Usnea, Old Mans Beard
Also known as Old Mans Beard is typically prominently found in dark forests, growing on the sides of trees or dead tree stumps.
Usnea is a type of lichen that grows on trees. Though lichens appear to be single plants, they are really a combination of fungus and algae that grow together for their mutual benefit. Usnea may be whitish, reddish, or black. The plant body of usnea is used to make medicine. Usnea is used for weight loss, pain relief, fever control, and wound healing; and to make phlegm easier to cough up. Usnea is also used directly on the skin for sore mouth and throat. Usnea is an immune system tonic that can be used in acute situations as well as for long term immune enhancement and general prevention. It has no side effects or contraindications, and is safe for children and animals. It can be used along with or instead of Echinacea. Usnea is more specific for strep and staph infections than Echinacea, and its antibiotic properties are most specific to the respiratory and urinary systems. Don’t confuse usnea with oak moss (Evernia prunastri). Both usnea and oak moss are sometimes referred to as tree moss.
Old Mans Beard does not make a good tea due to the difficulty in extracting its properties. It is best used as a tincture. Fill a jar of your choice with fresh Usnea. Pack the jar full, but not crammed. Then fill the jar again with 100 proof vodka or other alcohol of your preference. Make sure the alcohol totally covers the plant material. Label your jar with the date and contents and cover it with a lid. Let it sit in a cabinet for six weeks. It's not necessary to shake it. After six weeks strain off the liquid, compost the Usnea, and pour your extract back into the jar. It will have turned brownish-orange. You can pour some into amber dropper bottles for easier use. This "cold" method is not as effective as extracting its compounds using heat.
The best method to extract its compound still takes roughly 7 days. Follow these instructions to make your own concoction.
- Chop your usnea into small sections. For this recipe you will use only 1 oz or about the amount you can fit in the palm of your hand.
- Place all of your herbal material in a mason jar.
- Pour just enough water over the material until it is all covered. Stir and cap tightly.
- Place a dishcloth in the bottom of your crock pot or cooking pot. This keeps the mason jar from super heating and burning your material. Place your jar on top of the dishcloth. Next, fill your cooking pot with water until it reaches the top of the pot or comes within 1 inch of the top of your mason jar. Turn the heat on low. This will result in a strong decoction. Let this sit in your crock pot for 1 day. You may need to burp the jar multiple times a day to relieve pressure. DO NOT put cold liquids into or onto the hot jar as it could cause the glass to crack or explode.
- On day 2, carefully remove the jar and let it cool. Once cool, open your jar and add roughly 2 shot glasses full of 95% drinking alcohol (vodka or brandy). (more if you have used a lot of Usnea) Stir and cap tightly.
- Place your cooled jar back inside of your crockpot to sit for 6 days on low heat. Be sure to carefully remove the jar once a day and let it cool. While it’s cooling down, add more water to your cooking pot to bring it back up to level. Continue to burp the jar occasionally to relieve any pressure built up in your jar. Once it’s cooled a bit, return it to the crockpot.
- When 6 days are up, remove the jar and let it cool. Strain the tincture from the plant material. It should now look brown and smell herby. Discard the plant material, and store your usnea tincture in a dark bottle in a cool, dry place.