Sunday, November 29, 2015

Oshá: Nature’s Ways

Weather: Snow was promised this week as a subtropical plume rode into the area on top of a cold front, only the moist air went east instead. We got two days of wintry-looking clouds, and what I call nuisance rain. On Thursday big drops started to come down when I went out to work, continued the whole time I was out, and stopped when I went in the house. Not quite Joe Btfsplk, but not enough fell in an hour to get me or the ground wet. Last snow 11/17.

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae, other evergreens; leaves on privet, fernbush, yuccas, grape hyacinth, columbine, catmint, vinca, hollyhock, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Saint John’s wort, Jupiter’s beard, snapdragon, coral beardtongue, tansy, yarrow, anthemis, coreopsis, purple and golden hairy asters; rose stems, June and cheat grasses.

What’s blue-green or gray: Leaves on Apache plume, four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, flax, pinks.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches.

Weekly update: Shawn Sigstedt heard legends from Navajo around Crystal, New Mexico that bears had taught them how to use oshá. Their tales made him wonder if real live four-foot members of the Ursus genus could use plants medicinally.

He went to a zoo to give oshá to two brown bears. The male and female quarreled over the root, and the female went away with it. She chewed it, rubbed the paste on her fur with her paws, shook her head to disburse the liquid left in her mouth, then rubbed her back against a rock.

He threw another piece of root to the male. He gave it to the female, who repeated her actions. When she finished, she returned to nuzzle him.

Later, Sigstedt installed cameras above a wild patch to record any activity in its area. A black bear came in, broke off two stems, walked off camera, returned, walked behind a tree, came back, and rubbed his back against the tree.

At first, Sigstedt thought they were rubbing the liquid into their fur to kill parasites. Later, he was told the female brown bear was severely arthritic. Both were plausible explanations.

Ligusticum porteri contains a number of chemicals with medicinal properties, so many in fact, that when it’s broken, their gases escape and telegraph their presence. Any animal or person who broke a stem, crushed a leaf, or dug a root would be alerted to possibilities.

As discussed in the post for 1 November 2015, the exploitation of the possibilities varied by culture. Some applications spread from group to group, or were discovered multiple times. Others were limited to a small group, became obsolete, or were replaced when new problems arose.

The plant itself contains the possibilities. One team of scientists that included Robert Bye and Rachel Mata tested its effects on stomach ulcers. They found its diligustilide prevented "significantly the gastric injuries" and hypothesized ways it worked utilitzing "endogenous non-protein -SH groups and prostaglandins."

Many stomach infections are caused by bacteria. Recently, a team led by Sergio Andrade-Ochoa tested the essential oil against a variety of species, and found it most effective against Enterococcus faecalis, Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus, and Staphylococcus epidermidis. The second and third are associated with food poisoning. The other two are mainly found in hospital environments.

Staphylococcus aureus is particularly troublesome because it can lead to upper respiratory infections like pneumonia. Many strains have developed immunities against drugs. Another team, this one lead by Pascale Cégiéla-Carlioz, found forty-two compounds in the essential oils. The distilled oil doubled the effects of an antibiotic agent against the bacterium; the solvent extraction quadrupled its effects. The chemicals common to both were (Z)-ligustilide and Sabinyl acetate.

Mata was involved with two experiments that tested the plant’s chemicals’ effects in reducing pain. In 2005, her team established that an extract had "an antinociceptive effect." In 2014, a larger team tried to isolate the specific chemicals. They found Z-ligustilide, Z-3-butylidenephthalide and diligustilide were each effective, but worked in slightly different ways.

Bye had heard the Tarahumara were now using it to treat diabetes and tuberculosis. In 2010, he, Mata, and others isolated five chemicals from a root extract. Of those, 3-(Z)-butylidenephthalide was the most effective in reducing blood sugar levels in diabetic mice.

Two of the chemicals, Z-Ligustilide and Z-6,6',7,3'-alpha-diligustilide, have been identified as worthy for commercial development. Another team organized by Mata and Bye tested samples from this country and Mexico in 2012. It found the quantities "varied significantly among the samples."

Two years later, Guy Cullin’s laboratory introduced "new commercial formulations to analyze these essential oils further." He purchased his raw materials from a supplier in Oregon. The assays detected chemicals found in both oshá and in Ligusticum grayi. One of his reviewers suggested "this observation could be due to a mixture of plant material from the commercial supplier."

