Osha ~ Bear Root

Published: Wednesday, 21 June 2017 09:00

osha root hor webLigusticum porteri ~ Oshá


It is the root of the osha plant which contains its incredible power.  Large, dark brown and hairy, osha root convolutes and regrows in vast configurations.  The energy of this North American herb is immediately apparent from its strong butterscotch-celery odor.  The root is considered a talisman to many native peoples, and is carried as a good luck charm.

Osha is the most widely used herbal medicine in the Southwest.  Like other strong curing plants, osha has been used as a panacea, yet care must be taken in its identification, it resembles the poisonous hemlock and grows in a similar environment.  It is found growing in the rugged western states, above 10,000 feet in altitude, in alpine clearings made by old burns and in logging cuts.  Two of the best areas for harvesting osha are Taos, New Mexico, and in Southern Colorado.  Osha tenaciously refuses to be domesticated.  There have been no successful efforts at cultivating osha plant. 

osha tops rootsThe osha that appears above the ground is delicate and lovely.  In watery subalpine meadows, the osha plant creates a large and distinctive rosette at soil level.  Its stalk is hollow like parsley, with large basal leaves that may extend outward for up to two feet.  At its height of two feet, osha infloresces as a flat-topped umbrella, in which the mature seeds can be found at the center. It likes mountains and shade and typically grows in elevations from 7,000 feet to 10,000 feet. The Rocky Mountains are abundant with it.

Osha is a spicy, bitter, warm root that acts on the lungs and the stomach, producing sweats and fevers when necessary.  It releases toxins, phlegm and gases from the body.


Wayfaring native peoples have carried osha root as a talisman to ward off rattlesnakes and witches' spells.  Modern man is not aware of the power of his own mind in effecting others and influencing phenomena.  Nor are we sufficiently trained in perceiving the influence of another's thoughts upon us.  Our intellect has curtained the workings of magic in ordinary life.  When the veil is opened, we see ways in which a plant that works to remove gross pathogenic factors also successfully dispels subtle negative energies.

Elders have always like to receive osha as a gift.  The Navajo call it "deer eye", the Hopi call it Bear root but osha is its Spanish name.  White man has called osha "Porter's Lovage", "Colorado Cough Root", "Bear Medicine" and "Indian Parsley."  Nearly every Indian tribe in North America uses a species of Ligusticum, medicinally, ritually or symbolically.  Osha is a plant associated with good luck  and protection.  It is revered by all traditional healers and medicine people living in the Southwest for its broadly effective and powerful healing abilities.

osha flowerUses

Used to treat colds, flu, fevers, cough, cold, phlegm diseases, indigestion, gas, delayed menses, and rheumatic complaints, osha has been called one of the most important herbs of the Rocky Mountains.

The Klamath Falls women burn osha root to use the smoke to perfume their hair and clothing.  They also steam the root for facial treatments.

Apaches make a tea of osha for stomach ailments and people from the warm springs arch of Washington state chew the root to prevent colds.

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