Botanical Name: Ligusticum porteri
Common Names: Oshá, Bear Root, Chuchupate, Bear Medicine, Indian Parsley, Colorado Cough Root, Porter’s Lovage, ha ‘il chii’ gah, ha’ich’idéé, Guariaca, Porter’s Licorice Root, Hierba del Cochino, Raíz del Cochino, Washí
Family: Apiaceae/Umbelliferae (Carrot/Parsley family)
Energetics: Bitter, warming, pungent, feminine, territorial
Primary Constituents: Furanocoumarins, monoterpenes, volatile oils
Actions: Respiratory stimulant, expectorant, immune stimulant, diaphoretic, carminative and bitter, antiviral, decongestant, mucolytic, anti-viral
Field ID and Growing Habits:
Oshá’s appearance is that of a typical parsley family plant- finely divided leaves, flat-topped umbels of flowers/seeds, and hollow stems. It has large basal leaves, and white five-petaled flowers in the late summer. The root is large and dark with hairy rootlets, and it has a fibrous, yellow inner root that is extremely astringent when fresh. It is commonly mistaken for Hemlocks so correct identification is important. Oshá grows only at high altitudes from British Columbia, through the Rocky Mountains, to the mountains of New Mexico. Because it relies on growing conditions rich in micorrhizal fungi, this plant does not respond well to cultivation and is almost always wildcrafted. There is some concern that the wild populations are being over-harvested and may become endangered in the future.
Oshá’s primary physical uses are respiratory, in addition to historical spiritual uses. It helps clear excess mucus from the head and sinuses, and has both opening and clearing, and protective qualities. It induces sweating, aiding in the elimination of toxins, and expectorates infections of the respiratory system. Immune stimulating and anti-viral. I think of it when someone’s boundaries have been compromised to the point of a lowered immune response resulting in colds, flus, and other common respiratory illnesses and infections. I never use this plant without also utilizing its spiritual properties and calling upon the aid of the spirit of the bear.
Contraindications, Interactions, and Warnings:
Taken as a medicine, this plant is very powerful and should be used sparingly and mindfully. Do not use in any situation where extremes are not desired, such as in pregnancy. Overdose may cause headache.
Plant Part Used: Root
Medicinal Preparations and Dosage:
Oshá root medicine is very strong and only a small amount is required to produce a response. Taken as an infused honey, chewing on the root, or as tincture.
Native American tribes have historically used this plant for various physiological and spiritual uses. It is respectfully honored as Bear Spirit Medicine, with the qualities of purification, protection, strength, boundaries, courage, and personal power.
Bears adore this plant and will seek it out and dig it up in the morning, when ill, or while recovering from hibernation.
Personal experiences with Oshá
Class with Juliet Blankenspoor
Herbal Medicines From the Heart of the Earth, by Sheryl Tilgner