Osha root is a popular Native American herb from the Southern Rocky Mountain region. It is a relative of lovage and is in the same family as parsley. Osha root grows best in high altitudes, i.e., above 10,000 feet, in dry alpine meadows. Wild osha root is an endangered plant.
At the very least, cultivation is tricky. This means that most of the Osha on the market is taken from the wild (which may be why this plant is now considered endangered by conservationists). Not only does Osha not freely reproduce, but the root is part of the harvest. For this reason, it’s important make, and stick with, a precise plan for harvesting.
Osha is a perennial that is hardy down to about zone 6. As a guide, you might remember that it is native to the US Southwest. It grows into extensive patches and does best in moist, fertile soil.
The Osha plant has long, thin hollow stalks and large leaves that extend out like an umbrella. As a matter of fact, the Latin (scientific) name for the family of which Osha is a member is Umbelliferae. This plant also has white flowers, with seeds that give a sweet fragrance reminiscent of celery. Osha root is brown on the outside and yellow on the inside.
Perhaps best well known as a treatment for bronchial conditions, Osha is used by some for the common cold, sore throats, pneumonia, flu, bronchitis, cough, and other respiratory disorders. People sometimes use it to other types of viral infections such as herpes and HIV and AIDS. It is also known to be used for digestive troubles and wounds to the skin (to keep infection away).
Despite its many uses, the science backing Osha’s effectiveness as a treatment is lacking. This means that medical experts are waiting for organizations such as the National Center for Complimentary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), which is an agency of the National Institutes of Health in Washington, to conduct research relative to claims that it helps to treat the illnesses and conditions named above. The highly regarded medical website WebMD says, “more evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of osha for these uses.”
Osha looks similar to hemlock, which is poisonous. Before touching or ingesting, take the time necessary to confirm that the identity of the plant is, in fact, Osha.