Conservationists have become concerned that publicity surrounding oshá has threatened its survival. The US Forest Service imposed a three-year moratorium on harvesting for personal or commercial use in 1999. Since, Mata and others have been working to find a ways to mass produce roots that meet pharmaceutical standards for purity and quality and that do not exploit the wild. Their efforts were discussed in the post for 8 November 2015.

Notes: In those projects that involved Mata and Bye, the name that follows theirs is the lead author. Information on bacteria is from Wikipedia. Brown bears are Ursus arctos, black are Ursus americanus.

Andrade-Ochoa, Sergio, Karen Giselle Chavez Villareal, Blanca Estela Rivera Chavira, Guadalupe Virginia Nevárez Moorillón. "Antimicrobial Activity of Essential Oil of Ligusticum porteri, Biotecnología y Bioingeniería, 2013 national congress.

Cégiéla-Carlioz, Pascale, Jean-Marie Bessière, Bruno David, Anne-Marie Mariotte, Simon Gibbons and Marie-Geneviève Dijoux-Franca. "Modulation of Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR) in Staphylococcus aureus by Osha (Ligusticum porteri L., Apiaceae) Essential Oil Compounds," Flavour and Fragrance Journal 20:671-675:2005.

Collin, Guy, Hélène Gagnon, Alexis St-Gelais, and Maxim Turcotte. "Composition of the Essential Oil and the Hydrosol of the Roots of Ligusticum porteri," American Journal of Essential Oils and Natural Products 1:4-10:2014.

Mata, Rachel, Robert Bye, Fernando Brindis, Rogelio Rodríguez-Sotres, Martin Gonzalez-Andrade, "(Z)-3-Butylidenephthalide from Ligusticum porteri, an á-Glucosidase Inhibitor á," Journal of Natural Products 74:314-320:2010.

_____, _____, Krutzkaya Juárez-Reyes, Guadalupe E. Ángeles-López, and Isabel Rivero-Cruz. "Antinociceptive Activity of Ligusticum porteri Preparations and Compounds," Pharmaceutical Biology 52:14-20:2014.

_____, _____, I. Rivero, K Juárez, and M. Zuluaga. "Quantitative HPLC Method for Determining Two of the Major Active Phthalides from Ligusticum porteri Roots," Association of Official Analytical Chemists, Journal of AOAC International 95:84-91:2012.

_____, _____, Josué A. Velázquez-Moyado, Alejandro Martínez-González, Edelmira Linares, and Andrés Navarrete. "Gastroprotective Effect of Diligustilide Isolated from Roots of Ligusticum porteri Coulter and Rose (Apiaceae) on Ethanol-induced Lesions in Rats," Journal of Ethnopharmacology, in press, 2015, available on line. Has comments on contemporary Tarahumara uses

_____, M. Deciga-Campos, E. González-Trujano, and A. Navarrete. "Antinociceptive Effect of Selected Mexican Traditional Medicinal Species," Western Pharmacology Society, Proceedings 48:70-72:2005.

Sigstedt, Shawn. "How Wild Black Bears Are Using Oshá,Ligusticum porteri, for Medicine and Helping Restore a Healthy Global Ecosystem," the Society for Economic Botany, annual meeting, 2013, up loaded to You Tube, 2 July 2013. He was in the zoo with permission to conduct his experiments.

Photographs: Oshá, purchased at local farmers market on 24 August 2015; photographed 1 November 2015. Root in first picture still has some bark, the second does not.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Oshá: New Ways

Weather: Rain Monday turned to snow late in the day and fell into a thick mass in the night. The ground wasn’t frozen yet, and the snow either evaporated or sank in by the next day. This morning’s temperature was down to 17 degrees; other days it’s been in the mid-20s. With the water now in the ground, I imagine the soil is freezing.

Trucks beginning to appear along road sides with firewood for sale.

What’s still green: Juniper, arborvitae, other evergreens; leaves on fernbush, yuccas, grape hyacinth, columbine, catmint, vinca, hollyhock, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Saint John’s wort, Jupiter’s beard, snapdragon, coral beardtongue, tansy, yarrow, coreopsis, purple and golden hairy asters; rose stems, June grass.

What’s blue-green or gray: Leaves on Apache plume, four-winged saltbush, snow-in-summer, flax, pinks.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches.

Weekly update: Bands living outside the natural range of Ligusticum porteri have been reported as using it. Leonora Curtin found the Yuki of northern California used oshá "to ward off rattlesnakes" in 1957. More recently, Gregory Tilford said the Blackfeet and Bitterroot Salish of western Montana called it "bear medicine." The one was a prairie band, the other moved into Montana from the Pacific coast.

