Usnea, or larch moss, refers to a group of lichens, which are plants made up of algae and fungi that grow together in an interdependent relationship. Larch moss is found hanging from the larch and many other trees in the Northern Hemisphere. Sometimes called old-man's-beard for its shaggy appearance, it frequently appears in fruit orchards. The active ingredient, usnic acid, seems to have an antibiotic effect against the Gram-positive class of bacteria, which includes, for example, streptococcus. It may also be effective against some fungi and protozoans.
Usnea is believed to work by disrupting the cell metabolism of bacteria and other simple organisms, although it does not damage human cells. Herbalists consider it an immune system stimulant and a muscle relaxant. Some species of usnea, including at least four found in the western United States, are also used as herbal remedies and serve as food for some animals and people.
Taken internally for:
Applied externally for:
Over the counter:
The dried herb is available in bulk, powder, or tincture.
Tea: 2 to 3 tsp. dried lichen or 1 to 2 tsp. of powder steeped in 1 cup boiling water.