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Usnea Barbata

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Usnea Barbata


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Usnea is a genus of mostly pale grayish-green fruticoselichens that grow like leafless mini-shrubs or tasselsanchored on bark or twigs.

The genus is in the family Parmeliaceae. It grows all over the world. Members of the genus are commonly calledold man's beard, beard lichen, or beard moss

Usnea barbata

 Common name:  Old Man’s Beard, Tree lichenFamily: Usneaceae

Part used: Whole lichen (dried thallus)

Constituents:  Lichen acids (usnic acid and derivatives, diffractaic acid), polysaccharides, mucilage, anthraquinones (endocrocin), fatty acids (oleic, linolenic, arachadonic), all essential amino acids, vitamins, carotene.

Medicinal actions:  Antibiotic, anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, immuno-stimulating, immuno-regulator, demulcent, anti-tumor, expectorant, muscle relaxant

Medicinal use: Usnea is primarily antibiotic, especially against gram positive organisms such as:  Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other fast-growing species.  Polysaccharides are immuno-stimulatory and can be used for local and systemic infections. Common conditions it is used for are sinusitis, acute/chronic lung infections, vaginal infections, and topically as a compress for open wounds to stop bleeding and infection.


  • Lichen acids, like usnic acid are antibiotic and anti-tumor. Disrupts bacterial cell membrane function, inhibits ATP formation and oxidative phosphorylation without effecting human cells. Inhibits and weakens the growth of TB bacillus, pneumonococcus, streptococci & staphylococci.

  •  Diffractaic acid is an analgesic.

  • Fatty acids & polysaccharides have anti-tumor effects.

  • Polysaccharides are immuno-stimulating.

Pharmacy: Up to 10 g/day powdered herb. Tincture: (1:6, 90%), 2-5 ml TID. Infusion: 2-3tsp/cup, TID. External application as tincture or compress. Lozenge: 100mg herb, 3-6x/day. Note: Dose short term up to 3 weeks.

Toxicity: No adverse effects expected. Topically, usnic acid may cause skin irritation.

Contraindications: None known.

Interactions: None known.

Usnea is a type of lichen that grows on trees. Though lichens appear to be single plants, they are really a combination of fungus and algae that grow together for their mutual benefit. Lichens grow in colorful, flat patches. Usnea may be whitish, reddish, or black. The plant body of usnea is used to make medicine.

Usnea is used for weight loss, pain relief, fever control, and wound healing; and to make phlegm easier to cough up.

Usnea is also used directly on the skin for soremouth and throat.

Don't confuse usnea with oak moss (Evernia prunastri). Both usnea and oak moss are sometimes referred to as tree moss.

Usnea has long been used in herbal formulas for treating skin infections, urinary tract infections, lung infections, vaginal infections, wounds, colds, and sore throat. Its use as an antimicrobial herb has also been proven by various studies.

Usnea Tincture Method 2: Folk Brew

  1. Fill a jar of your choice with usnea. ...

  2. Fill the jar again with 100 proof vodka. ...

  3. Label your jar with the date and contents and cover it with a lid.

  4. Let it sit in a cabinet for 6 weeks.

  5. After 6 weeks strain off the liquid and store your tincture in a cabinet or brown glass.

How does work?

Usnea contains ingredients that are thought to fight germs that might cause infections. It also might decrease inflammation, pain, and fever.

Usnea contains chemicals that are thought to fight germs that might cause infections. These chemicals might also decrease swelling, pain, and fever. People use usnea for cough, obesity, pain, wound healing, and many other purposes, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

Usnea is a fantastic choice for treating wounds. In addition to being helpful against infections, it also has wound-healing abilities that can quicken the healing process. To apply usnea on a wound, you can use a diluted tincture, powdered herb, wash made from a strong tea, or salve (if the wound is not infected).

Usnea, 100 mg three times per day, can be taken in capsules. Tincture, 3–4 ml three times per day, can also be used.

This is a great time to put good energy into your herbal creation and visualize all the ways it's going to help you once it's finally ready. After 4-6 weeks have passed, you can then press out your tincture. Don't worry too much about the time, some folks wait as little as three weeks and some wait much longer.

