Usnea, or old man's beard, is a common lichen found hanging from trees around the world. It possesses strong antibacterial and antifungal agents and is a potent immune stimulant. Usnea has been shown to be more effective than penicillin against some bacterial strains. It completely inhibits the growth of Staphylococcus aureus, Streptococcus spp., and Pneumococcus organisms. Usnea is effective against tuberculosis, Trichonoma, Candida spp., Enterococcus, and various fungal strains, and reported to be active against Salmonella typhimurium and E. coli.
Usnea is actually two organisms in one. The inner part looks like a thin white stretchy thread or rubber band, especially when wet, and the outer part gives usnea its color. The inner part is a potent immune stimulant, the outer part strongly antibacterial. The known constituents are usnic acid, protolichesterinic acid and oreinol derivatives.
Usnea is traditionally used around the world against skin infections, upper respiratory and lung infections, and vaginal infections. It can be dusted as a powder, consumed as tea or infusion, used as a wash, bath, soak, douche or spray. Usnea is also effective in tincture form, 30-60 drops, 4 times daily, to boost immunity; 6 times daily to treat an active infection. Drink 2-4 cups of infusion for acute illness. Use 10 drops of tincture in an ounce of water and use as a nasal spray to treat sinus infections.
Some heat is required to make a decent tincture. Usnea can sometimes be irritating to delicate mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat, so the tincture should always be diluted in water before being used. Usnea easily absorbs heavy toxic metals and can be potentially toxic, so be sure to gather it from a pristine place.