Overall At-Risk Score: 48
Osha; Porter’s Licorice Root, Lovage
Apiaceae (Celery family)
Reaching an average of about 1-3 feet tall, L. porteri flowers in flat umbels of white flowers. Each small flower becomes a flat, ovate seed, which is transferred primarily by local wildlife, like bears, brushing against it and getting the seeds in their fur.
Osha can be found in much of the Rocky Mountains in the states of Arizona, Colorado, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. It is also found in the northern portions of the Mexican state of Chihuahua.
Osha lives entirely in the Rocky Mountains subalpine zone, the part of the mountains directly under the tree line, from 1,000 to 3,000 meters (5,000 to 10,000 feet) above sea level. It requires moist soil and is partial to full shade.
Ability to Withstand Disturbance and Overharvest:
Overharvest is having a big impact on L. porteri populations in Northern Mexico, whereas U.S. populations are mostly threatened by recreational vehicles and grazing by domesticated livestock.
Status of Endangered/Threatened (by state):
There are no current state or federal laws in the U.S. regarding the conservation of Ligusticum porteri.
Ligusticum porteri has not yet been evaluated by the IUCN Red List.
Part of Plant Used/Active Medicinal Compounds:
The root of the osha plant has been used historically by various Salish speaking Native American tribes to treat stomach aches, fevers, heartburn, and respiratory issues. Modern herbalists state it has use as a respiratory antiviral medication.
Wild Harvesting Impact On Other Species:
L. porteri is easily confused with many lookalikes, causing unintentional harvest of non-target plants. Much of the Ligusticum genus is impacted by wild harvest, as the genus contains many species of plants that have been called variations of “wild carrot” and “licorice root” and are popular with foragers.
Recommendations for industrial and home use:
As always, consult with your doctor before taking new medications. Additionally, please be aware of the fact that L. porteri can commonly be found planted next to dangerous lookalikes such as poison hemlock (Conium maculatum).
- Integrated Taxonomic Information System. (n.d.). ITIS Standard Report Page: Ligusticum porteri. Retrieved from https://www.itis.gov/servlet/SingleRpt/SingleRpt?search_topic=TSN&search_value=29532#null
- The University of Kansas. (2013). Ligusticum porteri (Osha): Native Medicinal Plant Research Program. Retrieved from https://nativeplants.ku.edu/research/ligusticum-osha/about-osha
- Species proposals for the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties. (2000). In Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species Of Wild Fauna and Flora. Shepherdstown, WV: Scientific Authority of the United States of America.
- Tilford, G. L. (1997). Edible and Medicinal plants of the West. Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publ.
- USDA. (n.d.). Plants Profile for Ligusticum porteri (Porter’s licorice-root). Retrieved from https://plants.usda.gov/core/profile?symbol=LIPO