Other common names: Bear root, Wild lovage, Indian parsley, Mountain carrot
Ecology & How to Locate
Locally we find 2 common Osha species. Ligusticum grayi and apifolium. You can find both growing at lower elevations near the coast and also inland at higher elevations. You will find that apifolium likes to grow in moist stream banks, wet meadows and loamy slopes up to 4,000ft elevation. Have not seen apifolium east of Cascades.
Ligusticum grayi likes similar growing conditions, but you tend to see it appear in higher elevations and also move east of the cascades. Look for the flowers during early to mid-summer. When finding Osha in moist environments, you will see it growing alongside Pedicularis spp, Willow (salix), Spireae, Wild berries (Vacciniums), and an assortment of Conifers. When finding Osha along mid-high elevation slopes you will see it growing with Arnica, Pipsissewa, Sitka Valerian, Lomatium, Mules Ear, Balsam Root, Arctostaphylos, Doug Fir, Ponderosa Pine, and Jeffery Pine.
Osha has adapted to fire over the years . One fire site in particular that I have observed is the Biscut fire of 2002. The biscut fire burned the entire Kalmiopsis wilderness area (over 300,000acres). I have watched the Osha rebound quite well, and in many areas, prosper post fire. When fires do come through, the aerial parts of the plant will burn, but the root crown will remain alive, depending on the severity of the fire, it will send out new vegetative growth within 1 to 2 growing seasons.
How to Identify
Flower – White umbel like inflorescences, the ray stalks radiating from the peduncle (main stem) that vary in length. The pedicels supporting an individual flower also vary in length and you can count between 5-10 per umbel.
Leaf – Finely divided and Parsley like in appearance
Stem - Hollow
Root – Has a strong pungent odor. Would describe the scent has a mix of wild celery, wild ginger and crushed vanilla. Most find it to be fairly intoxicating. The root crown is protected with a fibrous, but hairy exterior, and once you have broken through the root bark, it exudes a yellow soap like liquid.
Leaves – harvest a handful of leaves to dry. Once dry you can use them similarly to parsley.
Seeds – Collect the seeds and dry. Once dry, use them similarly to Fennel.
Root – Harvest the root in early spring, late fall or winter. Osha is deeply tap rooted and it is important to harvest with some moisture in the ground for any penetration
Leaves used as a seasoning or garnish (both fresh or dry)
Seeds used as carminative tea (both fresh and dry)
The roots have traditionally been collected for medicine, so this will be the focus.
The roots can be infused, decocted and tinctured to be used for many applications. These include carminative and stomachic qualities along the GI tract, expectorant properties within all tissues of the lungs, supports general circulation in the body, blood building, can stimulate menstruation, and awakens the mind. Immune support comes to mind as well
My primary uses are bronchial and deep lung support, also take as a simple or added to formulas as an anti-viral and anti-bacterial.
Other plants in bioregion with similar medicinal uses
Should not be taken during pregnancy due to its stimulating effects.
Support, strength, vitality, ancestral integrity and insights
Pungent, warming. Building in moderation, but if taken in higher quantity is pacifying and cleansing
Harvesting & Preparations
Osha has a long history of being over harvested, being an esteemed medicinal herb across the world. To this point, the Rocky Mountain Osha (Ligusticum Porteri) has experienced the most pressure. With over 100 years of being over harvested and poached from its environment. Knowing its history, this is an important herb to work with a focus around conservation moving forward.
Our coastal correlates have not received the same pressure, but we should treat them with caution. Ethical wildcrafting is an absolute must. Please reference the Ethical Wildcrafting section to learn more.
Fresh root tincture – 1:3
Dried root tincture – 1:5
Syrup - Handful cut/sifted Osha, 3 cups honey, 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 1hour. After 1 hour, remove from heat source and let it continue to infuse for another hour. Afterwards, strain herb from menstruum and place your syrup in a cool space (refrigerator works best). This will last for about 1 year. I like 2 tablespoons or osha syrup to roughly 8 ounces of water. This is my favorite medicine for sore throats, colds and generally coldness in the body.