Osha Root | Bear Root
North Americans view the herb as having great power and luck, and as such it’s often carried as a lucky talisman. When burnt, it produces a warm and slightly spicy aroma, which is believed to purify the air. Some Native American peoples carry the root of the osha plant (ligusticum poteri) because it is thought to protect against negative influences and negative thoughts.
Osha is associated with dreaming and helps you to realise that there is magic in everything, including you. It helps to lift a veil between the conscious and unconscious worlds. Osha is a powerful, spicy-smelling root that may be sprinkled onto the rocks in a sweat lodge, or burnt directly. Traditionally, osha root was sometimes ingested to cause a sweat or fever that could release toxins from the body.
Osha root is also known as loveage, loveroot or bear medicine because bears, after chewing it for health reasons, are side-affected by its “lovage” properties and take to nuzzling each other. This perennial herb — Ligusticum porteri, known as osha or osha (<- cut) — is found in parts of the Rocky Mountains and northern Mexico.
While immediately effective for many wellness-promoting purposes, Osha root’s said side effects (quite benign and even cause alone to consume it) are a result of its containing oxytocin, a powerful hormone. “When we we hug or kiss a loved one, oxytocin levels drive up,” explains Psychology Today. “It also acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. The hormone plays a huge role in pair bonding. This hormone is greatly stimulated during sex, birth, breast feeding—the list goes on.”
Primarily though, osha root is used to support the respiratory system.
A member of the parsley family, Osha’s seeds and leaves were food to indigenous Americans. It also served as a symbol for different beliefs: some communities burned Osha as a sacrifice for protection against dangerous spirits and omens; others washed it in waterways near vegetation during rituals for producing rain.
Osha’s roots were often chewed to increase endurance – which has since been attributed its respiratory system supportiveness. Native American Indian parents even used to wrap Osha roots with leaves and strings and placed them near newly born babies to cleanse the air they breathed.
Osha root contains anti-viral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and therefore supports health or healing for respiratory conditions (coughs, colds, tonsillitis, flu, and other types of viral infections). Its antiviral properties are well recognized today, and as an alternative medicine, it’s often prescribed at the first signals of the common cold or flu. Osha can also be taken when traveling to higher altitudes or for long-distance hiking to promote easy breathing.
HOW TO USE
A decoction (essentially a long, slow simmer) will extract the medicinal properties of the root into a flavorful, dark tea, which can be sipped purely, or mixed into any variety of tea-lattes or broths.
To make a decoction, simply add a handful of dried root to several cups of water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle simmer and allow to reduce for at least thirty minutes – though five to six hours is preferable as the longer the roots simmer, the stronger, and more beneficial the decoction.
When finished, the water will be a translucent, grey-brown tint, reflective of the root’s color, and rich in beneficial plant-properties.
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