Self help is about being prepared and knowing which plants in your environment can be used as food or medicine.
When I discovered Usnea I was amazed and felt so blessed that there are plants here to help me, right in my back yard.
Usnea is a lichen that can be found growing on the trunks and branches of trees and has been a traditional remedy used in Europe, China and by native Americans.
A few months back as I was walking about after some windy weather, I found on the ground some old mans beard or Usnea. It’s best to collect when it has just fallen like after a storm, wind or rain so that you don’t disturb those still growing on the tree.
The beaut thing about Usnea is that it has potent anti microbial properties and studies have shown that it inhibits the growth of gram positive bacteria such as streptococcus, staphylococcus, pneumococcus and TB.
One of it’s identifying features is when you pull apart the main stem, there reveals, a white stringy thread. This thread is the thallus and contains immune stimulating properties whilst the outer green part contains antibiotic properties.
One of the active ingredients of usnea (usnic acid) was extracted and made into a weight loss medication. Some people had adverse reactions and liver problems but again as has happened with other herbs, when you try to isolate and remove parts of plants and use them,you run into problems. They would also have been taking large amounts of usnic acid over a long period of time which you would never do when taking Usnea as a tincture for a specific infection,for a specified time.
There are no side effects and low toxicity if Usnea is used as the whole plant where it works synergistically in your body and causes no harm.
Prior to the discovery of penicillin Usnea was under investigation for it’s broad spectrum antibiotic properties and Usnic acid is still used in the preparation of some drugs today.
In Chinese medicine Usnea is used internally as one of the phlegm resolving herbs for cases of flu, sinusitis, and bronchitis with a productive cough or wheezing.
It is also valuable for external use as a wound healer for skin ulcers,eczema,cervical erosion and infected wounds. The fresh herb can be applied over wounds as a first aid dressing to avoid infection.
Usnea can be dried and if stored in a dry, clean container has a long shelf life. Alternatively the dried Usnea can be powdered and stored in a jar. Don’t forget to label and date your jar.
It’s active constituents are not very water soluble so I decided to make a tincture with alcohol as well as keep some dried.
This tincture can be added to warm,boiled water and used as a wash for infected wounds, or as a wash for facial blemishes,or it can be made into a compress dressing for cases of cellulitis.
Put ten to fifteen drops of the tincture in a glass of warm water and use it as a gargle for strep throat, gum infections, or tonsillitis.
I have read where it can be made into lozenges but have yet to try this method.
If you were in a position where you had to treat infection and were unable to access a medical facility,this would be a good herb to carry in your first aid kit, either as a tincture or as a dried or powdered herb.
It’s good to know that nature provides so that you can practice self help.