Usnea spp (U. barbata, U. californica, U. longissima)


Usnea spp (U. barbata, U. californica, U. longissima)


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.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Usnea

Urinary Tract Support, Immune Support

What is Usnea Used for?

In Traditional Chinese Herbals, Usnea Lichen is known for its "cooling and drying" energetic properties and its ability to “clear heat, move damp, and resolve toxicity”. In modern terms we know that Usnea contains a chemical called Usnic Acid, which is often included as an ingredient in creams, powders, toothpastes, mouthwash, deodorants, hair shampoos and sunscreen products. Usnic Acid is used as an active principle or as a preservative in these applications. In herbal practice Usnea Lichen is traditionally prepared as a alcohol tincture or extract. It is used to promote excretion within the kidneys and the urinary tract, which supports a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract and mucous membranes, healthy functions of the urinary system, and maintains a healthy microbial balance within the Urinary System.

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Active Constituents of Usnea

Barbatinic acid, Beta-Sitosterol, Atranorin, barbatic acid, binan, , depsides, depsidones, diffractaic acid, dihydrousnic acid, evernic acid, glutinol, isodihydrousnic acid, isolichenin, isomethoxide; isoanhydromethyldihydrousnic acid, longissiminone A, longissiminone B, methylusnic acid, O,O-diacetylusnic acid, (+)-protolichesterinic acid, raffinose, usnic acid (both (+)-usnic acid and (-)-usnic acid), vulpinic acid,

Parts Used

Whole Lichen

Additional Resources

1.) Herbal Medicine Expanded Commission E Monographs. Blumental M, Goldberg A, Brinckman J. American Botanical Council with Integrative Medicine Communications First Edition. Newton, MA 2000 . 2.) Hsu HY, et al., Oriental Materia Medica: A Concise Guide, 1986 Oriental Healing Arts Institute, Long Beach, CA. 3.) 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. 4.) Odabasoglu, F., Aslan, A., Cakir, A., Suleyman, H., Karagoz, Y., Halici, M., and Bayir, Y. Comparison of antioxidant activity and phenolic content of three lichen species. Phytother Res 2004;18(11):938-941. 5.) Lauterwein M, Oethinger M, Belsner K, et al. In vitro activities of the lichen secondary metabolites vulpinic acid, (+)-usnic acid, and (-)-usnic acid against aerobic and anaerobic microorganisms. Antimicrob Agents Chemother 1995;39:2541-3. 3.) Garty, J., Kauppi, M., and Kauppi, A. The Influence of Air Pollution on the Concentration of Airborne Elementsand on the Production of Stress-Ethylene in the Lichen Usnea hirta(L.) Weber em. Mot. Transplanted in Urban Sites in Oulu, N. Finland. Arch Environ.Contam Toxicol. 1997;32(3):285-290.

Important Precautions

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


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.

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