Bear Root – an herb whose usage was taught to the human beings from the bears themselves. Sounds like a myth? Well the Navajo legend states that the tribes of Rocky Mountain learned how to use this herb from the brown bears.
Therefore, this is where the name ‘bear root’ comes from. The bears tend to chew the roots of the bear root into a dilute paste and rub the maceration into their fur by rolling on it and covering their bodies with its fragrance. It is believed that they tend to do this to save themselves from harmful parasites and infections. Bears also tend to eat it when they come out of hibernation in order to cleanse their digestive system. This is why it is also commonly known as bear medicine. In fact, it has also been seen that male bears tend to dig up bear roots to offer them to female bears. Thus, bear root can be considered as the red rose of the romantic world of bears.
Scientifically known as Ligusticum Porteri, it also has several other interesting names such as chuchupaste, empress of the dark forest, Indian parsley, mountain carrot, osha root, porter’s wild lovage and so on. It is a genus of around 25 diverse varieties of perennials and it comes from the Apiaceae family. As the above legend suggests already, bear root is native to the Rocky Mountains of North America. It is a huge hairy perennial that loves to beautify itself with large dark green divided leaves, dark brown hairy roots and hollow stems. Its long thin stalk can grow to be around three feet. It also shows off its lovely aroma that is akin to celery. Not to forget its petite white flowers at the top of the plant in umbels that boasts its sweet celery-like fragrance in the summer.
Bear root is not only beautiful from the outside but also from the inside. It possesses volatile oils and essential oils along with warm and bitter alkaloid. This aids in enhancing the flow of blood in the coronary arteries and brain, improves digestions, increases perspiration and stimulates circulation, kidneys and uterus. It also contains imperative elements such as lactone glycoside, phytosterols and ferulic acid. The oils, seeds and roots all of this camphoraceous warming herb can be utilized for different purposes. It simultaneously acts as the following:
antiviral – this eliminates or abates viruses to cure illnesses such as flue or respiratory disorders
carminative – this helps in gas discharge from stomach or intestines
decongestant – this removes congestion
diaphoretic – this helps in increasing perspiration
diuretic – this enhances the flow of urine
expectorant – this aids in excavating mucus
stimulant – this promotes activity
It can be used as internal medicines to cure infections in bronchitis, menstrual cramps, digestive disorders, nausea, fevers, sore throats, colds, dry and wet coughs, tonsillitis, toothaches and viral infections; and also as external medicines as a remedy for minor injuries and skin wounds and cuts to prevent infection. Apart from remedial benefits, bear root works magic in the world of cookery. This is because its leaves and seed have a flavor and fragrance that resembles chervil, celery and parsley. You can obtain this bear root in oil form or as a dried root.
The best part of bear root is that it possesses no side effects or adverse reactions other than rare allergy or hypersensitivity to bear root or similar herbs coming from the same herb family. However this does not mean that bear root can and should be taken in large quantities. This may increase the risk of severe kidney or liver problems. Another thing to remember is to identify bear root properly, as it is easy to confuse it with hemlock parsley or poison hemlock.
Keeping aside the precautions, bear root is one of the most beneficial herbs to have in your garden. Before planting it, just remember that it loves dry well-drained soil, lots of sunlight and the season of spring. Hence, make up your mind: plant these beautiful herbs in your garden or get them from the store; but you simply cannot avoid these healthy herbs. Get some dried root of bear root, mix one tablespoon of it into a pint of simmering water and have your own herbal cup of bear root tea while witnessing the positive difference it will bring in your body and mind.
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