Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (2024)

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This usnea tincture recipe is super easy to make, but is so good for you and works to promote healthy immune, urinary health.

What is Usnea?

I’m sure that you’ve probably seen this lichen many times as it grows in lacey bunches attached to trees all over the world. I see it often on my walks in Northeastern Connecticut, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized its medicinal worth.

After doing some research on how best to prepare usnea in order to get the most out of this wonderful specimen, I decided to share what I’ve learned.

Usnea is a greyish-green lichen with medicinal properties that grows on trees, rocks, and shrubs. It’s often referred to as Old Man’s Beard due to its resemblance to an old man’s beard.

A lichen is an organism that has characteristics of a Fungus and Algae.In Traditional Chinese Medicine Usnea Lichen is known for its “cooling and drying” energetic properties and its ability to “clear heat, move damp, and resolve toxicity”.

Usnea is antimicrobial, antibacterial, vulnerary, and antifungal.

Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (1)

What is Usnea Good For?

Usnea is good for supporting a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract and mucus membranes, healthy functions of the urinary system, and maintaining a healthy microbial balance within the Urinary System.

What I love so much about Usnea is that it truly is one of the most powerful locally-sourced immune medicines to turn to when you’re starting to feel a cold or flu coming on. When taken at the onset of a cold or flu, when your immune system is working like crazy to respond, Usnea’s antibacterial properties disrupt the metabolic function of bacteria and prevent the bacteria from reproducing and making you sicker! How amazing is that?

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Where Do You Find Usnea?

Tree lichen can be found in many places and forests around the world. Usnea typically grows on pine, spruce, juniper, and fir trees along with oak, hickory, walnut, apple, and pear. If you have any of these trees around you, and the air quality is good, then chances are also good that you’ll find Usnea.

Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (2)

Identifying Usnea

The best and easiest way to identify Usnea is to hold a strand in your fingers and gently pull on both ends. The outer green sheath will pull apart, revealing a white inner core that will stretch before snapping. Usnea is elastic; other lichens aren’t.

Is Usnea Harmful to Trees?

When I first noticed usnea growing prolifically from trees in the forest near my home, I thought the lichen must be hurting the trees, but what I found out was much different. In fact, seeing usnea growing is an indication of air purity since usnea will not grow where there is pollution or poor air quality.

With that being said, it’s important to note that lichen is in no way harming your trees. However, lichenis rarely found on healthy, vigoroustrees, sothe presence of lichenmay point to an unhealthy or dyingtree(caused by other reasons, such as pests or disease).

Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (3)

How Do You Gather Usnea?

When foraging and harvesting Usnea for tincture, tea, or other preparations, it’s best to harvest from dead fallen branches and limbs and not from living trees because of the extremely slow-growing nature of this lichen.

Processing Usnea into Medicine

For home use, usnea is best used as a tincture. Making a tincture is very easy using the folk method, where exact amounts are not necessary.

When the tincture is finished, and the longer you leave it in the jar, the better, strain the liquid and decant intodark-colored dropper bottles. Keep the tincture in a dark, cool place. This has a shelf life of about a year.

Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (4)

How to Use Your Tincture

Usnea tincture is not recommended as preventative medicine, but rather as a medicine to be used when illness has already begun. Take a dropper full every four hours at the onset of a cough or cold. It is thought that Usnea stops bacteria from multiplying and thus shortening the duration and severity of the illness.

If you don’t like the taste, go ahead and add it to some hot tea or juice, or add it to a spoonful of honey.

Usnea has no known side effects but may be harmful in large doses. Don’t use excessively or over long periods of time.

Below are the steps necessary for preparing a dual-extract usnea tincture recipe.

Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (5)

Dual- extract Usnea Tincture Recipe


Usnea tincture recipe - this lichen is an infection fighter. Unlike most modern antibiotics which disrupt the structure of a cell, this lichenprevents the metabolism of many bacterias such asStreptococcus,Staphylococcus, andMycobacterium tuberculosis. It is particularly effective forhot, irritable, wet coughs.

4.64 from 25 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes mins

Cook Time 28 days d

Total Time 28 days d 10 minutes mins


  • Sharp Knife or scissors

  • Vodka 100 Proof

  • Fine Mesh Strainer or Cheesecloth

  • Crockpot


  • Usnea
  • Vodka
  • Filtered Water


  • Chop usnea into small pieces with a knife or clippers. Can use a herb or coffee grinder.

  • Place the chopped usnea in a clean jar. Pour 100 proof vodka over the plant matter until it is just covered.

  • Seal the jar and store in cool dark place. Shake twice a day.

  • When ready, strain the usnea-infused alcohol and measure its volume before putting it in another jar. This is your alcohol extraction. Set aside the usnea while you prepare the next step of the double extraction.

  • Measure out filtered water that is double in volume to the amount of alcohol extraction you just measured.

  • Place the Usnea into a crockpot and cover it with the filtered water.