Are you looking to craft your own herbal remedies? If so, you're in the right place! In this article, we'll show you how to make usnea tincture. Usnea, also known as old man's beard, is a lichen that grows on trees and rocks in forests. It has been used medicinally for centuries due to its antibacterial and antifungal properties.

To make usnea tincture, you'll need the following materials:

  • Dried usnea (1-2 ounces)

  • High-proof alcohol (such as vodka or Everclear)

  • Glass jar with a tight-fitting lid

  • Cheesecloth or fine-mesh strainer

  • Dropper bottle for storing the tincture

Step 1: Collect and Dry Usnea

First, you'll need to collect some usnea. It's important to make sure you're ethically harvesting usnea, as it takes a long time to grow back. You can typically find usnea in forested areas on trees and rocks. Be sure to leave enough usnea behind when harvesting so that it can continue to grow.

Once you've collected your usnea, it's important to dry it thoroughly before making your tincture. To do this, spread the usnea out on a clean surface and let it air dry for a few days. You can also use a dehydrator to speed up the drying process.

Step 2: Prepare the Alcohol

Next, you'll need to prepare the alcohol for your tincture. You can use high-proof vodka or Everclear for this step. It's important to use high-proof alcohol as it will extract more of the medicinal properties from the usnea.

Pour the alcohol into your glass jar, filling it about three-quarters full. You can adjust the amount of alcohol based on how much usnea you're using. We recommend using 1-2 ounces of dried usnea per pint of alcohol.

Step 3: Add the Usnea

Once your alcohol is ready, it's time to add the usnea. Break up the dried usnea into small pieces and add it to the alcohol in the jar. Make sure the usnea is completely submerged in the alcohol.

Step 4: Let it Steep

Now it's time to let your tincture steep. Place the jar in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. You can shake the jar daily to help infuse the usnea into the alcohol.

Step 5: Strain and Bottle

After two weeks, it's time to strain your tincture. Use a fine-mesh strainer or cheesecloth to strain out the usnea, making sure to squeeze out as much of the tincture as possible. You can discard the usnea or save it for use in other herbal remedies.

Next, pour the tincture into a dropper bottle for easy use. You can also label the bottle with the date and what the tincture is for.

Congratulations, you've made usnea tincture! You can use this tincture as a natural remedy for a variety of ailments, including sore throat, respiratory infections, and skin irritations. Simply add a few drops to water or tea and drink up to three times per day.

Making your own usnea tincture is a great way to take control of your health and wellness. By following these simple steps, you can create a powerful herbal remedy from scratch. Remember to ethically harvest your usnea and use high-proof alcohol for best results. Now it's time to get started on your own usnea tincture!

Usnea (Usnea spp), is also called beard lichen, lungs of the forest, or old man’s beard.

It’s considered a cooling, drying herb and is valued for its powerful action against gram positive bacteria (such as strep and staph). It’s also useful for wound care and respiratory system issues.

Identifying Usnea

Usnea is a hanging and hair-like fruticose lichen, a symbiotic organism made of fungus + alga that grows on the bark and limbs of trees.

There are many species, so the exact type will vary depending on where you live, but a key feature to check for is a white stretchy core.

Usnea has a white stretchy inner core.

Find a thicker piece of the lichen, then carefully start pulling it apart. If it’s fresh and moist, then you should see what looks like a thin strand of white elastic stretching when you pull. If the usnea is dry, then it may snap, but you’ll still see a white core inside.

Usnea grows from trees in hair-like tufts, some are short, but some can grow very long. It’s often growing alongside other kinds of tree dwelling lichen (crustose – which looks flat-like, and foliose which looks leaf-like). You may even spot some moss in the mix too.

The usnea lichen will be rounded and and hairy looking – not flat or leafy looking.

In our area (zone 7, Appalachian mountains), we mainly find usnea growing in short tufts on wild cherry, oak, and poplar trees, but in other areas it will also grow on conifers, fruit trees such as apple, and other hardwoods such as hickory.

Harvest local medicine from your woods,parks or forest.

Where to Find

It enjoys moist areas with clean air – many find

a fair abundance of usnea around a creek area, deep in the woods and far from roads and other houses/businesses.

Don’t gather from places such as roadsides, since it absorbs pollutants from the air. (Though since it’s sensitive to air pollution, you’re less likely to find it in those types of places in the first place.)

