Above is Brian Schuch, a bushcraft expert from Cincinnati, Ohio.
The pale green lichen Usnea, also known as Old Man’s Beard, is a familiar face in the forests of the Pacific Northwest. It hangs on tree branches and sometimes falls along footpaths. Technically, lichens are not really plants — instead, they’re a marriage of two separate organisms: fungus and algae.
Usnea has been important in ancient Greek and Chinese medicine, documented as a respiratory antibiotic since 1600 B.C. Usnea’s anti-microbial properties also mean it can be directly applied to an open wound to stave off infection as a kind of wilderness gauze.
Usnea is distinguished from other similar-looking lichens by a tell-tale trait: a thin, stretchy white cord that you can see when you pull it apart with your fingers. Above is my attempt at a close-up. You can see a more magnified photo here.
You can make a tea or tincture out of Usnea and use it to treat lung infections. However, water does not extract its medicinal compounds as well as alcohol, so a tincture would be most effective if you are choosing between the two.
The tincture recipe for making Usnea (per Michael Moore) is one part herb to five parts menstruum in 50 percent alcohol. (The “menstruum” is a solution of alcohol and water). To make the tincture, you simply put the lichen in a glass mason jar, then pour Everclear half way up, and pour water the rest of the way, then cap it and keep in the dark at room temperature to extract for three to six weeks.
Help your friends and family stay healthy with this easy and nearly free cure. Share this post!