John Kartesz’s map of the plant’s distribution shows the Apia native to Colorado and New Mexico from the eastern face of the Rocky Mountains west through Utah into eastern Nevada and reaching down into north central Arizona. It’s also found in Chihuahua and Nuevo León. He considers reports from Idaho and most of Wyoming to be questionable. Nothing official has been recorded for Montana or California.

More than likely, people outside the mountain areas obtained their roots through trade or family connections. Rose Chaletsin, a Kiowa Apache in Oklahoma, told Julia Jordan that, "Way back, they get it from somewhere up north. They ain’t got it around here. They get ‘izeelk’ah from the north there, in Canada and Montana, and in them Black Hills." More recently, she said a friend gave some to her husband. They put it in the fire, like cedar, or when they were sick.

Connie May Saddleblanket told Jordan the plains Apache "get it from those Northern peoples. Get it from Cheyennes." She added, they put it in the fire and "smoke themselves with it." Her sister-in-law, Louise Saddleblanket remembered her father got medicine fat from a Mescalero friend and that he would cut a piece to "put it on the coal."

In the 1930s, Gilbert McAllister was told the same Apache group put cedar or medicine fat on the fire during the first night of mourning. "It is just like you could see the dead. They put this in the fire. You could think of him in your mind." Another tribal member, Gertrude Chalepah said they used the root when they renewed the family medicine bundle, "but they did not know how to procure more of it" in the 1960s.

Michael Moore thinks the recent diffusion of oshá to other groups has been occurring through the powwows and other pan-Indian meetings. The attraction is that it is called bear root, and the bear clan exists in a number of tribes. In many traditions, bear is associated with medicine.

In an interview with Wren Cottingham, he remembered visiting a man at Hopi named Leroy to buy corn. He took some oshá with him as a gift. The man’s wife’s family were members of the bear clan. They placed it in two woven baskets, sprinkled it with corn pollen and took it into a back room. The woman, her sisters, mother, and daughter associated it with their clan because it was called bear medicine.

Alfred Whiting did not mention oshá in 1939 in his Ethnobotany of the Hopi.

They, like many, were attempting to recover a heritage that was lost to the Spanish and then the Americans through things half-remembered or reconstructed. The irreparable break in tradition came in the nineteenth century when bands were moved onto American reservations or, in the southwest, had their Spanish land grants circumscribed. Like the Plains Apache women, they lost the ritual context for the plants they used, and lost touch with the groups who supplied them.

Many no longer could go into the mountains where bears lived. As a result, some have come to think that because they were affiliated with bears, they must have had friendly relations with them. A few might even think of bears the way born again Christians think of their Savior as a beneficent daily presence.

The last assumption is unlikely for most. Bears were predators. One reason they were adopted as totems was they were beyond human control. If anything, they were a bit like the vengeful Jehovah of the Jewish Old Testament.

Antonio Valverde led an expedition of men from the Santa Fé presidio and northern pueblos, along with warriors from the Sierra Blanca Apache, on a campaign against the Ute and Comanche in 1719. The were traveling along canyons of the eastern face of the mountains. Snow fell when they were north of the Purgatorie river in late September, and sleet drenched them above the Arkansas in early October.

Three times bears attacked or crashed into their camp in late afternoon. It took "many spear thrusts and arrows" to kill one whose "strength and size were [...] formidable." Another, larger than a donkey, grabbed a horse’s tail, "held him down and clawing viciously, tore a piece off the rump."

Moore thinks natives didn’t need to have observed bears to have made the association with them. He said he once came upon a hillside area near Taos dug up by claws. Nearby he found recent droppings with oshá roots sticking out.

He also found more likely connections between Taos, the Hopi and oshá. Leroy put chunks of the root in his corn field where the acequia dumped its water to kill cutworms. Moore said, he learned about this from relatives living in Taos pueblo. He, no doubt, got roots from them.

Notes: The connection between bear and oshá in the popular imagination may have emerged in Colorado. See William Bowen’s 1895 views quoted in the post for 25 October 2015.

Students at the University of Maryland surveyed botanists in many states in 1999 for distribution information on oshá; they had some reports of it from Idaho and Montana, along with cautions that some of the previous claims were based on misidentified specimens.

