Saturday, January 11, 2014


In case ya'll were worried that foraging was over for the season you were WRONG. Haha.

Partly because there are still things you can gather in the winter, and partly because I still have things that I gathered this summer that I need to write about. 

In other words I've been procrastinating. My mother will tell you that research projects were never my favorite. 

This here little "herb" is quite the gem. It's a new one for me, so I'm still learning, but it has some pretty wonderful properties. You can gather this any time of year. So if you are stranded in the woods, remember this one for a survival medicine. 

Usnea barbatum


  • Alterative (restores normal health)
  • Antibacterial
  • Antifungal
  • Antiviral
  • Antimicrobial

Helps With:

Very powerful in helping to fight off most strep and staph infections. This includes internal and external applications. 

Externally, the tincture is a powerful healer and helps 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.  (It's great at fighting off upper respiratory conditions). 

Also works on healing urinary, kidney and bladder infections.

Women will find usnea helpful in getting rid of a yeast infection or chlamydia. 

Usnea can be used in place of, or along with, echinacea to build immunity in the body. This includes colds, flu and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Because of the antiviral property, usnea is greatly beneficial in fighting off herpes. 

I find this really interesting, but usnea works as a powerful antibiotic WITHOUT killing the good bacteria in the gut like over the counter ones do. This is because usnea only destroys gram positive bacteria but leaves the gram negative microbes alone. In other words, usnea does not mess with our body's natural flora. This makes it a true gem.


Usnea is a lichen. Remember in grade school the little ditty about Alice the Algae and Fred the Fungi got to "Lichen" each other?? Yea, totally came back to me while studying this herb. Pretty sure I hated learning it back then...glad it finally came in useful! :)

The entire lichen is used and to ensure you have the correct plant do the strand test. Simply moisten a strand of the usnea and gently tug at both ends. The grayish green outer layer (the algae) should break while revealing an inner white elastic-like strand (the fungi). 

Usnea grows on trees, specifically pine, spruce, juniper and fir trees along with oak, hickory, walnut, apple and pear. 

A more common name for usnea is Old Man's Beard because of the way it hangs from trees. 

Please take care while harvesting usnea as it is extremely slow growing and could very easily become over-harvested. A good idea is to gather the lichen from wind-fallen branches. 

Another word of caution: usnea readily absorbs heavy metals so be sure to only gather in a clean area.

If you would rather not gather your own usnea, you can purchase it through Mountain Rose Herbs

Getting More:

  • Take internally by making a tincture (I make mine normally, but some say that usnea prefers a hot tincture. I have yet to experiment with this.)
  • Use the moistened herb directly on the skin for certain conditions.
  • You can also dilute the tincture and apply externally.


Please know that I am affiliate of Mountain Rose Herbs & The Bulk Herb Store. If you choose to purchase something through one of my links I will make a nickel or two for which I am grateful.


  1. Wow, this is cool sounding stuff! Will need to remember to look for it when next we are out a-hiking. :)

  2. I'm sure you've seen it...just didn't pay attention to it, cuz I know we had it in Montana. Just didn't know it was useful!

  3. Oh, yes, definitely know we've seen it. Also definitely still doesn't look useful.....kind of stringy-looking, lol! But I'll take your word for it. You go first! {grin}

  4. Do you have more specifics on how to make the tincture? I have a bag of Usnea and still deciding what exactly to do with it....

  5. Yes, I do, just haven't posted it yet. I might get to it today or tomorrow, if not I can email it to you. :)


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