Herb Reference Guide

Usnea Lichen


A lichen is an organism that has characteristics of a Fungus and and Algae. There are several species of Usnea growing from various species of trees especially in the moist, cool, forests of the Pacific Northwest. It resembles Spanish Moss and hangs from tree limbs looking like a beard; hence one of the common names, Old Man's Beard. Usnea has been used in traditional Chinese Medicine for over 2,000 years and also has a long tradition of use in Western Botanical medicine.


Usnea’s “energetic” properties as written about in Traditional Chinese Herbals are regarded as “cooling and drying”, and it’s functions described as, “clears heat, moves damp, and resolves toxicity”. In modern terms we know that Usnea contains a chemical called Usnic Acid. Usnic acid has been included as an ingredient in creams, powders, toothpastes, mouthwash, deodorants, hair shampoos and sunscreen products. In some of these preparations, usnic acid is employed as an active principle, in others as a preservative. In herbal practice Usnea Lichen is traditionally prepared as a alcohol tincture or extract. It is used to promotes excretion within the kidneys and the urinary tract, to support a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract and mucous membranes, to supports healthy functions of the urinary system, and to maintain a healthy microbial balance within the Urinary System.

Uses of Usnea Lichen


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

Active Constituents

Barbatinic acid, Beta-Sitosterol, Oleanic Acid, Usnic Acid

Parts Used

  • Whole Lichen

Important precautions

Not for use during pregnancy. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use.

Additional Resources

Herbal Medicine Expanded Commission E Monographs. Blumental M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. American Botanical Council with Integrative Medicine Communications First Edition. Newton, MA 2000 .
Hsu HY, et al., Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide, 1986 Oriental Healing Arts Institute, Long Beach, CA.
Feng J, Yang X, Su S, He C. [Studies on chemical constituents from herbs of Usnea longissima]. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi. 2009 Mar;34(6):708-11.