Curtin, L. S. M. Some Plants Used by the Yuki Indians of Round Valley, Northern California, 1957, cited by Dan Moerman, Native American Ethnobotany, 1998.

Jordan, Julia A. Plains Apache Ethnobotany, 2008.

Kartesz, John. "Range Map for Ligusticum porteri", Floristic Synthesis of North America, 2010.

Lewis, Orrin and Laura Redish. "Native American Bear Mythology," Native Languages of the Americas website. He’s Cherokee. The bear clan existed in the south among the Creek, and in the southwest among the Hopi, Navajo, and some pueblos. In the north, they mention the clan among the Ojibwa, Menominee, Mi’kmaq, Huron and Iroquois. Caddo and Osage lived on the prairies; Tlingit, Tsimshian, Nisgaa-Gitksan, and Salishan were in the northwest.

McAllister, J. Gilbert. "Kiowa-Apache Social Organization," in Fred Eggan, Social Anthropology of North American Tribes, 1955; quoted by Jordan.

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants: In the Field with Michael Moore, Volume 2: Southern Colorado, filmed by Wren Cottingham, 1994; section uploaded in two parts to You Tube as "A Talk on Oshá."

Tilford, Gregory L. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, 1997.

United States Department of Agriculture. Agricultural Research Service. Germplasm Resources Information Network. Entry for "Ligusticum porteri J. M. Coulter and Rose" includes the Mexican locations.

University of Maryland, Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Program. "Draft Proposal to list Ligusticum porteri in Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora," December 1999.

Valverde y Cosío, Antonio. Diary of the campaign against the Ute and Comanche, 1719, translation in Alfred B. Thomas, After Coronado, 1935.

1. Black mesa at dawn, 6:30 am on 17 November 2015. The Los Alamos airport was reporting freezing fog, which may explain the mists rising from the arroyo north of the mesa.

2. Tchicoma at the same time. You can just see a band of white mist between the white badlands and the mountain behind.

3. Tchicoma at 7:50 am. It’s now light and possible to see snow on tree boughs has turned the east-facing mountainside white.

4. Tchicoma at 11:15 am. The snow is now rising in wisps of mist. Snow is about half gone from the badlands.

5. Tchicoma the next day, 18 November 2015, at 10:30 am. From a distance, snow is nearly gone. No doubt, it continues in shadows and low places. Snow is all but gone from the badlands.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Oshá: Mexican Ways

Weather: Temperature down to 16 degrees on my front porch Friday morning; last snow 11/5.

What’s still green: Tree leaves are dead, but many remain on apples, cherries, Siberian elms, and cottonwoods. Many low plants like columbine and catmint still have green leaves, even though they’ve been covered by frost several times. Apparently, the ground is still warm enough to insulate them.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Mice have been trying to get into the house.

Weekly update: John Beck thinks the Mexican word for oshá, chuchupate, was derived from an Aztec term, chichipatli. It wasn’t a direct borrowing of the plant, but a secondary application of a label to a plant with similar uses.

The Florentine Codex, written in 1577, associated two plants with the term chichic patli. Bernardino de Sahagún was told Courarea latiflora "clears, fortifies the intestines, the stomach." Guayacum arboreum roots were used "by one whose body is hot, who thinks it burns; perhaps the stomach has become unsettled" and to treat "sores, or fever."

While many species in the Ligusticum species have similar effects as porteri, neither of the Aztec drugs is in their Apia family. The first is in the coffee family, the second in the caltrop.

As mentioned in the post for 1 November 2015, Franciscans observed wasía being used by the Tarahumara in the 1770s. In the 1890s, Carl Lumholtz saw them wrap pieces of palo hediondo in cloth and tie the bundle around a child’s neck. The smell was supposed to protect against disease.

The Tarahumara still use it for colds and fever, to dress wounds, and to treat rheumatic joints with a lotion made by boiling crushed roots. Robert Bye says they chew or smell the root "to sneeze out illness."

For more intractable conditions, the Tarahumara hold curing ceremonies overseen by shamans and chanters to treat humans, animals, or crop fields. Campbell Pennington saw them add pieces to a ceremonial cross to "protect animals from lightening."

The Tarahumara, who live in the Sierra Madre, are more properly called Rarámuri. Today, Fructuoso Irigoyen-Rascón says, their yerberos collected the root to sell in Ciudad Chihuahua and Juárez. More itinerant peddlers sell chuchupaste to people living in towns. Bernard Fortana noted that, for the past hundred years, these sales have been one of their few links that tied them to México’s cash economy.

