Wild Usnea

new flyer - Usnea barbata - xxsmall

Usnea barbata

Usnea – or “Old Man’s Beard” as it is more often called – is a lichen that is primarily a natural antibiotic and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years.  There are approximately 600 species of Usnea – but the two we use for this tincture are Usnea barbata and Usnea longissima.  Usnea’s active constituents are usnic acid and diffractaic acid (with most benefits coming from the usnic acid) – as well as immune-modulating polysaccharides.

Powerful Antibiotic

Usnea is especially effective against gram-positive bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Mycobacterium tubercolosis, pneumococcus, Helicobacter pylori, E. coli, Yersinia enterocolitica and Proteus mirabilis.

Anti-Fungal, Anti-Viral, Anti-Tumour

As well as being powerfully anti-bacterial, Usnea is also anti-fungal, anti-viral, anti-tumour and a demulcent and expectorant to  boot.  Usnea is effective against several types of yeasts as well as several Candida species.  It has proven to be successful in treating Epstein-Barr Virus (EBV), herpes simplex, polyomavirus (a tumour virus), Junin virus and Tacaribe virus. And it is active against a number of cancer cell lines – lung and breast, malignant mesothelioma cells and vulvar carcinoma cells.


Usnea is a cross between an algae and a fungus (5% algae, 95% fungus) and contains immune-modulating polysaccharides – as with all medicinal polypore mushrooms.

Doctrine of Signatures – Lung & Breast Medicine

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Usnea longissima

Usnea is used to treat acute/chronic lung infections – and as always, nature gives us a clue to this – look at Usnea growing, it resembles the capillaries of the lungs!  It also only grows in high oxygen areas – so if you find Usnea growing somewhere, that says a lot about the high air quality in that area.  The Usnea for our tincture is wild-harvested from the pristine environment of our Knysna Forest farm here in South Africa.

As mentioned above, Usnea is also effective against lung and breast cancer (again, with the breasts, the appearance of Usnea is similar to the lymph network in the breast – Doctrine of Signatures at work again!).

Other Uses

Usnea can be used to treat vaginal and urinary tract infections.  It can be used in the form of eyedrops to cure conjunctivitis – but would have to be sufficiently diluted to do this and, as yet, we have been unable to find any recommended ratio for this.  Usnea is also an analgesic.  It can also be used topically as a compress to stop bleeding and infection (useful bushcraft to know when out and about!)

Dual Extraction

Usnea’s healing properties are unlocked by a combination of a hot water extraction (immune-modulating, tumour-fighting polysaccharides) and warm alcohol (the anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal usnic acid) extraction.  This dual extraction tincture provides the full spectrum of its beneficial nutrients and active constituents.

Directions For Use

Take 2-5ml tincture per day.  Only take for up to 3 weeks, then take a break of at least 2 weeks before resuming again.  Shake well before use.  Do not use during pregnancy.

How to order

Firstly, check our Outlets page to see if there is a retailer near you.  If not, then please email our distributor at orders@earthshine.co.za and they will help you find one.  You can also place an online order with Earthshine directly.

Wholesale Enquiries

Please contact Earthshine, our distributor in South Africa  – orders@earthshine.co.za.

Usnea experiences?

If you would like to share your Usnea experiences with us, we would love to hear from you – so please leave a comment below!