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rachael hamblin
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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?
 
Lisa Allen
Posts: 224
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)!
 
Corin Royal Drummond
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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.
 
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