Photo courtesy of Susan Leopold, PhD, Executive Director at United Plant Savers.
Osha root (Ligusticum porteri) has been in use as an herbal medicine, incense, food, and for ceremonial purposes for thousands of years. When European colonists arrived in North America, osha was already being widely used by First Nations People in the American Southwest and Mexico to treat a variety of conditions, particularly those involving the upper respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts. The Zuni people chewed the root in healing rituals and the Tarahumara people used it ritualistically in protection ceremonies. This herbal ally has been generously gifting itself to humans on our continent for millennia, and its renown has spread to other parts of the world. Unfortunately, this increasing popularity has shined a light on osha’s one significant problem—virtually all commercial osha is wildharvested because this independent herb doesn’t do well as a cultivated crop. This limitation combined with the ever-increasing demand for osha has many herbalists concerned about the viability and long-term sustainability of this precious botanical. Let’s take a deeper dive into osha.