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Usnea (Usnea barbata)

Common Names: Beard Lichen

Botanical Name: Usnea barbata, U.spp

Plant Family: Parneliacae, Lichen family

Parts Used: Whole "plant"

Actions: Antibiotic, antifungal, tuberculostatic (Systems affected: Lungs and Skin)

Habitat: Temperate North America. Forested areas, generally seen clinging onto the bark or limbs of both dead and alive trees.

Foraging: It is better to collect Usnea in the Late Fall and Winter. When walking outside after a heavy wind or rainstorms shows all of the lichen that has fallen from branches that were far out of reach. It is in the winter when Lichen are in their reproductive state, which can be seen by their vibrant state.

Identification: Usea is the plant like result of a symbiotic association between algae and fungi (as is the case with all licens). Throughout the year, usnea is always a light greenish grey in color. It is identified by pulling apart the outer sheath of its main stem to find a tiny white central cord that has an elastic pull to it.


Usnea is an anti-microbial herb that kills unwanted bacteria. Unlike a prescribed antibiotic, it doesn't kill ALL types of bacteria in our body.

The anti-microbial effects in Usnea are effective against "gram positive bacteria" such as Staphyloccus simulans and S. aureus (Staph) and Streptoccus (Strep). Hence, it kills the unwanted pathogens without wiping out our healthy gut flora.

Usnea is used for strep throat, pneumonia, upper respiratory infections (sinsitis), tuberculosis & UTI's.

Usnea processed to a powder can be applied to wounds to help quicken the healing process and help treat or prevent infection.


While the antimicrobial effects of Usnea are helping kill off a large unicellular organism (Gram positive bacteria), the lichen also serves as an antiviral. Meaning it kills viruses that live with the person's cells. Usnea has a special way of eradicating infection throughout the mucus membranes.


What about fungal infections? Usnea works both internally and externally to kill the unwanted fungus.

Usnea can be used for dandruff, ringworm, athelet's foot, jock itch, candida, and yeast infections.

Usena Infused Oil:

  • Place the usnea lichen on a suface and allow to dry overnight. Make sure that none of the parts of the usnea lichen are damp. Wet and oil do not mix.

  • Once the usnea lichen is fully dried, place it in a glass container. Pour in a carrier oil of your choice, making sure to fully cover the plant. You may need help pushing the plant down into the oil. (I had Avocado oil on hand).

  • Fill a pot with water, leaving room for the usnea oil jar to sit in the pot. Place a canning ring at the bottom of the pot and sit the glass on top. Set the stovetop on low, bringing the water to a slow and steady simmer. Infuse the oil for at least 4 hours. You may need to add water to your pot, if a lot of evaporation occurs.

  • Set up a bowl with cheesecoth and pour the contents of the oil into the cheesecloth. Squeeze the oil from the plant into the bowl. You can discard the plant.

  • Pour the oil from the bowl into an amber or dark colored jar to store and use later. Can be stored up to 3 months in a dark room.

Disclaimer: This content is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to treat, diagnose, or cure any condition and does not offer medical advice.

That being said, it’s important that we each do our own research before consuming any herb or plant (in any delivery system such as tea, tincture, decoction, infused oil, raw, etc) and make our own informed decision. 

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