Medicine of Osha:
Living Wild and Free

by JoAnne Dodgson

Osha grows high up in the mountains near my home in New Mexico. Osha has long been an herbal remedy for the peoples living here, bringing relief from colds, flus, and infections. Osha is also fondly called Bear Root, so named for the bears’ special affinity for this plant. Bears have been seen eating Osha when coming out of hibernation to cleanse their digestive systems in preparation for springtime feasts. Bears are also known to chew on the root and rub the mashed plant and juices onto their fur. Bears are great teachers for us two-leggeds about the medicinal properties of this mountain plant.

The spirit of Osha has taught me about her wild essence and how she goes about living her life. This plant so beloved by the bears simply does not appreciate being taken from her natural habitat. She isn’t easily domesticated. She doesn’t grow well in farms, gardens, or pots on a shelf.

Osha holds her ground with unwavering commitment to her truths. She is unwilling to acquiesce, to be controlled by someone else’s agenda, to be shaped into something other than who and what she really is. She lives centered in her natural cycles and innate connections with the world around her.

With respect for her own existence, Osha knows just where she belongs in the intricate web of life. She’s instinctively at home where she organically grows. Boldly claiming her wildness and uncontainable aliveness. Deeply rooted all the while abundantly free.

Osha Root once instructed me during a spirit journey that I needed to get to know her as a living plant. It suddenly became so obvious that the primary way I knew Osha was as a dried wildharvested root – just that part of her in that particular form prepared for medicinal use. So if I was wandering around in the mountains, I could easily walk by Osha without recognizing her as green leafy plant. I would have no idea I was in the presence of my cherished friend and healing ally. The Spirit of Osha was requesting that I see her, really know her and understand more holistically who she is. This eye-opening and heart-expanding teaching from Osha has stayed with me for many years.

Among the diverse plants I share in ceremony and healing, Osha is the one to whom people are inevitably drawn. Whether we encounter her in her homelands high in the mountains or in smudging ceremony or chewing bits of roots or sipping a warm nourishing tea, the medicines of Osha are calling to us:

Remember your wildness.

Hold unwavering commitment to your truths.

Cultivate relationships with those who really see you – all of you.

Root yourself only where you naturally thrive.

Claim your freedom to be.

Photo courtesy of Western New Mexico University Department of Natural Sciences and the Dale A. Zimmerman Herbarium.

Journal, Volume 1 Issue 2