This lichen, sometimes called Old Man's Beard, is in the genus Usnea, which contains over 600 species, all of which have the same medicinal properties! It grows in wet, cold areas on dead wood, often at higher elevations, although it can be found anywhere in the world.
I was hiking recently, tracking some bobcats, when I noticed a large piece of usnea on the ground. I looked up and sure enough, there was tons of it growing in the trees above me. Being careful not to take more than I needed, I grabbed a small handful and put it in my pocket for later. I believe that Usnea is fairly uncommon to see throughout the world, but I know that here in New England it is a rare and threatened species. If harvesting Usnea, please only take what you need. Usnea should not be harvested for sale!!!
I had known of Usnea before because Zak likes to use it on wooden masks that he makes because it stays alive and keeps growing over time, but I never knew that it was a healing herb. I first heard of its properties in the book Herbal Antibiotics, 2nd Edition: Natural Alternatives for Treating Drug-resistant Bacteria by Stephen Harrod Buhner. According to Buhner, the herbal actions of Usnea include analgesic, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, antimitotic, antineoplastic (cancer), antioxidant, antiparasitic, antiproliferative (cancer), antiprotozoal, antiseptic, antiviral, drug synergistic, immunostimulant, and an inhibitor of biofilm formation! He also states that Usnea has traditionally been used throughout the world to treat skin infections, abscesses, upper respiratory and lung infections, and fungal infections. Buhner also cites a very old treatment for large wounds in which the lichen is soaked in mashed garlic and then placed in the wound to soak up the blood and prevent infection. I highly recommend Buhner's book as it goes into extreme detail about many different natural alternatives to antibiotics while still maintaining readability for the average layperson. To learn more about usnea, and many other herbal antibiotics, check out the link to the book below:
You do not have to worry about drying Usnea. It is already very dry and will not mold if you leave it. If anything, it may even keep growing!
While a tea can be made from this lichen, it is best to make a tincture from it as you get more bang for your buck, using less plant material and making more potent medicine. To do this, simply put the lichen in a mason jar and cover with at least 80 proof alcohol, although 100 proof is best. Leave it in the alcohol for a month, shaking daily. After a month, or longer if you prefer, strain the lichen out and transfer your finished tincture into clean container(s). It is best to either use brown glass bottles or to store in a cool, dark place as the sunlight can affect the effectiveness of the tincture. I like to store all of my herbal remedies in a vintage bread box so they are out of the sun.
Can't find any Usnea growing near you? No problem! You can order it online from Mountain Rose Herbs at this link:
Click Here to Order Usnea
Disclaimer: This blog is just my own opinion, nothing more. While I try my hardest, everything may not be completely accurate or complete. Sorry, I'm only human, so do not hold me accountable for anything you do to harm yourself or the world around you. I do make money from this blog (seriously not very much at all guys). If you click on any of the links in my blog I may make money from it. I'm not sponsored by any of these people I just honestly love these products and want to give you the resources to find them. I am not a medical practitioner; consult a health professional before using any herbal remedies.