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  • Writer's pictureMichele Spence

The Miracle of Old Mans Beard

Updated: Jan 23

Today I want to introduce you to a powerful herb containing anti-fungal, antibacterial, and antiviral properties that I find amazing.

Usnea is a lichen that grows from several tree species in the cool, moist forests of the Pacific Northwest. Interestingly, it only grows where the air is pure. It looks similar to Spanish Moss, one of the common names is Old Mans Beard.

Usnea has been used for thousands of years in ancient Greece, Egypt, and China to treat infections and for centuries in folk medicine.

In studies, it works against gram-positive bacteria like Streptococcus mutans, Staphylococcus, and MRSA. Typical antibiotics target both gram-positive and gram-negative bacteria. Usnea only targets gram-positive bacteria leaving healthy bacteria (gram-negative) alone.

Usnea contains Usnic acid, a chemical used in many health and cosmetic applications. Rich in polyphenols, it may help fight cell damage caused by free radicals. In test-tube studies, it may prevent cancer cell growth and kill existing cancer cells while avoiding harm to non-cancerous ones.

Usnic acid helps to maintain a healthy microbial balance within the urinary tract system.

Usnic acid may promote wound healing by reducing bacteria and inflammation and stimulating wound closure.

Used in China, it's paired with seaweed varieties as a treatment for thyroid cancer.

Usnea is also used directly on the skin for a sore throat and athlete’s foot.

As a tincture or tea, it’s used to thin phlegm.

Usnic acid exhibited a significant inhibitory effect against the pathogenic protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis at lower concentrations than metronidazole.

Many studies have shown that usnic acid exhibits significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory actions when used in amounts similar to ibuprofen. It has also reduced cell counts in leukemic and endometrial carcinoma cells.

In addition to the above, Usnea is also reportedly used for pneumonia, bronchitis, upper respiratory, sinus, kidney, bladder, urinary and vaginal infections. Also great for cuts, colds, flu, herpes HIV, HPV, TB, and many other immune system disorders. Oddly though, it was NOT effective on E. Coli.

In its tincture form, recommended amounts vary significantly; they range from 60 drops 3-4 times/day to 1 tsp up to 6 times/day. Another source recommends 2-5 ml 3 times daily, but it truly depends on what you are treating.

As with all herbs, overuse can make you sick, so use caution. I am not giving any medical advice, just information that I find helpful.

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