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  • Writer's pictureJames Keskimaki

Oshala “Little Bear”

Updated: Jan 3

Ligusticum grayi

Western Osha, Gray's Lovage, Kishwoof

This year's journey out into the high cascades to harvest my yearly supply of Oshala was postponed many times due to all the intense fire activity here in Oregon. Multiple times I got ready to head out only to be turned around because of the smoke. It was getting to the point that if I didn’t head out soon my spot would be covered with snow. Finally at the beginning of October I headed out, there was smoke covering the mountains as I headed east out of Eugene. Knowing that I had to go today or risk snow I pushed on. As I gained in elevation I was blessed with clearer skies! Driving down the rutted out dirt road only increased my excitement. It was going to be a beautiful day in one of my favorite places working with this one of my greatest plant allies.

Oshala is one of my “power plants”, her vibration was calling me. All plants are sacred but once you get to be more intimate with them they open up in a whole different way. Showing you their personality, energetic field and ways to use them beyond what you find in a Materia Medica profile or from some quick internet search. Traditionally a lot of healers had only a few plants that they worked with, they would use these for all sorts of situations. The magic of the healer's connection with the spirit of the plant is where we see miracles happen. Oshala has shown me different sides of myself, giving me strength and confidence. She has a very cleansing vibration, both internally and externally. Chewing on a small piece of this spicy, bitter root will awaken your spirit, and even helps the body acclimatize at higher elevations.

Take some syrup, tincture or chew a small piece of the root at the first sign of sore throat here it will soothe and anesthetize. Working wonders on clearing mucus, opening up the bronchioles, allowing one to recover from infection. As Michael Moore states” it is useful for hoarseness from singing and yelling after a long night of celebrating with friends”. Burning a piece of the root can be used to clear negative energy from a space, I’ve even heard that it is used in sweat lodge ceremonies which makes sense as it clears energy and opens up the bronchioles.

I find the best way to prepare it is by tincturing the roots fresh. The most simple and best way is by doing 1 part fresh chopped up root to 2 parts 190 proof alcohol. Another even simpler way is to dry the root and chew a small piece as needed.A lot of folks like to chop up fresh roots and mix with honey into a jar and let it sit for a month or more, then take a spoonful as needed. Also is a great addition to cough syrups.

I personally make a honey tincture by mixing honey in with a fresh plant tincture. I love combining the strong extraction of alcohol along with grounded sweet energy of honey really rounds out the medicine. This makes a really superb medicine that is of high potency but yet sweet to the taste. Just add to hot water for a sweet Oshala tea.

Oshala is the smaller cousin to the more well known Osha (Ligusticum porteri). As Osha is found mainly in the Rocky Mountains, Oshala is found at higher elevations throughout the Cascades, Siskiyous, Steins, Wallawas and Northern California mountains. It likes open meadows along streams, high mountain ridges and even in the drier wooded areas. Not an easy plant to find as it is unpredictable so you could be in the exact elevation, region, etc and it is now where to be found. I have explored many different regions and have only discovered a few places where I feel comfortable harvesting. Unlike Osha where the first time I went to look for it in Colorado, on the first hike I did it was literally everywhere, where throughout the whole region it was super abundant. That being said both of these plants are at risk of over harvesting so if you are wanting to harvest please refer to Scott Kloos's Pacific Northwest Medicinal plants or Michael Moore’s Medicinal Plants of the Mountain West for detailed information on proper harvesting.

By James Keskimaki

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