The Tarahumara speak an Uto-Aztec language somewhat related to the Pima. However, the Pima living around the Gila river in Arizona buy their jujubáádi from Yaqui peddlers. David Brown told Amadeo Rea he kept it in a baking powder can and used it for constipation and a fever.

Another herbal trade link between tribes developed with the spread of peyote. Samuel Kenoi told Morris Opler he had attended a Tonkawa peyote medicine ceremony in 1902 where, to be admitted, "you had to have different kinds of odorous herbs; you had to have oshá."

Kenoi was a Chiricahua Apache who had been born in Arizona in the mid-1870s, relocated with his family to Florida in 1886, and moved again to Fort Sill Oklahoma in 1894. He’d been sent to boarding schools, including Chilocco near Ponca City, Oklahoma.

In 1913, Kenoi returned to the Mescalero reservation in New Mexico with other Chiricahua. Twenty years later, Edward Castetter and Morris Opler said natives treated haitcide like other greens they ate raw or cooked with green chili and meat or bones. Their land lies on the eastern flank of the Sacramento mountains where oshá was reported growing in 1915.

More recently, Connie May Saddleblanket said she had seen medicine fat used in peyote meetings among the Kiowa Apache living in Oklahoma in the 1960s. Her sister-in-law, Louise Saddleblanket remembered, "It comes from New Mexico. My daddy had some. Some Mescalero friends used to sent it to us."

Notes: Connie's real name is Datose; Louise is Susagossa. The group prefers to be called Plains Apache, since they are not related to the Kiowa.

Beck, John J. and Frank R. Stermitz. "Addition of Methyl Thioglycolate and Benzylamine to (Z)-Ligustilide, a Bioactive Unsaturated Lactone Constituent of Several Herbal Medicines. An Improved Synthesis of (Z)-Ligustilide," Journal of Natural Products 58:1047-1055:1995.

Bye, Robert Arthur. Ethnoecology of the Tarahumara of Chihuahua, Mexico, 1976; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón.

Fontana, Bernard L. Tarahumara, 1979.

Irigoyen-Rascón, Fructuoso. Tarahumara Medicine: Ethnobotany and Healing among the Rarámuri of Mexico, 2015.

Jordan, Julia A. Plains Apache Ethnobotany, 2008.

Lumholtz, Carl. Unknown Mexico, volume 1, 1902.

Opler, Morris Edward. "A Description of a Tonkawa Peyote Meeting Held in 1902," American Anthropologist 41:433-439:1939. The Tonkawa lived in central Texas where they alligned themselves with the Lipian Apache. They were moved to Oklahoma where the population shrank to 34 in 1921, according to Wikipedia.

_____ and Edward F. Castetter. The Ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache, 1936.

Pennington, Campbell W. The Tarahumar of Mexico: Their Environment and Material Culture, 1963; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón.

Rea, Amadeo M. At the Desert's Green Edge: An Ethnobotany of the Gila River Pima, 1997.

Sahagún, Bernardino de. Historia Universal de las Cosas de Nueva España, c.1577, translated as Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, Book XI - Earthly Things by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson, 1963. Courarea latiflora is now called Hintonia latiflora. More details about the codex may be found in the post for 28 September 2014.

Webster, Antony K. "Samuel E. Kenoi’s Portraits of White Men," in David Kozak, Inside Dazzling Mountains: Southwest Native Verbal Art, 2012; has biographical details.

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915, contains report of oshá in Sacramento mountains.

Photographs: Oshá, purchased at local farmers market on 24 August 2015; photographed 1 November 2015. Cross section of root.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Oshá: Old Ways

Weather: Light snow Thursday may have wet the soil that plants were insulated against temperatures in the low 20s Friday and Saturday mornings. Leaves dropping, but cottonwoods still have most of theirs.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, calamintha, blanket flower; can see red in the remaining pepper plants.

What’s turning yellow: Leaves on peaches, cottonwoods, catalpas, Siberian elms, grapes, globe and sandbar willows.

What’s turning red or orange: Leaves on apricots, cherries, sandcherries, Virginia creeper.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches, chickadees.

Weekly update: Oshá is popularly believed to be a Native American medicinal plant. However, there are few specific historic references to it from bands living in areas where it grew. Leonora Curtin was told in the 1940s that people in Cochití chewed pieces the "size of a bean night and morning," then washed them down with warm water and pinches of salt "to shake a cough."

