Osha Root or Ligusticum porteri is like herbalism’s grandparent. Plants are indeed our family and osha has become an elder in need of caregiving. Osha embodies the delicate relationship we have with plants as herbalists. Native to the Rocky Mountains, southwestern herbalists and Native Americans have worked with osha for many moon cycles. WishGarden is no exception. We cherish this powerful plant and have implemented processes to safeguard its population.
Osha is a slow-growing parsley family perennial and can take 6 years to establish mature tap roots that send out new shoots. In addition to tedious and slow growing habits, osha prefers higher elevations ranging from 7,000 to 11,000 feet. Its seeds require outdoor cold conditions and soil resembling its natural forest habitat, therefore sowing osha seeds can become difficult.
Osha is not officially endangered nor threatened according to USDA, therefore there are no current state or federal laws in the United States regarding osha’s conservation or plant population in the wild (United Plant Savers). This means osha is not tracked by any federal conservation agencies. Lack of regulation paired with osha's slow growth has led to over-harvesting, which has created a decline in osha’s population.
American Herbal Products Association, or AHPA, reported increasing commercial demand and interest for osha root in their 2011-2017 Tonnage Survey, a large contributor being commercial herbal supplement companies.
Established in 1979, WishGarden started off as a southwest bioregional herbal company. Therefore we hold osha’s traditional use and thriving population close to our heart. Catherine Hunziker, President & founder of WishGarden, has taught the importance of sustainable wild-crafting of slow perennials since the 90’s. As a part of our current day over-harvesting and conservation efforts, we have reduced our use of osha root and replaced it with other herbs of similar function. Lovage root or Levisticum officinale is our analog for osha root and can be found in our Kick-Ass Immune Activator formula. In 2020, our sourcing & sustainability team started purchasing organic cultivated osha. We are the first national herbal company to use sustainably cultivated osha. We work closely with our farming community and are proud to do our part to reduce over-harvesting and contribute to osha’s conservation.
As our Sourcing & Purchasing Manager, I sat down with our osha farmer to discuss the important care giving process.
When did your community begin growing osha root?
We purchased seeds from a southwestern Native American collector in 2005. This same year we started propagating & growing in nursery beds. The raised beds receive full-sun and the soil is dark, soft, and deep. It was an organic farm for many years before we started the osha.
At what elevation is the farm? Are there wild osha plants there?
The farm’s elevation is around 4000 feet and surrounded by large mountains, though there is no native wild osha. However, one of my farming colleagues has introduced osha root shoots in the wild – so we will see!
How does your farm harvest the osha root?
First and foremost, we listen to the plants. It took our osha roots six years to establish and is just now coming to a point to harvest in springtime annually. Spring is the best time to propagate root shoots as well. We divide roots and replant shoots off mature roots.
What is your pain spot with growing osha?
It’s a slow growing perennial so the growth is slow and tedious.
What is your favorite aspect of growing osha?
The blooms are unusual but the plant is telling me it’s happy when it blooms.
Our most beloved, familiar, and effective plant allies teach countless lessons by nurturing us when we feel under the weather, when we need grounding, or when we need to catch a deep breath. Cultivating our vulnerable traditional plants honor their future conservation.
- 2011 - 2017 Tonnage Survey of Select North American Wild-Harvested Plants, AHPA.
- Osha – Ligusticum porteri, United Plant Savers.
Lauren Ann Nichols attended The Colorado School of Clinical Herbalism and received her certificate in medical herbalism. She is the owner of Herbal Vice, a small batch skin care company, and grows the herbs used in her products. She is currently a customer service representative at 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 sell any product.