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Usnea - Commonly Known As Old Mans Beard

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

Usnea is a genus of mostly pale grayish-green fruticose lichens that grow like leafless mini-shrubs or tasseles anchored on bark or twigs. Usnea grows all over the world!

Usnea truly is one of natures miracles. Known for its antibacterial and antibiotic properties, due to its high content of usnic acid. Usnea is a beard lichen, but is actually a combination of lichen and fungus that grow together for their mutual benefit.

To identify Usnea, simply hold a piece between your fingers and tear it apart. You should see a stretchy white core in the center of the strands. Usnea is the only lichen with this unique characteristic.

Usnea can be found on dead or dying trees. Because of this, it was originally thought to kill the trees that is is hosted on, but rather , it grows on trees that are already diseased. The sparse canopy of the diseased tree allows for usnea to have more exposure to light for photosynthesis.

Usnea has been used in medicine for centuries, and by almost all cultures around the world, well known for its use during cold and flu season. Usnea is an amazing tool to have in your arsenal at the first signs of a respiratory infection, as it has amazing healing capability for your lungs. Also great to use it as a preventative measure while building up your immune system.

Alterative, antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antimicrobial, some other known uses are for strep throat, and staph infections. Topically has been used to treatmany types of infections-clear up cuts, wounds, fungal infections and impetigo (skin infection). Many people have found usnea to be extremely beneficial in fighting off sinusitis, bronchitis, colds and even pneumonia.

Usnea works as a powerful antibiotic without killing the good bacteria in the gut like over the counter pills do. This is because usnea only destroys gram positive bacteria but leaves the gram negative microbes alone. This plant is a true miracle when it comes to outdoor survivalist situations. It might even save your life one day if you get lost of injured in the woods!

Best time to harvest Usnea is literally all year round! There are three main ways to use Usnea - tea-tincture-infused oil.

The way that i use Beard lichen is as a herbal tea infusion and a alcohol tincture. My new go to medicine for upper respiratory illnesses in my family is the herbal tea infusion.For ours, I like to let it simmer for a a very long time. Usnea tastes very bitter, almost like a spicy taste, its energetics have a cooling and drying effect on the body. Due to the disgusting taste of Usnea ( i love bitter, but even i don not enjoy this taste) i recommend using an elderberry syrup, or unpasteurized honey for flavoring. You can also add in sweet tasting herbs to your tea combination to help balance out the taste. Here is a simple herbal tea combination that i use with my family. The kids love it just as much as the adults, so thats a win win !

My family's own herbal tea combination for upper respiratory issues during flu season-

Usnea ( antibacterial, antibacterial, antiviral)

Bedstraws ( Vitamin C)

Cedar leaf (vitamin C)

Wild rose hips (vitamin C)

Usnea, wild rose hips, cedar, bedstraws

Most recently, this herbal tea combination stopped an upper respiratory infection dead in its tracks in less then 2 days. If you are not feeling well, make a whole pot to drink through the day. All herbal teas can be drank cold or hot, drink it to your preference. I fill a medium pot full of cold water, and bring it to a boil. Once at a rolling boil, dump in your combination of herbs and allow to boil for another minute or two at the longest, then reduce the heat and allow to simmer. The longer the simmer, the more is extracted from the plant material. Keep in mind, Usnea is not water soluble, meaning it is very difficult to extract the medicine using water alone. So the tea will not be as potent as a tincture. Once it is simmered for a few hours, you can filter out the plant material and enjoy!

Please keep in mind, that this information is for educational purposes only and is in no way meant to act as a treatment , or cure for any illness one may have. This information is not meant to replace any advice from a doctor, please seek medical attention and advice from a qualified health practitioner if you are feeling unwell.

strain your herbal combination, but small tiny plant bits left behind are really good for you, so dont be all OCD about it!
Jug of Usnea herbal tea for drinking all day while we fight off this infection!

Some things to keep in mind when harvesting Usnea is to make sure to do it sustainably. Usnea is a slow growing lichen , and so over harvesting it can be devastating to a colony. If you look to the ground, you can always find it growing on fallen branches. In places were the wind is high, especially during spring or after a wind storm would be the best time to gather. Beard lichens are very beneficial to trees, as they bring in more oxygen for the tree, thus helping the tree to heal itself if it is diseased. Please remeber to ask permission and say thank you before harvesting any plant from nature. This shows respect and gratitude for what you are taking.

Another very important fact is that Usnea easily absorbs heavy metals and is very sensitive to pollution, please harvest from areas that are clean and free of pollution.


This method I am about to share is the more traditional way of making tinctures. This will take about 6 weeks time!

This one will turn out quite potent and a deep brown. Possibly even some plant sediment that you can choose to filter out.

I am using:

1 quart sized mason jar

95% alcohol-190 proof ever clear


6 weeks time

For the traditional method, exact measurements are not necessary. Simply choose the jar size of choice, fill with Usnea, leaving about 1.5 to 2 inches from the top. Pour in the alcohol, and cover with a lid. Make sure to completely cover the usnea, to prevent spoilage. Then place in a dark dry place and let it sit for 6 weeks. You can check on it when you remember, and open the lid to allow for pressure release.

Usnea jars, and on the right, Usnea tincture

And there you have it ! A very effective ways to create your very own tincture. I like to use alcohol tinctures, becasue they will pull out MORE plant properties then any other menstrum used like glycerin and vinegar. The properties that alcohol will pull out is as follows:

- alkaloids, glycosides, saponins, flavonoids, tannins, resins

One other thing to note is that yes, alcohol tinctures are completely safe for children. Because of how potent alcohol tinctures are ,The amount that would be given over a days time is so minuscule that it does not affect children negatively in any way. The adult liver metabolizes one ounce of liquor in one hour, and you won’t be giving your child anywhere near that amount. Make sure to keep your tinctures up and away from children, giving an alcohol tincture to a child is personal choice, please make sure to research what is best for your family. If you do decide to use alcohol, give on a full stomach. As an alternative,Many people will use glycerin, as it carries a very sweet taste, but keep in mind that glycerine does not pull out as many plant properties, thus is much weaker of a medicine, and also requires much larger doses.

Do you use tinctures? Have you ever made your own ? Would you like to learn more about making tinctures on my blog? If so, like , follow, and subscribe to my blog! I will be adding more recipes and more posts about herbs all through the summer!

Usnea tincture on the left, then some salves, and cottonwood buds infusing!

***UPDATE*** My tincture is ready !!!! Here's how it turned out! 6 week infusion-

Theres that nice deep brown color I was looking for !

I have bottled this into tincture bottles and will be using for personal use during cold and flu seasons!

Please make sure to do your own research when making tinctures, herbal remedies, or medicines. This blog post is meant for educational purposes only, and the information therein is limited to my own personal experiences with my family, and is not meant to treat, diagnose, cure any disease or illness. Please make sure to consult your doctor or trusted health care practitioner if you are feeling unwell, and consult with them prior to making, or using and herbal remedy. Again, this blog post is for EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY.

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