Updated: Oct 20
Native to the American Southwest, and the Rocky Mountains, Osha is in the same family as carrots and parsley, which is why the flowers of each plant look similar. My favorite bit of lore surrounding Osha is in regard to its other monikers, “Bear Medicine” or “Bear Root.” It’s said that in the spring, when the bears wake from hibernation, Osha Root is one of the first things they consume to awaken, revive, and restore their bodies. So, why are we so excited about “Bear food?
The History of Osha Root
What Echinacea is to the midwest, Osha Root (Ligusticum porteri) is to the southwest. It has been used by indigenous peoples of the region for over 2,000 years. This dark brown, pungent root is traditionally used to boost immunity, improve lung health, and aid digestion. Generations have used it to treat colds, coughs, sore throats, the flu, bronchitis, asthma and even pneumonia.
Unfortunately, osha root’s popularity has led to over-harvesting in recent years, putting the species in danger. That is why we take great care to use ethical, sustainable practices when harvesting osha for our apothecary each season.
A Quick Disclaimer
Before we start, let me remind you that just because something is “natural” does not always mean that it is safe for every person. When it comes to herbal medicine, there are many plants that should be avoided when pregnant or nursing, and some that can cause extreme interactions with prescription and over-the-counter medicine. I am in no way suggesting that you should fail to seek medical advice when needed. Before using herbal preparations, always do your research, and speak to a professional regarding any significant concerns.
A Caution About Wildcrafting Osha Root
We do not advise wildcrafting your own Osha root unless you’re highly skilled in plant identification. Remember that just because something is “natural” does not always mean that it is safe. Osha root has several plant lookalikes, one of which is the poisonous hemlock. Furthermore, both of their species grow wild in the same habitat making accurate plant identification especially important.
Why Osha Honey?
Osha is known to support the immune system, respiratory ailments, cough, sore throat, indigestion, and more, but its flavor can be a bit of an acquired taste. Pairing it with raw honey can help take the edge off its strong flavor and make it more palatable. Plus, raw honey is medicinal in its own right. Full of antioxidants, minerals, and more, it is also proven to aid in the treatment of coughs, colds, and sore throats. This traditional herbal remedy is an excellent ally to have on hand for cold and flu season.
Making Osha Honey
Osha honey is simple to prepare, as it takes more time to macerate than it does to make. There are only two ingredients. And the only equipment you need is a pint jar and a pair of kitchen scissors.
2” to 4” of Osha root, chopped (or enough to fill your jar ½ way)
Chop, break, or grind your dried Osha root into pea-sized pieces and place them in your pint jar.
Fill the jar to the top with raw honey, leaving about ½” headroom.
Seal the jar and keep it in a cool dark place for 4-6 weeks, giving it a shake or turn every few days.
Using Your Osha Root Honey
Once your osha root honey has macerated for 30 days, there is no need to strain the osha root out of the honey. They can be chewed for additional medicinal benefits or discarded as they are used.
For dosage, one-half to one full teaspoon of osha root honey at a time is a good place to start for an adult. (Please note that it is not advised to give honey to children under 12 months of age.) It can be taken straight by the spoonful or stirred into your favorite tea. Take it when you first feel a cold/flu coming on, and take a spoonful or two a day throughout as well.
Be Well, My Friends
We hope you find this recipe useful as we head into the cold and flu season this year. If you decide to give osha honey a try, tell us all about it in the comments below, and until next time, be well, and…