The Health Benefits of Osha

A Traditional Native American Medicinal Plant

Osha (Ligusticum porteri) is also referred to as bear root, Chuchupate, Colorado Cough Root, Indian Parsley, Perejil de Campo, Racine d'Ours, Wild Celery Root, and Mountain Lovage, among other names. It is a perennial herb and a member of the carrot or parsley family (Apiaceae/Umbelliferae).

According to the Natural Medicines database, osha has traditionally been used by Native American and Hispanic cultures for pneumonia, colds, bronchitis, influenza, tuberculosis, hay fever, and coughs.

Today, an extract is commonly used as a decongestant. Some believe it boosts the immune system. Osha is most commonly found along forest edges and ravines of the Rocky Mountain Colorado Columbine and Aspen Bluehills and can grow up to three feet tall. In North America, there are 12 species of Ligusticum. Among these, L. porteri is known as "true" osha.

Health Benefits

Osha root is thought to be beneficial during times of acute or respiratory infections as well as sore throats and lung issues. However, this is not a proven medical claim.

The FDA has warned multiple osha suppliers and distributors about making medical claims, stating that making claims about cures or other medical benefits qualifies osha as an "unapproved drug."

Oxidative Stress

Researchers have extracted human peripheral lymphocytes (a form of a white blood cell) and incubated them with different concentrations of the osha root extract. They measured the protective effect of the herb against oxidative damage by inducing oxidative stress.

They found that at the highest doses, 400 μg/m (microgram/meter), osha might be a potential immune-modulating agent, perhaps providing protective effects against oxidative damage.

Oxidative damage occurs when there is an accumulation of oxidative stress, which is caused by the imbalance of free radicals and antioxidants. Too much oxidative stress can result in illness and disease.

The problem with this study is that it was not conducted using human trials where people were ingesting osha root extract. Therefore, we cannot determine the dose effect and the safety of ingestion until more studies have been conducted.


Osha root has also been applied directly to wounds to prevent infections. Some people believe its antibacterial components aid in healing wounds and warding off infections. To date, there have been no documented studies proving this to be true.

Osha root has been used in the treatment of HIV/AIDS, likely due to its antiviral properties; however, there is limited evidence to support these claims.

Beware of Health Claims

When scouring the internet, you will find that health purveyors and supplement makers claim that, osha's "anti-inflammatory actions work to alleviate mucous membrane inflammation, opening bronchial airways to ease breathing." They also claim that osha root extract is found to be favorable by people "suffering from asthma, allergies, emphysema, pneumonia and chronic coughing."

Health claims like these are followed by disclaimers that should state the information is not meant to replace the expertise of a health care professional. This is because there is no research to date to support such claims.

Possible Side Effects

It is hard to predict the side effects of osha, mostly because it is difficult to conclude the effect of a dose. However, certain facts are known about when not to take osha.

It is unsafe to consume osha when you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

Ingesting osha may start menstruation in pregnant women, which could cause miscarriage. There are no known effects during breastfeeding; therefore, it is recommended to avoid it completely.

Dosage is important too, as some toxicity has been noted in the roots of L. porteri when ingested by mice.

Preparation and Dosage

Osha must be prepared carefully. Since the root can be confused with the very poisonous plant hemlock, osha must be identified by the root.

It is sold in a variety of forms, including whole roots, dried, or fresh. It comes in root tincture, a liquid herbal extract, and capsules containing root powder. Additionally, it can be found in multi-ingredient products, such as tea and syrup.

It's hard to say what the appropriate dose is since osha is not commonly prescribed. However, several factors should be taken into consideration when deciding doses such as age and health. At this time, there is no scientific data to support an appropriate range of doses, but some manufacturers and distributors recommend doses dependent upon the use. For example, you may use more osha for flu treatment as opposed to a common cold.

Keep in mind, though, osha is not a medication.

You should consult with your pharmacist or physician before using this product, especially if you have pre-existing health conditions and are taking other medications.

What to Look For

Since this herbal supplement is not FDA approved, it's very important to purchase it from a reputable source. If possible, the supplement should be certified by a trusted third party, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, and ConsumerLab.

These types of organizations help to ensure supplement safety through testing and evaluation. In addition, they have the ability to determine whether or not supplements contain unacceptable levels of contaminants.

One major problem with commercial osha is the misidentification of species. Some suppliers, product manufactures, and herbalists do not differentiate between species of Ligusticum, using osha interchangeably as a common name. L. porteri is known as "true" osha and should be the primary ingredient in your supplement.

In addition, the popularity of osha has led to over-harvesting of the wild plant. As a result, osha has been designated an endangered plant by conservationists.

Make sure that the label does not make false claims. For example, labels should not claim that osha can treat, alleviate symptoms, or cure a disease. The reason for this is because supplements are not drugs and are not approved by the FDA.

All claims should be followed by a disclaimer, noting the supplements inability to cure, treat, or alleviate symptoms, as well as the importance of discussing with a health care provider before use.

Mountain Lovage

While osha root extract may have some antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory properties, the question remains, does it also promote feelings of love? Some side effect myths suggest that when bears would eat osha, they would nuzzle up against one another, suggesting that the root exhibits some type of "love potion" properties.

The belief is that osha root extract contains oxytocin, a type of hormone that is produced during times of intimacy such as sex, touching, birth, and breastfeeding. There is no scientific evidence stating this to be true, but perhaps using it for this purpose would yield a type of "placebo effect." As always, make sure it comes from a reputable source and that you consult with your health care provider before use.

Ceremonial Use

Ceremonial uses for L. porteri and L. canbyi are documented for North American indigenous groups. The use of L. porteri has been documented during ritual curing ceremonies for protecting individuals against witches and rattlesnakes.

Other Questions

What is the most important thing to keep in mind when purchasing an osha supplement?

One way to make sure you are buying osha from a reputable source is to make sure the label on the bottle indicates that osha will not cure diseases. It should also indicate that osha is not to be used as a replacement for other medications.

A Word From Verywell

Osha root has been claimed to aid in a variety of health ailments. While researchers have found that osha root extract may have some antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties, more human studies need to be done to test the safety of dosing as well as the effectiveness of claims.

Be sure to discuss osha use with your health care professional. And if you plan on purchasing osha, be certain that it comes from a reputable source.

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