The Herb That's Taken a Lichen to Healing

Hey folks!

I have some fun news for y’all; we have a new friend in the store and it's one heal of a deal!

By that, I literally mean it's a "heal" of a deal. Puns aside, our new friend is Usnea and in case you didn't already know... it's an incredibly healing herb. Today, I want to share with you how you can personally use this medicine in your life.

A Little Bit About Usnea

Usnea is a type of lichen (see what I did in the title?), which is a symbiotic relationship between algae and fungus. Simply put, it's a completely-dependent-on-each other type of relationship. Not the bad kind though. This dynamic creates a perfect balance between the two that results in what is called a "duo-organism", meaning it's not one organism but a stable unit composed of two life forms (as implied in the name). The way this works out is fascinating; and because of this complex partnership, no two lichen are alike. Lichen has a very distinguished appearance though, making it relatively easy to identify. Usnea has an especially cool air to it (in my personal opinion, of course).  If you've ever heard the term "Old Man's Beard", it was probably in reference to this specific lichen because, you've guessed it, it resembles the beard of an old man.


Usnea is very beneficial to humans and we can use it for numerous ailments.  A lot of people claim this lichen as a "cure-all" herb. Although this is not entirely true (as you'll learn shortly), it's pretty close. My own personal testimony from me to you is that this is a great and even essential addition to your herb collection and first aid kit. Check out what it can be used for below:

Medicinal Uses of Usnea

-TO HEAL WOUNDS! This amazes me every time. Usnea is a really reliable antimicrobial agent because of it's powerful trio of being antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-fungal. You can apply fresh Usnea as a press to your wound or if it's not already infected, you can also apply a salve.  This lichen is great for stopping bleeding as well as preventing infection and speeding the healing process.

-FOR BACTERIAL INFECTIONS! This is what happens when a foreign and unwanted bacteria invades your body. I want to start this off by stating this is not a "cure-all" for bacterial infections. In fact, Usnea is *usually* only productive in destroying what is called gram-positive bacteria. Essentially, that means the cell wall of the particular bacteria is penetrable.  It's been shown that Usnea is able to puncture and destroy bacteria that doesn't belong in your body while sparing all the good stuff your body does need. That's what makes this lichen an ideal replacement to antibiotics if the right bacteria are ailing your body. Antibiotics will destroy all the bacteria in your body, leaving you susceptible to other infections. Totally problematic. Usnea spares that bacteria. Try it for: strep throat, staph infections, upper respiratory infections, urinary tract infections, tuberculosis, and sometimes diarrhea depending on the cause.

-FOR FUNGAL INFECTIONS! Protolichesterinic Acid. You’ve heard of it, right? Maybe you have, maybe you haven’t, but it’s the magical component of Usnea that does all the antimicrobial work. It’s what is able to penetrate the cell walls of bacteria. For fungus, it’s what destroys the mitochondria, the life center of fungi, making this a great remedy for fungal infections. According to studies, it’s not as effective on fungi as it is bacteria, but it’s pretty close. It’s suggested to find a compliment to Usnea during fungal infection treatment to make sure you have successful results, as fungi isn’t always a fun guy or easy one to rid of.Try it for: Candida yeast infections, jock itch, vaginal infections, athlete's foot, or ringworm.

-FOR VIRAL INFECTIONS! So, here's the deal with viral infections. They're harder to get rid of and that's because unlike bacteria and fungi that just live in your body, viruses live in your cells. So if you haven't put it together yet (totally okay if you haven't, you've only had about half a second to think about it), killing viruses means you more than likely will be killing a larger amount of your own cells. I think it’s worth nothing that this is not exactly the most sustainable approach but still absolutely manageable. However, Usnea can be a sufficient way to avoid this. Although it’s a mystery in detail, it's been shown that Usnea has a mystical sort of way to balance the amount of cells killed in order to rid the virus at hand. It appears this is done in our mucous membranes and more than likely has something to do with the protolichesterinic acid but the exact process is still unknown. Regardless, the results are obvious that this is a great antiviral medicine. Try it for: herpes simplex, Epstein Barr, and viral illnesses that your doctor can't help with (how many times have you heard "well, it appears to be a virus. you'll just have to drink plenty of water, eat well, and rest!"? this could be a good time for Usnea tincture.)


Preparing Usnea

Alright folks, here's the fun part. I say (well, write) this with sarcasm. Usnea preparation is kind of a pain because it's not exactly water soluble. However, protolichesterinic acid is! So, if you're only using Usnea for this specific constituent, tea is an option! Unless you are applying fresh or dried as a press, you need to make a tincture or a salve to extract most of its other constituents. This process is detail oriented and it involves heat and alcohol, which can be a volatile combination. Heat is necessary though (but at a low temperature) to get a good alcohol extraction, so do this mindfully, carefully, and at your own risk. The following is Steve Buhner's directions to making an Usnea Tincture. Look this human up, he's an Usneaista (not a real word but I'm just saying they know their stuff!).


-Chop/grind usnea lichen into small pieces/powder, place into crock pot.

-Cover lichen with 2.5 times the amount of water (eg. 5 ounces herb to 12.5 ounces water)

-Keep on low heat for 48 hours.

-Add mix to mason jar and then add the same amount of 100 proof alcohol as water (eg. 12.5 ounces of water and 12.5 ounces of alcohol).

-Label jar with date, alcohol used, where the plant was collected, and any other info.

-After 2 weeks strain off the plant material and compost.

Store tincture in dark, cool place.  Take 60 drops 3-4 times a day to fight virus or infection.

Okay, I'm going to get a little mushy with you right now. I really love Usnea. I initially fell in love with its beard-like appearance and soon thereafter learned how medicinal and exceptional its properties were. By default, I fell harder in love. I'm really excited to share with you it's healing power and how you can apply it to your own ailments. Remember though, it's medicine and the Earth gives us what we need. Consume with this mindset and we will be blessed with bounty. Enjoy for Goodness Sake!

Be well, 

V <3 


I didn't just make this stuff up, check out these resources!


The Usnea Herb

Gram Positive vs. Gram Negative Bacteria

Safety Issues Concerning Herbs

Protolichesterinic Acid: A Prominent Broad Spectrum Antimicrobial Compound from the Lichen Usnea albopunctata

Lichens Used in Traditional Medicine file:///home/chronos/u-a2cdd69a3847f68e0456ea17e12845069453c7d9/Downloads/lichens-used-in-traditional-medicine.pdf (you can type this title into Google and download the PDF)


About the Author


Say hello to V; a passionate pursuer of all things health and wellness with emphasis on children and nutrition! She is the mama of one and you’ll almost never catch these two apart. She loves family time and finds deep grounding and joy in times when this union occurs.

V has spent time as a ballroom dance instructor where her passion of partner dancing originated, although she’s been dancing solo close to her entire life. She has also spent some time hitchhiking and backpacking across the country which led her to one of her dearest homes, a commune in northern California. This is where she learned about non-violent communication and consent culture, which are essential and continuously growing practices of hers. This is also the place that her daughter was conceived, the genesis of a whole new adventure and chapter in her life.

Concepts that are important to her include positive parenting, responsible holistic wellness, sustainability, consent culture, non-violent communication, and wholesome diets.