Living and working at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, we are privileged to have so many amazing local herbs to work with.  From the beginning, one of the local herbal stars to play an important role in many of our formulas has been Osha root (Ligusticum porteri).  Recently, we were lucky to spend a day with the turning Aspen trees for training on how to sustainably harvest Osha from the world-renowned Osha expert, Shawn Sigstedt. Shawn is an ethnobotanist who has dedicated his career to studying osha, its uses and cultural significance, as well as its relationship with bears.

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Dave, our Quality Assurance Manager, and Johnnie, one of our Customer Service Representatives, learning about ethical practices for harvesting Osha root with Shawn.

A member of the Parsley family (Apiaceae), Osha is only found in the Rocky Mountain region, from New Mexico to Montana. Osha has a rich and special history in this area. It has long been sought after and revered for its health-promoting qualities by Native American communities in the area as well as across the country.  Known as bear medicine or bear root, it is one of the first things bears seek out after waking from hibernation and they will often chew it to ease illness and discomfort.

shawn_oneShawn respectfully greeting an elder Osha plant in the area before we began the harvest. 

Osha has an affinity for the lungs and is wonderful for almost any respiratory condition. It encourages a healthy immune response and promotes your body’s natural resistance. Traditionally, it was also used to help soothe joint discomfort and support a healthy inflammatory response.

When WishGarden first started in 1979, Osha was not known or used much outside of herbal circles and usually only in local herbal circles. As the use of herbal products has grown and Osha’s reputation has spread, you can now find it in many herbal products around the country. However, because it only grows in this relatively small area and has been notoriously hard to cultivate, Osha is at risk of being overharvested in the wild.

shawn_and_catherineOwner and Formulator, Catherine Hunziker, looks on as Shawn discusses the distinguishing features of Osha  versus other Apiaceae family members. 

We make herbal remedies from a love of the plants and their sustainable use is important to us. The sustainability of osha is particularly close to our hearts. Our day with Shawn was just one of many steps we are taking to ensure that our use of Osha is done in an ethical and sustainable way.

shawn_twoShawn demonstrating how to ethically harvest Osha root without taking the whole plant. 

We spent the day learning about Shawn’s history with Osha, the work he’s done studying bear’s use of osha, and how after many years he has finally found a way to cultivate Osha (so exciting!).  In the afternoon, we headed outside to meet Osha and learn from the master the best way to harvest it in a sustainable way. We are excited to put what we learned to use this season.

shawn_threeShawn overseeing our harvesting techniques. 

Many thanks to Shawn for an amazing day and for sharing his passion and knowledge for Osha!

Erin Smith has been working with plants for 25 years and is medical herbalist and ethnobotanist. She is the creator of Plant-Passionate Living™, an interactive program designed to help people find greater health and vitality through a deeper relationship with plants. Erin is Education & Sustainability Manager for WishGarden Herbs.

For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or to sell any product.

Thanks to Shawn Sigstedt for providing our feature image of Osha.