Oshá Sustainability

AHPA established the Foundation for Education and Research on Botanicals (AHPA-ERB Foundation) as a 501(c)(3) foundation to promote education and research on medicinal, therapeutic, and health-promoting herbs.

The AHPA-ERB Foundation has committed to funding a multi-year sustainability study on oshá (Ligusticum porteri) by Kelly Kindscher, Ph.D., of the University of Kansas.

In September 2012, the foundation awarded a $10,000 grant to Dr. Kindscher to study the impact of wild collection on oshá populations. In March 2014, the foundation committed to provide an additional $10,000 annually for three years to complete the study. The foundation encourages interested individuals and companies to help fund this study.

The research involves gathering data on the location and inventory of oshá in the United States, evaluating the sustainability of current harvest practices in southeastern Colorado and other locations, and developing best practices to ensure oshá is protected from over collection and other threats that could limit the long-term viability of this plant species.

Harvesting and cultivating difficulties

Oshá, which is also known as Colorado cough root, Porter's lovage, Porter's licorice-root, Porter's wild lovage, loveroot, bear medicine, bear root, mountain lovage, Indian parsley, mountain ginseng, nipo, and chuchupate, has a long history of use in the U.S. Southwest.

The majority of oshá harvested is from the wild, which has prompted research on cultivating it, specifically on germinating osha from seed and demonstrating successful propagation from vegetative crown cuttings.

The difficulties of cultivating oshá, the wildcrafting of its roots from older plants and consumer demand for its medicinal qualities have raised concerns of over-harvest. While L. porteri was proposed for inclusion in Appendix II of the CITES, it has yet to be listed as a species requiring export controls (CITES 2012). However, L. porteri is listed as a species at risk of over-harvest by the United Plant Savers (UpS).

The concern that osha populations are declining is difficult to prove because of a lack of scientific data and populations are not currently tracked by any state or federal conservation agencies. Additionally, there are no comprehensive management strategies in place for the conservation of this species.

In addition to harvest threats, oshá populations can be influenced by habitat disturbances such as trees dying off, heavy grazing, and climate change. In order to determine if osha populations require conservation measures, populations need to be monitored and additional research into oshá propagation and sustainable harvesting practices is needed. In response, a collaborative effort between the University of Kansas, the Missouri Botanical Garden, and the U.S. Forest Service, with funding from the AHPA-ERB Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service, has been developed to study populations of osha and assess the sustainability of oshá root harvesting.

Osha sustainability study and its researchers

Kelly Kindscher, Ph.D., a scientist and professor at the University of Kansas Biological Survey and Environmental Studies Program, is well known for his study of prairie plants. He is the author of two books: Edible Wild Plants of the Prairie (1987) and Medicinal Wild Plants of the Prairie (1992), both published by the University Press of Kansas. He also has published more than 70 scholarly articles and technical reports on native prairie plants, prairie and wetland ecology and restoration, cultural uses of edible and medicinal plants in the Great Plains and western United States, plant community ecology, conservation of Midwest/Great Plains/Rocky Mountain habitats and ecosystems, and management of native plant communities and other lands.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to study the effects of osha harvest on its sustainability and thank the AHPA-ERB Foundation and the U.S. Forest Service for their support," said Kindscher, who is collaborating with the Missouri Botanical Garden and the Rio Grande National Forest Service on the research.