Matilda Coxe Stevenson did not mention Ligusticum porteri when she described the Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians in 1915, but Scott Camazine and Robert Bye did learn about it in the late 1970s. The root of kwimi dechi was crushed in cool water and drunk for a sore throat or applied to the skin to alleviate aches. The root also was chewed by a medicine man and his patient in "curing ceremonies for various illnesses."

The reason for the discrepancy between reported and perceived native uses may arise from the fact it is a high-altitude species. Anthropologists only may have asked about plants growing in their immediate areas, and not asked about ones brought from a distance or obtained in trade. They also may have overlooked a root that was harder to identify than a plant with leaves and flowers.

Between the time Jacob Krummeck began promoting oshá in Santa Fé in the 1860s and the time anthropologists visited native bands, the mountains changed. Miners moved in. Lumberman clear cut hillsides. As a side effect, environments where plants grew were destroyed.

Michael Moore talked to someone on the Navajo reservation who said, they used to get it at Lukachukai until they took down all the trees. That happened when they began mining uranium in that part of Arizona bordering western New Mexico in 1950.

It may not have grown back because more was required than a subalpine environment. Richo Cech has successfully cultivated it on volcanic soils at 1,600' around Williams, Oregon. He said he planted seeds in 2008. Although he didn’t add any nutrients, he did grow it with buckwheat to provide shade and covered the soil with coconut fibers. Since Michael Moore had said he had found the roots in rotten logs, Cech added carbon regularly to emulate its original woodland environment.

After six years, he dug up some roots with the characteristic smell and was "struck by the massive proliferation of fungal hyphae in the soil--a white netting that seemed to be coexisting with the feeder roots from the oshá." He didn’t notice any nodulation but was convinced there was some association with a mycorrhizal fungus.

Botanists have been trying to grow the plant with little success. Bennett Sondeno and Karen Panter tested commercially available inoculants and found none were effective. Neither did their three growing media have an obvious influence. Rachel Mata’s team also tried three different media and found none had any influence on germination.

The underlying geology may not matter. In New Mexico, it’s been found in the uplifted Sangre de Cristo around Taos, Las Vegas, Pecos and Santa Fé. The plant’s been reported to the west in the Tunitchas near the uplifted Chuska mountains and to the south in the uplifted Sandías. Much farther south, oshá has grown around Hillsboro and Sawyers peaks in the igneous Mimbres and in the Sacramento mountains.

The member of the Apia family also has been found on the volcanic White mountains and in the Mogollons. Sierra Grande, where it was reported before 1915, is an extinct shield volcano in the Raton-Clayton volcanic field.

Temperature does matter. It grows between 7,000' at the northern end of its range and at 10,000' at the south. The altitude by latitude gradient usually indicates climatic differences, so a lower altitude at a higher latitude may be colder in winter than a higher altitude farther south.

Bernadette Terrell and Anne Fennell tried growing seeds purchased from suppliers in New Mexico, Colorado and Utah. The ones from the north required longer exposures to cold than those from the south. Mata’s team found the only ones that survived germination were those held at 1 degree C for 45 to 90 days. Half of those held at temperatures 10 degrees higher or lower germinated, but died after 12 weeks.

The group found it wasn’t simply cold that mattered. The plant hormone gibberellic acid commonly is used as a substitute. It failed to hatch any seeds.

Light matters. Kelly Kindscher’s teams surveyed north-facing stands near Cumbres Pass in the Colorado Rockies in July of 2012. They found the plants growing in open meadows had more flowering stalks and double the root masses of those in understories

Emily Mooney’s team surveyed stands a bit farther north at Crested Butte, Colorado, in the West Elk Mountains. In the same year, in the same kind of mineral bearing ranges they also found many more flowering stems in open areas than shaded ones, but no differences in their root sizes.

The second group was able to test root extracts against standard laboratory bacteria, Micrococcus luteus and Bacillus cereus. They found plants from the low-light environments were more detrimental against the second than the other. There was no difference in their effects on the other.

Water matters. Oshá likes damp, but not saturated sites. 2012 was a drought year. Kindscher’s colleagues "did not find one single seedling growing in the Forested site, while the Meadow site had many." The drought broke with heavy rains in the fall of 2013. Mooney said, they didn’t see any seedlings in either the high light or the low light areas until 2014. Then "the numbers of seedlings did not vary with light environment."

