Usnea, Oldmans Beard Lichen Part One.

It seems everywhere we look on the internet at the moment Usnea Lichen and its medicinal value keeps popping up!

We’ve always loved the lichens, such beautiful, enchanting and magical genus. Looking completely different in colour or texture when dry or wet, dripping from branches or encrusted on trunks, they can be a challenge to identify.

The lichen is an amazing combination of a symbiotic relationship between fungus and algae!! How cool is that. The fungus part gives structure to the algae, which in turn provides food through photosynthesis.

We are in love already…

There are a huge number of species in the Usnea genus, and many have medicinal value.

They can be found growing in unpolluted areas, and can be found mainly on trees such as conifer, apple and birch although, the ones we found came off a very old oak tree.

The scarcity of this species is an indicator of air pollution, and the fact they are very slow growing and hard to find should be enough to pay huge respect when harvesting. We only take windfall lichen, collected from the ground after a good gale.

An identification indicator, is its stretchy-ness when damp. The outer core will snap, while the inner core remains intact, like elastic.

The medicinal properties are something to get quite excited about; Antibacterial, Anti-parasitic, Anti-fungal, Antibiotic, Anti-septic, Vulenary, Bitter and an Immune tonic.

We are hoping to experiment with using this lichen as research indicates it is more effective than penicillin against some bacteria’s i.e streptococcus and staphylococcus and other quick multiplying bacteria.

It’s useful in throat and lung infections. Whilst also being Anti-fungal meaning it will be useful in treatment of athletes foot, candida, ringworm and dandruff. Anti-viral uses includes herpes simplex. All of these conditions are common but sometimes difficult to eradicate!

Usnic, acid the antibiotic part of Usnea, is not water soluble so best tinctured with alcohol. It can also be dried and powdered or made into an ointment to use topically.

Elastic Inner core


Usnic acid can be toxic in large doses, but is difficult and slow to be absorbed. In some sensitive people it can cause contact dermatitis. As always, we suggest you are 100% sure of your identification, facts, doses and research before using any wild plant, fungi or herb.

We will keep you posted how we get on with tincturing this fascinating species. Keep your eyes out for a recipe post!

The Plant Path Folk