the pores of the skin, and helps bring up respiratory secretions and relaxes smooth muscle. The last one is very good for coughs and asthmatic breathing difficulties.
Key components of the herb are volatile oils, essential oil, terpenes, lactone glycoside, alkaloid, sterols, saponins, ferulic acid and phytosterols. Z-ligustilide, one of the active constituents of osha, acts gently against bacterial and yeast infections, while relaxing the muscles lining the respiratory passages. Lactone (ligustilide) is one of the major ingredients responsible for therapeutic effects of Osha. This is, actually, the component, that gives the herb anti-asthmatic properties, together with anti-viral and anti-microbial ones.
1. “Warming” herb for the respiratory system:
It is good for head colds with dry, irritating coughs, acute influenza with coughing and dyspnea (difficulty breathing), the initial stages of acute (and subacute) pharyngitis and acute bronchial pneumonia with dyspnea. It has rather strong antiviral proterties, that is why should be taken at the first minimal signs of flu or cold. Then the result would be better.
Osha is extremely good for sore throats and bronchial inflammations (chewing the root raw soothes sore throat and gum irritation). It will immediately soothe and cause sweating (thanks to its diuretic properties), thereby helping to eliminate toxins.
It is effective even in such type of infections as herpes. It can be used as a preventative for those prone to sore throats and lung congestion or who get secondary infections from allergies
2. Useful herb for other body systems:
- the upper gastrointestinal,
- cardiovascular, central nervous system,
- parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems
Osha is excellent for stomach indigestion and for cramping or pain associated with the beginnings of ulceration. The roots, seed and essential oil of this plant stimulates the circulation, kidneys and uterus. Osha is used to treat tuberculosis, headaches, toothache, emphysema, pneumonia, painful menstruation and retained placenta. It has also been used in case of motion and air sickness, as it increases oxygen utilization and uptake into the body.
It you take Osha for extended periods of time, take a week-long break every couple of months. The herb should not be used during pregnancy, as large amounts may cause uterine contractions. Also during breastfeeding.