Osha Root or Bear Root is considered to have various medicinal properties such as antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and has many purported uses/benefits. Ligustilide is the key active compound present in Osha root. There aren’t any human studies which evaluated the effect of osha root in cancer. Few laboratory studies tested the effect of Ligustilide on cancer cells and found that Ligustilide may have some anti-cancer potential against breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and prostate cancer. However, one should not randomly consume osha root or Ligustilide without scientific explanations and guidance from a healthcare provider.
Osha, also known as Ligusticum porteri, is a perennial herb which has been used by the Hispanics and Native Americans as treatment for various types of diseases since many years. It grows at higher elevations in the Western US. Osha belongs to the carrot and parsley family. Osha root is identified by its strong celery-like odor.
The word “Osha” is a Native American word which means “bear”. It is also known as the bear medicine, bear root, Porter’s licorice-root, Porter’s lovage, and mountain lovage. It seems like Osha root got this name because these plants are eaten by bears when they are sick.
Osha Root is available in different forms including capsules, teas and essential oils. The key active compound in osha root is Ligustilide.
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Purported Uses/Benefits of Osha Root or Bear Root
Osha Root is considered to have antiviral, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties and has been traditionally used for respiratory conditions. Some of the purported uses/benefits of osha root or bear root include its usage for :
- Sore throats
- Hay fever
- Other viral infections such as Herpes
- Infections of skin wounds (topical application)
- Reduced blood sugar levels
- Protection against stomach ulcers
The antiviral and antimicrobial activities of osha root may be attributed to Ligustilide.
Possible Side-Effects of Osha
- Pregnant women should avoid osha root as it may trigger menstruation and result in miscarriage.
- There is striking similarity between the leaves of osha plant and those of the very toxic poison hemlock. Hence it is better to purchase osha from professionals or certified suppliers.
- Due to the lack of studies in humans, the safety in young children, nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease is not known. Hence, young children, nursing women, or those with severe liver or kidney disease should avoid taking osha.
Use of Osha Root in Cancer
There aren’t many experimental or clinical studies carried out to evaluate the effect of osha root on cancer. However, there are few laboratory studies which tested the effect of the key active compound Ligustilide of Osha Root. Following are the key findings from some of these studies.
- In a previous experimental study published in 2004, the ethanolic extract of osha root has been reported to inhibit the growth of human breast cancer cells. The study highlighted that a concentration of 32-60 µg/ml of the ethanolic extract of osha root could kill 50% of human breast cancer cells. (Jackson A. et al, McNair Scholars Journal, 2004)
- A study done by the researchers from different universities in China evaluated the effects and underlying molecular mechanisms of ligustilide on cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and found that it could change the immunosuppressive function of CAFs. Hence they expected ligustilide to be a candidate for antitumor drugs. (Jing Ma et al, Life Sci., 2019)
- A study done by the researchers from the Southwest University in China found that Z-ligustilide may be helpful to overcome the resistance of Estrogen Receptor negative breast cancer to a hormonal therapy called tamoxifen. (Hui Ma et al, Oncotarget., 2017)
- A very recent study done by the researchers from the Wuxi Fifth People’s Hospital, in Jiangsu, China found that Ligustilide may have the potential to inhibit the proliferation of non-small cell lung cancer (Xiufeng Jiang et al, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol., 2021)
- Another study done by the researchers in China found that Ligustilide has the potential to promote apoptosis (cell death) of prostate-cancer-associated fibroblasts in the tumor microenvironment. (Jing Ma et al, Food Chem Toxicol., 2020)
There aren’t any human studies carried out to study the effect of osha root in cancer. Few laboratory studies tested the effect of the key active compound of Osha Root called Ligustilide and found that Ligustilide may have some anti-cancer potential against breast cancer, non-small cell lung cancer and prostate cancer. Avoid taking these supplements without the guidance of health care providers without scientific explanations.
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