Usnea was a new medicinal plant for me when I moved to Florida. But it is an absolute power house! Not only does it pack a punch with all it's benefits, it can be fairly abundant, depending on where you live.
Usnea is a slow growing lichen, found in forested areas. It can be found on any tree, however, typically prefers oaks over others. Spanish Moss is often mistaken as usnea, though those two are not the same AT ALL!
Though both grow mostly on oak trees, Spanish Moss is made up of many little air plants and is in the same family as pineapple. How crazy is that? Usnea is a lichen. It's not technically a plant, nor is it a fungus. It's something in between. Usnea indicates clean air, as it will not grow in polluted air. In order to assure you are collecting usnea, rather then Spanish Moss, a little tugging will tell you the difference. Before harvesting, take some and pull it apart. Where Spanish Moss is brittle and has a black center, when pulling, usnea will reveal a white center which is fairly elastic.
Usnea lives a long and slow life high up in trees and should not be harvested from trees directly. The most sustainable way to harvest usnea is by foraging after a heavy rain or strong storm. You will be able to find usnea on the ground around oak trees. Due to it's light coloring, it typically stands out from the remaining ground cover and can be collected quite easily.
Although usnea is also considered a tonic, this lichen is an infection fighter, plain and simple. Unlike most modern antibiotics, which disrupt the structure of a cell, this lichen prevents the metabolism of gram positive bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It is particularly effective for hot, irritable, wet coughs. Some of the conditions that it’s typically used to treat include:
- Swelling and inflammation
- Kidney problems
- Certain types of infections, such as those affecting the throat, respiratory tract, mouth, skin and urinary tract
- Skin wounds that won’t easily heal
- Weight gain, due to its potential ability to support metabolic processes
Research suggests that it has a number of anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties, including acting as an antifungal and antibacterial against bacteria such as Streptococcus and Staphylococcus. This is why you’ll find it in herbal formulas intended to help treat colds, sore throats, skin infections, wounds and more.
Adding usnea to your apothecary is an absolute must. We tincture usnea and also infuse oil to make a healing salve from it. Usnea has become one of my favorites to collect and use for infusions and tinctures. It's properties provide all-round great health benefits and it makes a great partner for other herbal remedies.
When looking into herbals and medicinal plants, my abolute favorite benefit is the holistic approach to healing. Modern Medicine has great benefits of it's own and both alternative and modern medicine have their place in people's lives.
Before making herbal tinctures and extracts, be sure to go on some herbal walks with a local to you herbalist in order to assure you are collecting the correct plants and identify them correctly. Also be sure to consult with your trusted medical professional before adding herbal remedies to your health care routine, as some herbal medicines can have counter reactions with prescription medication.
Stay active, stay healthy!