When to Forage

Usnea can be foraged all year ’round. The best time to look for it is after a wind or rain storm, since that’s when branches get blown to the ground.

We mainly search for it in winter and early spring, since there’s less greenery on the ground to distract from finding it, but really – you can stumble upon and harvest usnea any time of the year that you’re lucky enough to find some!

This usnea covered branch almost landed in the creek!

Collecting Usnea, Sustainably

While you may spot usnea growing directly on trees, it should only be gathered from naturally-fallen branches, or clumps directly dropped from trees onto the forest floor.

Don’t gather every bit you can find though!

Lichens grow and reproduce slowly and they’re important for the overall health of the forest. For this reason, you should only take the amount of beard lichen you need, and leave the rest on the forest floor to complete its natural life cycle, where it also acts as a food source for wildlife, such as deer, and a source of nesting material for birds.

To harvest, use your fingers to gently pull on the clump of usnea you’d like to gather. It should easily detach from the fallen branch or piece of bark on the ground.

You really don’t need a lot of usnea – a couple of small handfuls will make plenty of tincture, salve, and a powder to stock in your natural first aid kit. You can always go back for more if you run short of what you need, rather than take too much that goes to waste.

a tuft of usnea on a fallen branch notice that it grows alongside other types of lichen

How to Store

After you’ve gathered usnea, it’s best to bring it home and process it into tincture or infused oil/salve over the next few days, if possible.

If you can’t get to it yet, you can air dry usnea and store in brown paper bags for future use. Just lay the pieces out in a single layer on a screen or clean dishtowel to dry for a few days.

Store in a cool dry place and out of direct sunlight and shelf life should be at least one year. If you find that the color has faded over time, it’s best to return it to the woods or compost, and pick a fresh harvest.

Can you grow usnea lichen at home?

The book, Radical Mycology, has an experimental technique to try if you’d like to cultivate usnea into your environment. They recommend removing a small piece of bark that contains lichen fragments, such as usnea, and place it in a piece of biodegradable gauze adhered to a new tree.

Stock your natural remedies cabinet with these recipes!

Using Usnea

Now that you’ve harvested a couple of small handfuls, what can you do with usnea? Make local-sourced natural medicine!

Often called “nature’s antibiotic”, it’s used externally for wound healing and as a styptic (something that stops bleeding), and internally for sore throat; respiratory (pneumonia and bronchitis), GI, urinary tract, and sinus infection; and as an immune tonic.

It’s generally regarded as safe, but if you’re pregnant or have health concerns, check with a healthcare professional before using internally. As with all topical products, if you develop redness or irritation after using externally, discontinue use.

a foraged wound powder made from local beard lichen!

Usnea Wound Powder

If you’re out and about in the woods and get a wound that you can’t get treated right away, you could technically just pack fresh usnea onto the spot to help prevent infection, then cover with a bandage. However, a powder is a bit easier to use in its place!

To make usnea wound powder, take dried usnea and run it through a coffee grinder. You’ll notice that your powder will be filled with stringy bits that won’t pulverize. That’s okay. Just sift out the powder and add those extra bits into your nearest infusing jar of usnea tincture or infused oil. (Or compost/return to the forest.)

Once you have a nice soft sifted powder, store it in a small airtight container. A tiny tin of it is handy to keep in your backpack – use it as a styptic powder (stops bleeding) and/or to prevent infection in wounds while out in the field.

Usnea Infused Oil

Infused oils are used as a beneficial ingredient when you make homemade herbal products for your skin, such as salves, ointments, lotion bars, creams, and lip balm. You could even rub an infused oil directly on your skin (like a massage oil), but they aren’t taken internally.

To Make the Oil

Making an infused oil is ultra simple. You just need chopped pieces of usnea, covered with about twice as much oil. Here, I’m using 1/4 cup chopped plant to 1/2 cup oil, but you could use the same ratio for larger or smaller amounts. (example: 1 tbsp of chopped usnea to 2 tbsp oil, etc.)

  • 1/4 cup chopped usnea

  • 1/2 cup oil of choice

For best contact with the oil, blend the lichen and oil together using something like a blender, ninja, etc. If you don’t have a way to do that, chop the usnea up finely with scissors, then cover with twice as much oil.