  • Turn the crock pot to its lowest setting and let the usnea and water cook until the water is reduced by half. Anywhere from 24 to 48hrs. Keep an eye on it.

  • Strain the Usnea from the water. The water should be about equal in amount to the alcohol extraction.

  • Combine the alcohol extract (tincture) with the hot water decoction. You now have a dual-extract usnea tincture!

  • Label the jar with date, alcohol used, where the plant was collected, and any other info.

  • Store tincture in a dark, cool place. Take 1 dropper full 2-4 times a day to fight virus or infection.


If your crock pot cooks hot, turn it off at night and turn it back on in the morning to avoid overcooking or completely evaporating the liquid.

Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

This tincture will turn out a golden brown color and will most likely contain sediment from the plant. You can leave it as it won’t hurt you, but you can also let it settle to the bottom of your jar and slowly siphon off the clear liquid on the top.

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Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How This Medicine Can Stop A Cold In Its Tracks - The Outdoor Apothecary (2024)


What is Usnea tincture good for? ›

Usnea contains chemicals that are thought to fight germs that might cause infections. These chemicals might also decrease swelling, pain, and fever. People use usnea for cough, obesity, pain, wound healing, and many other purposes, but there is no good scientific evidence to support these uses.

What are the side effects of Usnea? ›

Allergic symptoms may include itching, respiratory issues, swelling of the mouth or throat, or hives. Digestive Issues: Especially in high doses, Usnea may cause digestive issues such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Liver Damage: Usnea contains usnic acid, which can be toxic to the liver in high doses.

Is Usnea a natural antibiotic? ›

Since ancient times, Usnea sp. has been used in traditional medicine worldwide to treat various diseases. The broad scientific studies on this lichen have proved its multidirectional biological effect, such as antimicrobial activity, which is attributed to its usnic acid content.

Is Usnea good for colds? ›

Usnea has long been used in herbal formulas for treating skin infections, urinary tract infections, lung infections, vagin*l infections, wounds, colds, and sore throat. Its use as an antimicrobial herb has also been proven by various studies.

How does Usnea help with weight loss? ›

Usnic acid, the main active compound in usnea, is a popular ingredient in weight loss supplements, including fat burners. It's believed to promote weight loss by increasing your metabolic rate ( 15 ).

What is the best way to use Usnea? ›

Usnea, 100 mg three times per day, can be taken in capsules. Tincture, 3–4 ml three times per day, can also be used.

Is tincture stronger than tea? ›

Although many of the plants used—including dandelion, holy basil, and ginger—can also be made and consumed as teas, tinctures differ in that they're much stronger; a medicine dropperful of a tincture is more potent than a full cup of steeped tea.

Which antibiotic occurs in Usnea? ›

Studies show that usnic acid is the active compound present in Usnea sp. extracts. This compound, which has a high antibacterial and cytotoxic activity, exists in large quantities in low-polarity extracts, and low concentration in these of high-polarity.

Is Usnea safe to take? ›

Usnea is POSSIBLY SAFE when used on the skin, though allergic reactions can occur. Taking usnea by mouth is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. The sodium usniate (usnic acid) that usnea contains might cause liver damage. Sodium usniate is an ingredient of the brand named product LipoKinetix, which is marketed for weight loss.

What herb is called old man's beard? ›

Also known as Methuselah's beard and old man's beard, Usnea longissima is a lichen in the family Parmeliaceae (Kingdom Fungi). Usnea longissima is found in Western Europe and North America. In North America, it is found along the Pacific Coast from northern California to southern Alaska.

What is the common name for Usnea? ›

Usnea is a genus of mostly pale grayish-green fruticose lichens that grow like leafless mini-shrubs or tassels anchored on bark or twigs. The genus is in the family Parmeliaceae. It grows all over the world. Members of the genus are commonly called old man's beard, beard lichen, or beard moss.

What is the most powerful antibiotic herb? ›

Clove. Clove (Syzygium aromaticum), from the Myrtaceae family, is one of the most effective antimicrobial and antioxidant herbs.

Is there an herb that works like an antibiotic? ›

Oregano. Some believe that oregano boosts the immune system and acts as an antioxidant. It may also possess antibiotic properties, particularly when it is made it into an oil. A 2022 review notes that the antimicrobial effect of oregano oil may be due to a compound known as carvacrol.

How to use old mans beard as medicine? ›

Preparations & Dosages:

Usnic acid isn't water soluble, so it is preferable to tincture Old Man's Beard for its anti-infective properties (1:3, 70% alcohol). A standard dose would be 1-2ml three times a day internally. It is also well prepared into a topical salve, a powder, a vagin*l douche & a nasal & throat spray.

How do you make herb medicine? ›

Making Herbal Remedies

Herbal tinctures can be made by soaking herbs in alcohol or glycerin for several weeks, and extracts can be made by soaking herbs in hot water or oil to extract the medicinal properties.


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