Ethnobotany of Oshá (Ligusticum porteri) and Policy of Medicinal Plant Harvest on United States Forest Service Lands
University of Kansas
Global Indigenous Nations Studies
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Oshá (Ligusticum porteri), found in high elevation sites in the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico, is a medicinal plant whose roots are being sold by herbal product companies to treat influenza, bronchitis, and sore throat. Oshá and other medicinal plants have a long history of use within Indigenous communities, fifteen tribes are documented using oshá and those uses are practiced today and more tribes likely use oshá, especially in and near the range of the plant. Historically and today, tribes such as the Apache, Pueblo, Navajo, Zuni, White Mountain Apache, Southern Ute, Lakota, and the Tarahumara in Mexico used oshá to treat ailments such as to treat colds, flu, upper respiratory infection, and diarrhea and gastrointestinal problems. Another use of root is to repel snakes if one carries the root with them. Oshá is commonly referred to as bear root by Native American tribes because bears have been observed using and interacting with the root. Oshá is also considered sacred to some tribes and it is used outside its native range by hundreds of miles by the Comanche, Plains, Apache, and Lakota tribes. Interviews conducted with tribal elders, a Hispanic elder, U.S. Forest Service officials, and an herbal product company owner help to make suggestions for U.S. Forest Service policies, such as co-management strategies for medicinal plants like oshá. This paper also examines the potential areas of collaboration between Native tribes and current U.S. Forest Service policies to create future Native American focused policies and strengthen future relationships.
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