I'm likin' this Lichen!


Common Names: Beard Lichen

Botanical Name: Usnea barbata, U.spp

Plant Family: Parneliaceae, Lichen Family

Parts Used: Whole “plant”

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


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

This is the "white cord" that always appears when you pull the outer sheath of Usnea species.

This is the "white cord" that always appears when you pull the outer sheath of Usnea species.

Collection: I tend to collect Usnea in the Late Fall and Winter. I wait for heavy windstorms that knock the lichen from branches far, far out of reach. It is in Winter when Lichen (and moss) are in their reproductive state, which can be seen by their reproductive parts and vibrant state.




Identification:  Usnea is the plant like result of a symbiotic association between algae and fungi (as is the case with all lichens). Throughout the year, usnea is always a light gray green color. It’s easily 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.


Antimicrobial, Antiviral and Antifungal


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 Staphylococcus simulans and S. aureus (Staph) and Streptococcus (Strep). Hence, it kills the unwanted pathogens without wiping out our healthy gut flora.

Usnea is used for strep throat, pneumonia, upper respiratory infections (sinusitis), tuberculosis & U.T. I’s.

Usnea 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 within the person’s cells. Usnea has a special way of eradicating infection throughout the mucus membranes.



What about fungal infection? Oh yes, fungus infects too. And Usnea works both internally and externally to kill the unwanted fungus.

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

For best results in fighting off fungus, use Usnea with herbs such as black walnut hulls, Echinacea, chaparral, and goldenseal. Also consider a sugar-free diet.



Usnea Tincture (Steve Buhner method):

-Chop/grind usnea lichen into small pieces/powder, place into crock pot.

-Cover lichen with 2.5 times the amount of water (eg. 5 ounces herb to 12.5 ounces water)

-Keep on low heat for 48 hours.

-Add mix to mason jar and then add the same amount of 100 proof alcohol as water (eg. 12.5 ounces of water and 12.5 ounces of alcohol).

-Label jar with date, alcohol used, where the plant was collected, and any other info.

-After 2 weeks strain off the plant material and compost.

Store tincture in dark, cool place.  Take 60 drops 3-4 times a day to fight virus or infection.