One suspects the development of medicinal stands begins with seedlings in open areas. Many, no doubt, are browsed by black tailed deer and other animals. In dry years, few seeds may be dispersed because its flowering season doesn’t overlap with the active period of the flies that pollinate it.

Over time, those seedlings that do survive create the kind of soil observed by Cech. With more time, trees invade, and the plants react by producing the valued chemicals. It’s a recovery marked in decades, not years.

Notes: Jacob Krummeck was discussed in the post for 25 October 2015.

Camazine, Scott and Robert Arthur Bye. "A Study of the Medical Ethnobotany of the Zuñi Indians of New Mexico," Journal of Ethnopharmacology 2:365-388:1980.

Chech, Richo. Entry for 12 July 2014 on Horizon Herbs’ Facebook site. He posted photographs of the roots as they came out of the ground.

Chenoweth, William L. "The Uranium Deposits of the Lukachukai Mountains, Arizona," in F. D. Trauger, Defiance, Zuni, Mt. Taylor Region (Arizona and New Mexico), 1967.

Curtin, Leonora Scott Muse. Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande, 1947, republished 1997, with revisions by Michael Moore.

Kindscher, Kelly, Julia Yang, Quinn Long, Rachel Craft, and Hillary Loring. "Harvest Sustainability Study of Wild Populations of Osha, Ligusticum porteri," University of Kansas, 1 April 2013.

Mata, Rachel, Dalia Goldhaber-Pasillas, Robert Bye, and Víctor Manuel Chávez-Ávila. "In Vitro Morphogenetic Responses and Comparative Analysis of Phthalides in the Highly Valued Medicinal Plant Ligusticum porteri Coulter & Rose," Plant Growth Regulation 67:107-119:2012.

Mooney, Emily H., Andrew A. Martin, and Robert P. Blessin. "Effects of Light Environment on Recovery from Harvest and Antibacterial Properties of Oshá Ligusticum porteri (Apiaceae)," Economic Botany 69:72-82:2015. Neither test bacterium causes the sorts of problems treated by oshá.

Moore, Michael. Medicinal Plants: in the Field with Michael Moore, Volume 2: Southern Colorado, filmed by Wren Cottingham, 1994; section uploaded to You Tube as "A Talk on Oshá - Part 1."

Sondeno, Bennett J. and Karen L. Panter. "Effects of Media and Mycorrhizal Inoculants on Oshá (Ligusticum porteri) Rooting," HortScience, July 2004.

Terrell, Bernadette and Anne Fennell. "Oshá (Bear Root) Ligusticum porteri J.M. Coult. & Rose var. porteri," Native Plants 10:110-118:2009.

Tilford, Gregory L. Edible and Medicinal Plants of the West, 1997; on altitude and range

Wooton, Elmer O. and Paul C. Standley. Flora of New Mexico, 1915; included the list of areas where it had been reported in New Mexico.

Photographs: Oshá, purchased at local farmers market on 24 August 2015; photographed 1 November 2015. Side and end of one root fragment.

Sunday, November 01, 2015

Oshá: Local Ways

Weather: Temperatures flirted with freezing, then rains came after dark Thursday and lasted through the following morning.

What’s blooming: Hybrid roses, calamintha, winecup mallow, pink evening primrose, Mexican hat, chocolate flower, blanket flower, coreopsis, Sensation cosmos, African marigolds, zinnias, áñil del muerto.

Local vegetable patches have been cleared, but the pepper plants have been left. More piñon was for sale this week by roadside; this must be a mast year.

What’s turning yellow: Leaves on cottonwoods, catalpas, Siberian elms, grapes, globe and sandbar willows.

What’s turning red or orange: Leaves on apricots, cherries, sandcherries, Virginia creeper.

What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums.

Animal sightings: Rabbit, goldfinches, chickadees.

The ground squirrel has climbed the peach tree and bitten off twigs on a low, horizontal branch. It might have been making room for itself, since it left the debris on the ground. It’s also possible it was after insects in the crack on the upper side of the branch, or had some other motive.

Weekly update: Leonora Curtin said Ligusticum porteri was called oshá and chuchupate in New Mexico in the 1940s, but believed the latter name was more common in the southern part of the state. Urban dwellers in Chihuahua still use the term.

At this time it’s hard to know if local Spanish speakers learned about the herb when they were still in México, adopted it from local groups, or transferred knowledge from some other plant known from Spain.

