Other Names: Old Man’s Beard, Seaweed of the Mountain (Hawai’i), Fish Bone Beard Lichen, Tree Dandruff, Woman’s Long Hair
Wild Crafted USA - Georgia
Overview: Usnea isn't a plant at all, but actually it is a lichen, which is a combination of algae and fungi functioning as a single organism. Usnea grows on old trees in cool, damp forests, most commonly found in the Pacific Northwest which provides most of the nation's supply. The various species of usnea are hard to distinguish but have equivalent uses.
We harvest in autumn when it's the best time to harvest Usnea as the heavy rains can often break branches off of old trees and then the lichen can be gathered from the woodland floor. It can stay in good condition on the ground due to its anti-biotic & anti-fungal properties. It is much more responsible to harvest it from the fallen branches, rather than living trees due to its slow growth rate. Make sure if you harvest your own lichen that you harvest away from polluted sources as lichens readily absorb pollutants from the air and can accumulate toxic heavy metals. Aim to pick them at least 200 feet away from roads, factories & other pollution sources.
Parts Used: The dried thallus or lichen strands of collected plants.
Preparations - Although Usnea is edible, it shouldn’t be eaten in large amounts raw as this can irritate the gut. There are no records of it being used as a food by humans, though it is often eaten by wild animals. Lichens are very low in protein & high in carbohydrates.
Usnic acid isn’t water soluble, so it is preferable to tincture Old Man’s Beard for its anti-infective properties (1:3, 70% alcohol). A standard dose would be 6-10 drops of our tincture 3-5 times daily internally. It is also well prepared into a topical salve, a powder, a vaginal douche & a nasal & throat spray. It could also be simmered and drank like a tea, but I don’t find it particularly tasty. You would do this by taking a large pinch of lichen and pouring boiled water over it and steep for 3-5 minutes.
Precaution: Not for use in pregnancy except under the supervision of a qualified healthcare practitioner. We recommend that you consult with a qualified healthcare practitioner before using herbal products, particularly if you are pregnant, nursing, or on any medications.
Medicinal: Antibacterial, Antibiotic, Anti-Fungal, Anti-Parasitic, Anti-Septic, Bitter, Vulnerary, and Immune Tonic.
Suggested Uses: “Usnea is useful for any infection, inside or outside the body, by gram positive bacteria, fungus, protozoa (Trichomonas), or yeast” (de la Floret)
Usnic acid is a broad spectrum anti-biotic. Against some bacterial strains it is more effective than penicillin. Usnea works to inhibits the growth of gram positive bacteria such as Streptococcus & Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium tuberculosis and other fast growing species, but not against gram negative bacteria like Salmonella and E.coli which inhabit the digestive tract. This means it has a less disruptive effect on our body ecology and gut flora than broad spectrum antibiotic drugs. It works by disrupting the cellular metabolism of bacteria, preventing the formation of ATP from ADP. This disruptive mechanism does not affect human cells (Hobbs).
- It is synergistic with the antibiotic clarithromycin which can increase its effectiveness as an antibiotic (Buhner, in de la Floret)
- It is broadly indicated for rebalancing bacteria and eradicating infection throughout mucous membranes. It has the strongest & quickest effect on the lungs and bladder (Rose), and is useful in strep throat, tuberculosis, pneumonia, upper respiratory tract infections, urinary tract infections, and diarrhoea (de la Floret)
- As an antiviral Usnea inhibits Epstein-Barr virus activation and the Herpes simplex virus.
- Usnea is also anti fungal, so is effective against Candida, athlete’s foot, jock itch, dandruff, ringworm, vaginal infections etc. (de la Floret)
- Old man’s Beard strengthens the body’s response to infection while also inhibiting bacteria & other pathogens (Rose)
Topical Wound Healer & Anti-Infective
- Usnea’s hair like structure allows the whole lichen to treat surface wounds topically. It can also be powdered and applied directly to a wound.
- The tincture can be diluted and used to clean wounds, or for skin infections like impetigo, staphylococcus, cellulitis and infected wounds
- It can also be used as a gargle for sore throats.
The information contained in this listing is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.
Packaged in a resealable plastic bag.
Cautions & Contraindications: Usnic acid has the potential to be toxic, but is poorly and slowly absorbed so there is little cause for concern in therapeutic doses.
Avoid during pregnancy. The lichen can cause contact dermatitis in susceptible individuals, so discontinue use or lower the dose/increase the dilution if you develop a skin reaction.
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