Part Used for Medicine:
Its aromatic root.
The seeds are classic Apiaceae seeds and similar to fennel, dill, caraway and ajwain. They are edible but not as commonly used.
It prefers slopes and higher elevation meadows, in partial shade between 7-10,000’. Not uncommon in the right environment of the SW Colorado Rockies.
Energy & Tastes:
Bitter, spicy, woodsy, earthy, warming, drying,
Preferred Method of Preparation:
Either fresh or dried root tincture, both work very well.
One can also simply place a small piece of root in the mouth and let its aromatic spiciness do what it needs to.
Osha honey can be made by using thin slices of fresh root steeped in honey or mixing the powdered dry root into honey to make a paste.
Its usefulness makes it a popular herb yet it is too difficult to cultivate for most people. This combinations makes it at risk for over-harvesting in the wild. I only use roots dug from abundant areas in Colorado.
Diffusive, aromatic, immune stimulant, stimulating diaphoretic, stimulating expectorant, circulatory stimulant, antiviral, antibacterial
The root is exquisite for upper and lower respiratory issues.
Outstanding for winter cold and flu season
Used in many cough syrup formulas, especially for coughs that are a bit on the cool, damp side.
One of the first herbs I think of when working with a sore throat
W/elderberry and echinacea for colds and flu
For coughs use w/mullein, elecampane, thyme or Yerba Santa as a stimulating expectorant.
For sore throats, use with Salvia offcinalis and Usnea
As osha is only seasonally available (most folks are out of stock when the March cold and flu season arrives) and it is at risk for being over-harvested in the wild… a good substitute is combining thyme and fresh garlic
Safety Issues & Contraindications:
In the wild, it may be confused with either Poison Hemlock or Water Hemlock. Both these plants can be deadly and share the Apiaceae family label with Osha. Don’t even consider working with osha in the wild until you are confident in identifying all three of these plants. I have seen osha growing within 10’ of water hemlock in the Southwest.
The warming, stimulating, blood moving nature of osha make it not a good choice when pregnant.
I once watched a video of two bears interacting with osha. It was similar to cats and catnip… and I definitely don’t use it when camping in bear country.
The Plant Profiles are brief materia medica summaries of plants encountered during plant walks or introduced during class on our longer programs. They are presented here to help students organize plant info on an ongoing basis. Although the Profiles are not meant to be comprehensive, they are offered here to the public in the hope that others find these pages useful.