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Usnea!  RSS feed

 
Posts: 129
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Not exactly an herb, but I just learned that usnea (old man's beard) has a lot of medicinal properties and is also really high in vitamin C.  It's great for urinary tract infections and colds, among other things (and makes a tasty tea).  Some great information can be found here:  http://www.herbalremediesinfo.com/usnea.html

Around Olympia it seems to prefer the branches of birch trees, however it can be found on other trees as well.  It grows all over the Cascadia region and probably elsewhere as well.
 
          
Posts: 21
Location: la grande, or
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there is more than one lichen that looks like USN, it is important to identify the right one.  if you gently pull it apart, inside is a stringy white filament- like a tiny piece of elastic.  if it doesn't have this, it isn't USN.  i don't think the other is poisonous, but to get the medicinal properties, you need USN.  it's a good antifungal & good for lung stuff, it is sort of like the 'lungs of the forest' and that is what it does for us, as well, cleans/strengthens the respiratory system.  this plant, it wants to be harvested with respect- ask first (the plant, not the USFS).  and pick it up from the ground, sicks laying on the ground, not off trees. 
i have seen one warning about possible negative effects of usneaic acid, but i looked into it a good deal and determined that it is most likely safe, but probably shouldn't be used long term or in large doses.  as with all things, moderation.  there are also a lot of ideas of how it is or is not processed to be effective. 
 
rachael hamblin
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I've heard that all lichen is at least safe to eat unless it is brightly colored, in which case do some research first.

That's the first I've heard about possible negative effects, that's good to know.  What were the effects you heard about?  Just so I know what to watch out for--I'm drinking a lot of usnea tea lately, probably fine but might as well find out what trouble would look like.
 
rachael hamblin
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Also, is harvest from trees bad for the lichen or does it grow back?
 
          
Posts: 21
Location: la grande, or
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i usually harvest usnea by picking it up off the ground or picking up and taking home sticks that it is growing on.  i growns on dead wood, and grows very slowly.  the people who had problems with usnea were using usneaic acid, which is concentraited, and not the whole plant,  but i think it may have been kidney problems.  I don't think it's a dangerous herb, just one that you may want to use only when you need it, for lung problems, or to put in a formula to quit smoking. 
 
                                  
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I have been making usnea tincture for a couple of years now and have a following of friends who have had great results from it.  One elderly friend had been languishing with a respiratory condition that was not improving with conventional medicine.  I gave him usnea tincture and he immediately started to get better.  Interestingly when I went to show him what the lichen looked like, he had an apple tree in his front yard that was totally covered with it.  He was able to pick me enough to make about a quart of tincture.

Usnea is not soluble in water, so you need to extract the usnic acid using booze.  I use 100 proof vodka.  You pick the usnea, sort out the non-usnea debris that accidentally gets picked too,  and really stuff it in a quart jar, then add the booze to cover.  It takes about six weeks until it is ready to have the menstruum pressed out and the tincture bottled.  I tell people who are coming down with a cold, flu or infection to take 4 droppers (1 tsp.) of the tincture every two hours until they are better.  Because it is an immune system stimulant, it should only be taken if necessary.  Some of our friends have dubbed it "dragon pee.'  It is not the best tasting of herbal remedies.
 
                        
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I was informed that some use an usnea solution to clean the teats of milking animals prior to milking!  The previous poster says it is not water soluble and I had remembered they mixed usnea with hot water... so I must have misremembered something.  Usnea + something = a bacterial disinfectant?
 
Posts: 225
Location: San Diego, CA USA
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Usnea releases more of its medicine due to the heat of the hot water, not the water.  If you place it in boiling water for awhile before wringing it out and putting it in Everclear (which is what I use, the alcohol is around 95%), that should make one kick-rear-end tincture in 6 weeks!   I have used it for lungs when infection is involved (Bronchitis, etc.) and kidney stuff (actually UTI) and since it is also antifungal, it works very well with yeast infections, better than other things I have tried in the past.  And you really don't need many drops in a dose (and as mentioned, you may not want to)!
 
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Lisa Allen wrote:Usnea releases more of its medicine due to the heat of the hot water, not the water.  If you place it in boiling water for awhile before wringing it out and putting it in Everclear (which is what I use, the alcohol is around 95%), that should make one kick-rear-end tincture in 6 weeks!   I have used it for lungs when infection is involved (Bronchitis, etc.) and kidney stuff (actually UTI) and since it is also antifungal, it works very well with yeast infections, better than other things I have tried in the past.  And you really don't need many drops in a dose (and as mentioned, you may not want to)!



If you have everclear and fresh usnea (not dried) there's no reason to heat it up first. Fresh plant extracts in pure ethanol are completely different from tinctures of dried herbs. With dried herbs, you're disolving dried substances in the menstrum. With fresh herbs, you're using an osmotic pressure differential from the pure alcohol to rupture the living cell walls of the herb, thus everything in the cytoplasm will come out with it. No heat necessary. If you're tincturing dry usnea, heating it up is also not necessary as it's quite soluble in alcohol. Refer to Michael Moore's Materia Medica for alcohol percentages for dry plant tincture as well as preferred extraction methods.
 