John Gerard said Angelica archangelica was used "against poison, and against the plague, and all infections taken by evil and corrupt air" in 1633 in England. He also recommended it for fevers caused by malaria, stomach pain, and "witchcraft and enchantments, if a man carry the same about them." In addition, it "cureth the biting of mad dogs, and all other venomous beasts."

Angelica is an umbrel like osha and may contain similar chemicals. The similarity in external form and prescription may have made Spanish colonists open to testing the unfamiliar oshá when they moved into the silver mining areas of Chihuahua.

In the 1940s people living in northern New Mexico were chewing oshá for stomach gas and using ground roots in water for stomach aches Those were the same uses recorded among the Tarahumara in 1777 when Falcón Mariano said, they extracted "a liquid used to treat stomach pains and flatulence."

Some Tarahumara bands were living near the Parral silver mines when settlers were recruited from there for the Reconquest in 1693. Jacob Krummeck, who sold the root in Santa Fé in the 1860s, was married to a woman from a ranching area in Chihuahua.

Carolyn Dodson and William Dunmire heard Hispanic ranchers tied sprigs of chuchupate to their boots to ward off rattlesnakes. Curtin heard sheepherders or pastors and their camperos carried bits of root in their pockets as protection against snakes and powdered it to spread around their bedrolls. Tarahumara still carry pieces of root to "ward off snakes and sorcerers." They may have borrowed that usage from the colonists.

Curtin did describe one oshá use that clearly was learned from the Apache, smoking the hollow stems. She probably meant the Jicarilla who began settling in northern New Mexico in the 1720s. They were first around the Río Trampas where they may have discovered the plant growing. Today they call it ha’ich’idéé.

Spanish-speaking settlers in the valley took their knowledge of the root north when they moved into the San Luis valley of Colorado. Glenn Appelt interviewed six families in 1986 who used herbal medicines. Four had used oshá in the past two months, two for colds and two for infections. One also had used it for gas and mixed it with olive oil to rub on rheumatic joints.

The plant became so embedded in traditions of local Spanish speakers, it was used when new health problems arose. José Ortiz y Pino remembered when "Doña María knew that her husband, Don Luis, would come home feeling no pain from a night out, she would immediately prepare a piece of oshá root in a glass of whiskey" to be drunk in the morning.

Ortiz, who was born around Galisteo in 1931, said it also was used for stomach gas, colds, and chronic coughs. It was made into a tea or chewed.

Curtin reported another use that was obviously originated by the Spanish speakers themselves. She talked to Penitentes around Córdova who made a salve to treat their wounds. They used mutton tallow as a binder, turpentine as a thinner, and oshá, manzanilla and contrayerba herbs. They also added a small piece of candle wax to the mix. She didn’t note if the wax came from any particular candle, or if its use was pragmatic or symbolic.

Notes: Jacob Krummeck was discussed in the post for 25 October 2015. Curtin used the word campers; Ortiz explained a pastor was responsible for the flock, a campero for locating grazing areas.

Appelt, Glenn D. "Pharmacological Aspects of Selected Herbs Employed in Hispanic Folk Medicine in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, USA: I. L. porteri (Oshá) and Matricaria chamomilla (Manzanilla)," Journal of Ethnopharmacology 13:511-55:1985.

Curtin, Leonora Scott Muse. Healing Herbs of the Upper Rio Grande, 1947, republished 1997, with revisions by Michael Moore. She identified manzanilla as chamomile and cotrayerba as Kallstroemia brachystlis.

Dodson, Carolyn and William W. Dunmire. Mountain Wildflowers of the Southern Rockies, 2007.

Fontana, Bernard L. Tarahumara, 1979.

Gerard, John. The Herbal, 1633 edition revised and enlarged by Thomas Johnson.

Irigoyen-Rascón, Fructuoso. Tarahumara Medicine: Ethnobotany and Healing among the Rarámuri of Mexico, 2015.

Mariano, Falcón. Relación de Wawachiki, 1777; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón.

Ortiz y Pino III, José. Don José: the Last Patrón, 1981.

Solmán, Enrique. Sharing Our Breath with Our Relatives: Rarámuri Plant Knowledge, Lexicon, and Cognition, 1999; quoted by Irigoyen-Rascón; on use against sorcerers.

Wikipedia. "Ligusticum porteri" has an unsourced reference to Jicarilla word.

Photographs: Oshá, purchased at local farmers market on 24 August 2015; photographed 1 November 2015.
1. Oshá densely packed in a small plastic bag.
2. Bag just opened revealing variety of roots.