Usnea (Usnea barbata)
Usnea is a lichen rather than a plant. Lichens are unusual combinations of algae and fungi that work together as a single organism. It can be found growing on old trees in the cool damp of the forest. Native to the Pacific Northwest, this is an epiphytic herb, meaning that it grows abundantly on other trees without taking any nutrients from the tree, and instead gets its nutrients from surrounding air and moisture in rain or on the surface of the host tree. Historically, it was used to make skin creams, vaginal inserts, and mouthwashes and used as a dressing.
Key Medicinal Uses
Internally Usnea aids the immune system when used in a tonic. This herb is specific for strep throat and staph infections. It has antibiotic qualities that help the respiratory and urinary systems. It makes a good choice to treat sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, colds, and flu, kidney and bladder infections. It has also been used successfully for yeast infections, vaginosis, trichonomosas and Chlamydia.
It can help those suffering from chronic fatigue, herpes, HIV and other conditions with a depressed immune system. The herb is antibacterial and antifungal. In Chinese medicine, it is part of herbal cancer therapy, especially for cancer of the thyroid.
Externally Usnea can be used as a mouthwash, a gargle or in lozenges to aid inflammation of the oral mucus membranes. As an antifungal, it can be used to treat topical ailments like ringworm, athlete's foot and yeast. Some also use it to treat boils and other skin lesions.
Other Uses It is used as a fixative in perfumes that have a mossy note to them. It is also used as a flavoring for foods and in making beer. The herb is also used as a homeopathic remedy for headache and sunstroke.
Herbs to Combine/Supplement
Usnea combines well with Echinacea as an immune booster. In Chinese medicine, it is often combined with other herbs to create individualized formulas to fit the symptoms of the patient.
Lichen The dried lichen strands are used medicinally.
Topical use can cause dermatitis in some users. If this happens, take the herb internally instead. There are no other known side effects with this herb and there have been no reported interactions with any common medications. It is considered safe to use for everyone.
Preparation and Dosage
Usnea is commonly found commercially in capsules and tincture, or you can make your own. Usnea can also be made into a salve for topical treatment. To take capsules, 100 mg can be taken up to three times per day. Take the tincture in a dose of 3 to 4 ml three times a day.