Osha, a member of the parsley family that is also known as ‘bear root’, is native to the Rocky Mountains. The plant grows extremely slowly, as it is dependent on a symbiotic relationship with certain soil fungi. Attempts to cultivate it outside its natural habitat have failed. According to a Navajo legend the Navajo learnt about the use of this plant from the bears, who seek it out, eat the roots and also rub themselves with it. The whole plant is edible and has a pungent and complex celery-like flavour. However, it can easily be mistaken for Poison Hemlock and Water Hemlock, which share the same habitat. The older the roots, the more pungent and powerful they are. The roots must be dried before use, as they can cause blistering when fresh.
Native healers considered Osha a power plant. As it is only partially water soluble it is best chewed or taken as tincture. Osha Root induces profuse sweating, so can be used as a diaphoretic to ward off infections such as influenza. It soothes sore throats and as a syrup, it can be used to treat bronchitis and asthma. The tea makes a good stomachic bitter that can be used to soothe indigestion and similar complaints.
The root can be used as a talisman and to ‘potentiate’ the contents of a ‘medicine pouch’. It is also a good cleansing herb that can be used prior to ceremonies or rituals. Use for protection.