Usnea sp. Usnea, also known as old man’s beard, is not a plant but lichen—a symbiotic relationship between an algae and a fungus. The entire lichen is used. Usnea looks like long, fuzzy strings hanging from trees in North American and European forests, where it grows. This particular species of Usnea, common to our area, is medium-sized tufted shrub lichen, pale yellowish green in color. It is highly branched, bearing numerous short side branches, reinforced by a tough, white, central cord. Usnea grows over trees and shrubs, preferring old growth forest conifers in shady areas. Cautions: There are no known side effects of usnea, and it has not been reported to interfere with the action of common medications. It is considered safe for use in children. Theoretically, caution is advised in people with autoimmune disease (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, lupus), as Usnea may increase the action of the immune system. Constituents: Usnic acid, mucilage.Antibiotic – Usnic acid, which gives usnea its bitter taste, acts as an antibiotic. Use 2 tsp. of tincture in warm water 30 minutes before mealtime.Anti-fungal – Indicated in the treatment of fungal infections of the mouth, stomach, intestines, anus, vagina, nose, ear, and skin, as well as systemic fungal infections. As an external anti-fungal Usnea Salve is excellent. Anti-microbial – The lichen helps the body to resist and kill unwanted organisms such as bacteria, virus, fungus and parasites. The properties are often referred to in a more specific way using the terms anti-bacterial, anti-biotic and anti-fungal. Take 3 #00 capsule three times a day for the above conditions. Usnea appears to kill bacteria by disrupting their metabolic function. Specifically, it uncouples oxidative phosphorylation by acting on the inner mitochondrial membrane and also has ATP-ase activity. Both of these mechanisms ultimately kill bacterial cells by cutting off their energy supply. Unlike bacterial cells, human cells are less permeable to usnic acid and are not adversely affected.Cough medicine – Usnea also contains mucilage, which can be helpful in easing irritating coughs. A teaspoon of dried usnea added to chokecherry bark (1 tsp.) and Horehound (1/2 tsp.) per cup of boiling-hot water works well. Gast-intestinal – Because of its bitter taste and ability to stimulate digestion, Usnea was historically used to treat indigestion. Take two teaspoons of tincture in warm water, as needed. Gynecological aid – For vaginal infections, use a strong infusion of Usnea as a douche. A strong infusion can also be added to a bath for women following the birth of a child, to aid parturition and to prevent infection.Lung aid – Usnea is recommended by herbalists and naturopathic doctors for acute and chronic lung infections, such as pleurisy, pneumonia, colds and flu, and as an adjunct to tuberculosis (TB) treatment. Usnic acid, the constituent of the Usnea species that has been studied most extensively, inhibits gram-positive bacteria such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, and mycobacteria. The organism Streptococcus pneumoniae is a major cause of bacterial pneumonia in adults, and a related organism, Streptococcus pyogenes, is responsible for the clinical condition pharyngitis, which is commonly referred to as strep throat.Wounds – Usnea, pulverized into a fine powder, make an excellent antibacterial dressing for open wounds and runny sores.PHOTOS: Bulk Usnea, Usnea, Jules and Sheila harvesting, apprentices on a winter Usnea harvest.
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