What Type of Oil to Use

You can use whatever type of oil you have available. Olive oil is a classic choice for herbalists and it’s widely available at local stores. However, it is a little on the heavy side, as far as oils go, so it can take extra time to soak into your skin. For a lighter feeling option, you could try a faster absorbing oil such as jojoba, rice bran, grapeseed, or apricot kernel oil. Two good choices for a ‘medium feel’ oil that are also great for your skin are sunflower oil and sweet almond oil.

There’s no wrong oil to use really though. They will all work nicely, just some will feel lighter while others will feel oilier on your skin. (To test out your oil, dab a little of the plain oil on your arm, rub it in, and see how long it takes to soak into your skin, and how it feels to you.)

Directions to Infuse Usnea Oil

Place the lichen/oil mixture into a heatproof jar – a half pint jar works nicely – then set the uncovered jar down into a pan filled with several inches of water. Heat over a low burner for 3 to 4 hours. (We use a pot of water on our woodstove in the winter.) Monitor and make sure the water doesn’t evaporate out. Remove from heat. You can use the infused oil right away, or cover the jar with a lid and let it infuse in a warm spot (we use the top of our fridge) for 2 to 3 weeks longer.

Usnea Salve Recipe

Usnea salve, or ointment, is used for its antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and antifungal benefits. It may be especially useful if you have a persistent skin infection or condition that won’t clear up, or can be used for things like boils, mild cuts, and scrapes.

(Black walnut salve is also a helpful antifungal, so you could make a salve that combines black walnut and usnea infused oils for a synergistic variation!)

To make, combine 1.75 oz of infused oil with 0.25 ounces of beeswax. Place in a heatproof jar, or a cleaned tin can for easy cleanup, and set down into a small pot of water. Heat the pan over medium to medium low heat until the wax melts. Pour into tins. Fills about 1 two-ounce tin.

store tinctures in amber glass bottles when possible

Usnea Tincture

Tinctures are herbal preparations made with food-grade alcohol which best extracts many medicinal benefits. This alcohol tincture would also be a fantastic addition to a DIY sore throat spray, since it’s anti-inflammatory and an infection fighter.

While there are several methods of making, involving weight and extended heat time, we prefer this ultra simple folk-style extract method. “Parts” are given as volume ratios and could be anywhere from tablespoons to cups. Just replace the word “part” in the recipe, with whatever you’re using as a measurement device.

(Examples: If you only have 1 tbsp chopped herb available then 1 tbsp usnea, 2 tbsp boiling water, 3 tbsp alcohol OR if you have 1/4 cup chopped usnea then you’d use 1/4 cup usnea, 1/2 cup boiling water, 3/4 cup alcohol.)

If you have high proof alcohol – 151 Everclear:

You’ll need:

  • 1 part chopped usnea (fresh is preferred, dried is ok)

  • 2 parts boiling water

  • 3 parts high proof drinkable alcohol (151 proof Everclear, or 75.5% alcohol by volume)

To make: Place the finely chopped usnea in the bottom of a heatproof half-pint jar. Cover with the boiling water, then add the alcohol. Cover with a lid, then shake well. Store in a warm spot – we use the top of our fridge – for a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark spot. Shelf life is at least one year.

If you have lower proof vodka – 80 proof (40% alcohol):

Since lower proof alcohols contain more water than Everclear or high proof alcohols, you don’t need to add water to this mix. (Doing so could make the alcohol amount too low and it won’t be preserved properly.)

You’ll need:

  • 1 part chopped usnea (fresh is preferred, dried is ok)

  • 5 parts vodka (80 proof, or 40% alcohol by volume)

To make: Place the finely chopped usnea in the bottom of a half-pint jar. Cover with the alcohol. Place a lid on the jar and shake well. Store in a warm spot – we use the top of our fridge – for at least 4 to 6 weeks. Strain and store in a cool dark spot. Shelf life is at least one year.

Amount to use:

Tincture dose will vary widely depending on age, size, etc. We dose just 3 to 4 drops in a spoonful of raw honey several times a day, while others recommend a full dropperful 3 to 5 times per day. Start low and slow and work up to what does best for your constitution. For questions or concerns, check with your healthcare professional.

basket of freshly harvested usnea and oyster mushrooms

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