Usnea, or Old Man’s Beard, is a stretchy lichen that has a profound affinity for the respiratory system – which is no surprise considering its Latin name means “Lungs” or “The Forest”. When I spent time in Oregon last summer, it was an easy herb to spot on our hikes in the temperate forests. There’s a reason it’s called Old Man’s Beard – it literally looks like a long wizard’s beard hanging from the limbs of ancient trees. Other species of usnea grow like tufts and can be seen dappling the branches and crevasses of trees.
I have found this beautiful lichen to be a staple in my medicine cabinet to help treat sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, and other croupy coughs that have a yellow or green tinge to the mucus. Since I have asthma, it’s almost a sure thing that I will catch bronchitis at least once a year, so usnea tincture is a must-have for me.
Usnea is cooling and drying in nature, which makes it perfect for clearing out boggy lungs and fighting off infection.
Instead of having bronchitis for weeks on end, I’ll have it for about a week, and then it’s gone.
Usnea has also been great for treating bladder, urinary, and kidney infections and has an affinity for treating gram-positive bacteria like strep, impetigo, and tuberculosis and is an effective immune system tonic that helps protect the body from cold and flu.
Usnea is also an effective treatment for:
• Acute bacterial infections
• Athlete’s foot
• Fungal infections
• Second and third-degree burns
• Varicose and trophic ulcers
The lichen can be identified by its yellow-ish green-grey cortex (outer layer) and the white stretchy cord within.
If the lichen you find does not have this stretchy white cord inside, it is not usnea.
Usnea can be found throughout North America and prefers damp environments, especially wooded areas.
Usnea Tincture – The Lungs of The Forest
Usnea tincture needs to be made with high-proof alcohol since its usnic acid isn’t water-soluble. You may wonder about making it into a tea, but I can assure you that one, it doesn’t taste good, and two, it won’t be nearly as effective as an alcohol extract.
Some have asked in previous tincture articles why you would use an alcohol base to make medicine. The simple answer to that is alcohol extracts the medicinal constituents from plants and creates an easy way to administer those benefits.
The amount of alcohol consumed is so minute that it has no effect on the body. In fact, alcohol allows the properties of a particular plant to be absorbed within about 7 minutes. That’s way faster than taking OTC drugs and, believe it or not, less harmful to the body!
Obviously, there are people who can’t consume any form of alcohol. If you are one of those people, I encourage you to watch the video below to see how you can make an alcohol-free version of usnea tincture.
Now then, on to the recipe!
How to Make Usnea Tincture
For this recipe, you will need:
• A mason jar
• Fresh or dried usnea lichen
• High-proof alcohol (I used everclear)
Loving Preparation – Usnea Tincture
1. Begin by adding the usnea to the jar. I typically pack it tightly until the jar is about half full.
2. Pour the high-proof alcohol over the top until you reach the shoulder of the jar. Make sure the usnea is completely submerged.
3. Cap and label with the contents and the date.
4. Allow the tincture to macerate for 6 weeks before straining. If you use lower proof alcohol, you need to let the tincture macerate for several months before straining.
5. Once finished, strain and bottle.
How To Use Usnea Tincture
1. Dilute one dropperful in a small amount of water and take 2-3x daily to treat lung infections, sinus, infections, strep throat, etc. Can be used up to 6x daily for acute conditions.
2. Dilute 50/50 with water and spray it onto wounds, skin infections, bites, stings, and even acne breakouts.
3. Add a few drops of tincture to neti pot solution and use it to flush the sinuses to help fight sinus infection.
Have you ever made usnea tincture before? What do you use it for? Please share in the comments!
You may also enjoy reading:
DIY Elderberry Syrup for Cold and Flu – Potent, Quick, & Easy!
Pedicularis Tincture for The Side Effects of Stress
How to Make Infused Cottonwood Oil for Balms, Salves, & Ointments
Natural Cold Remedies – The Healing Power of Ginger
Essential Oils for Bronchitis
Essential Oils for Respiratory Ailments
Behera, B. C., et al. “Antioxidant and antibacterial activities of lichen Usnea ghattensisin vitro.” Biotechnology letters 27.14 (2005): 991-995.
Choudhary, Muhammad I., and Saima Jalil. “Bioactive phenolic compounds from a medicinal lichen, Usnea longissima.” Phytochemistry 66.19 (2005): 2346-2350.
Okuyama, Emi, et al. “Usnic acid and diffractaic acid as analgesic and antipyretic components of Usnea diffracta.” Planta Medica 61.02 (1995): 113-115.
Rosemary Gladstar’s Herbal Recipes for Vibrant Health: 175 Teas, Tonics, Oils, Salves, Tinctures, and Other Natural Remedies for the Entire Family(2015): 367.