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
798
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I wanted to revive this thread as it is already off to a good start discussing usnea.

Stephen Buhner lists it as one of his top herbal antibiotics in 'Herbal Antibiotics, natural alternatives for treating drug resistant bacteria'.

We harvested a small amount of usnea longissimaafter some high winds, only taking a very small percentage of what was on the ground.


Here it grows on tall cedars...the area where we harvested had much more ten years ago.  I think it was due to the host trees dieing and falling over rather than over harvest by herbalists though.


(forest service photo)



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Judith Browning
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I'm ready to make a tincture and am stumped by the proportions that I see here http://www.swsbm.com/ManualsMM/DryTinct.txt

Usnea  Lichen  (Usnea)  1:5, 50% alcohol



DRY PLANT TINCTURE: Maceration.
 If the Materia Medica calls for a [1:5, 60% alcohol] tincture, it means
this:  your solvent is 60% alcohol and 40% water (the water is presumed),
and one part of herb by weight has been invested in five parts of solvent
by volume.  Let me run you through one.  You have four ounces of dried Blue
Cohosh roots, which you then grind and sift down to a fairly consistent
coarse powder.  The four ounces (1) must be mixed with 20 ounces of solvent
(5).  The solvent is 60% alcohol, the rest water, so you mix 12 ounces of
ethanol and 8 ounces of water to get the final volume.  Mix both together in
a closed jar, and shake the mixture up for a couple of minutes twice a day.
After 10-14 days of this, let it set another day, pour off the clear tincture
from the top, and squeeze as much out of the sediment as your press or wrists
allow.  The 20 ounces of solvent (called menstruum) and 4 ounces of herb, may
yield up 13-14 ounces of tincture (by wrist) and up to 17 ounces (by press);
the rest is immutably held in the sediment (called marc).  This remnant
moisture is full strength tincture, and eventually this knowledge drives one
out of four herbalists stark raving nuts.  The resultant attempts to
constantly upgrade hydraulic presses rivals the feeding frenzy at computer
hardware conventions.



I have a nice amount of usnea...I'm not sure if it's dry enough to crush but then I'm not sure that's necessary for this lichen?

I have Gem Clear 190 proof grain alcohol...I'm not familiar with this brand, we used to use EverClear....the guy at the liquor store says it's the same stuff of course

Do I add enough water to the alcohol to water it down to 50%?
So if it takes three cups of liquid to cover the usnea, it would be 2/3 water and 1/3 alcohol?...that would only get it to 60% or so?

I used to just pack the herbs in a jar, cover with EverClear, lid the jar, pull a paper sack over it and shake occasionally.
Lately I'm trying to follow instructions and am becoming confused I want it to be an effective tincture so would like to do as Michael Moore suggests.

I think Stephen Buhner's method  for usnea is slightly different so will be back to post it also.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
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I found some clearer (to me) information...

Weight-to-volume tinctures are made by carefully considering two aspects of balance: the balance between the weight of the marc and the volume of menstruum, and the balance of alcohol and water in the menstruum.  We write this balance as a ratio and a percent, like 1:2 75%, which is basically a shorthand recipe letting everyone know how we made the tincture.

https://oldwaysherbal.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/making-weight-to-volume-tinctures/


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 pure grain 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.




This is the recipe I plan to follow...just need to spend some time chopping and grinding the usnea.
 
Judith Browning
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
798
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Starting the above recipe December 23, I've just this morning strained it off.
I missed a bit of the process in my photos but it's mostly there....really pretty easy over all.  

My biggest challenge was the measurements and dealing with such a small amount of herb so that is why I used a jar in the crock pot for the initial warm up in water rather then loose in the pot.  It worked well.  (I kept the crock pot topped up with hot water about half way up the jar)

After two days on warm in the pot I poured that mixture (thick and gloppy) into a pint jar and then added the grain alcohol, lidded it and put in a paper bag...shaking it once or twice daily for two weeks.

I'm storing the strained tincture in a half pint back in a bag along with a dropper bottle for when we need to use it.

I had two ounces of usnea so used five ounces filtered water and five ounces grain alcohol to make a ratio of 1:5.

I used scissors to chop and gave up on making it any finer in the blender (that didn't work for me).  It broke down completely in the initial 48 hour water bath anyway.

I just noticed I used 2018 instead of 2019 on my label in the photo below...




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Judith Browning
Posts: 6719
Location: Arkansas Ozarks zone 7 alluvial,black,deep loam/clay with few rocks, wonderful creek bottom!
798
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Now I can't bring myself to throw out the mash left after straining out the tincture.  
Does anyone keep it for use as a poultice or anything?  I think it should be well preserved after sitting in alcohol and maybe if I jar it and keep in the refrigerator it might be useful later?  It won't have the potency of the tincture but maybe some of the properties still...

Has anyone tried this even with other herbs?

 
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