October | Osha
(In this post you will see me refer to “energy”. I do not mean this in a metaphysical sense ((minus a few exceptions)). Plant energy is the plant’s literal capacity for doing work. Plants are constantly using energy; harvesting light from the sun (roughly 95% is captured) and turning it into chemical energy for photosynthesis. While I’m certain that plants have metaphysical energy, I prefer a scientific approach to energy, thus the preface).
Autumn in the high desert in a special kind of wonderful. We have a variety of deciduous trees here; come mid-October the entire Southern Rockies are covered in Aspens turning gold, Gambel Oaks on fire in dark reds and deep sunset oranges. As herbalists, we honor and follow the seasonal shifts of the earth when wild harvesting. Different plants and different parts of plants are harvested at different times of year. In the autumn and winter we harvest roots, because all of the energy the plant used to grow it’s aerial parts is now going down into the ground below.
In New Mexico, we are privileged to have a diverse and unique array of medicinal plants; one of the most varied regions in the country. Ligusticum porteri (common name of Osha) is one of our treasured medicinal plants, colloquially called “Bear Root” because of it’s appearance and energy (via Chinese Medicine, “bear energy” is symbiotic with “earth energy”, grounding, rooting down—not physics). The aerial parts are also beautiful and equally aromatic with a slightly less pungent flavor than the roots. I harvested these a few weeks ago, from a beautiful location that has an abundant amount of Osha. My preference when making medicine is to either make it in the field, or as soon as possible. This means I make all of my medicine in less than 3 hours after harvesting whenever I can, and everything I make is very potent.
Osha is primarily used as a lung and respiratory herb. It is incredible at treating viral infections and is diaphoretic, meaning it can be used to break a fever and help eliminate toxins. It is my go to herb for any infection that moves into the lungs, or for chronic bronchitis. The powdered root or tea is hemostatic and can be used to repair superficial infections and scrapes. Anecdotally, Osha can also help open the lungs at high altitudes and aid in altitude adjustment periods for mountaineers and hikers.
Because Osha is such a revered plant, I try to garner as much use from it as possible. I make an Osha honey, that is a 3 day low heat simmering of Osha root in local NM honey with a small amount of apple cider vinegar. After that, I take the honey-infused roots and re-infuse them in 40% vodka (made by Santa Fe Spirits), which I will then remake into another cough syrup (this will be a slightly different recipe). I currently have a VERY limited number of Osha Cough Syrup 4oz bottles available, and they will go quickly! These are alcohol free and so delicious. They are also 100% safe for children ages 1 and up. I am so honored to be able to offer this plant to all of you. Please email me if you have any questions, firstname.lastname@example.org. I also have fall meadow cream! This is the Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis) Meadow cream, with Spruce cone resin and Mountain Mugwort. While all of my products are especially neutral for folks of any walk on life, I kind of love this one for men (and for folks who identify as male). It has a very mountain-savory-forest smell to it that reminds me of taking a deep breath outside.
(Many herbalists believe that Osha is being over harvested. Mentors I have worked with and Michael Moore (the botanist), believe that this is not the case. The roots of Osha are threadlike hairs that are impossible to fully remove and when harvesting it, it’s hard to believe you’re making an impact. Daniel Gagnon the owner of Herbs Etc in Santa Fe published a very short, thorough paper on Osha harvesting and has performed an extensive study on Osha plots in Southern Colorado. That being said, it is always important to know what you’re harvesting, to take only what you need, and to be responsible and respectful of the plant.)