Usnea

Botanical Name :Usnea barbata
Family: Parmeliaceae
Genus: Usnea
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class: Lecanoromycetes
Order: Lecanorales
Common Names : Old Man’s Beard, Beard Lichen, or Treemoss.

Habitat ;Usnea grows all over the world. Like other lichens it is a symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. The fungus belongs to the division Ascomycota, while the alga is a member of the division Chlorophyta.

Description;
Usnea looks very similar to Spanish moss, so much so that the latter plant’s Latin name is derived from it (Tillandsia usneoides, the ‘Usnea-like Tillandsia‘).

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Usnea is a lichen; a combination of an algae and a fungus growing together. Also known as Old Man’s beard, it grows in little hair-like tufts, with the green algae covering the white string like fungus. The best way to identify Usnea is to pull a string apart and look for this white thread.

This plant grows profusely in wet climates, like the Pacific Northwest, sometimes this  tufts up to a foot long.

There are several species, some of them are:

*Usnea barbata
*Usnea dasypoga
*Usnea florida
*Usnea hirta
*Usnea rubicunda
*Usnea rubiginea
*Usnea scabrida
*Usnea subfloridana

The species Usnea longissima was renamed Dolichousnea longissima in 2004.

Medicinal Uses:
UsesUsnea has been used medicinally for at least 1000 years. Usnic acid (C18H16O7), a potent antibiotic and antifungal agent is found in most species. This, combined with the hairlike structure of the lichen, means that Usnea lent itself well to treating surface wounds when sterile gauze and modern antibiotics were unavailable. It is also edible and high in vitamin C.

In modern American herbal medicine, Usnea is primarily used in lung and upper respiratory tract infections, and urinary tract infections. There are no human clinical trials to either support or refute either practice, although in vitro research does strongly support Usnea’s antimicrobial properties.

Usnea also has shown usefulness in the treatment of difficult to treat fish infections in aquariums and ponds; in part due to the Usnic Acid for digestive internal infections or external infections, and as well for gill infections/stress due to Mucilage which is also contained in Usnea.

Usnea was one ingredient in a product called Lipokinetix, promoted to induce weight loss via increase in metabolic rate. Lipokinetix has been the topic of an FDA warning in the USA, due to potential hepatotoxicity, although it is unclear yet if any toxicity would be attributable to the Usnea. Lipokinetix also contained PPA, caffeine, yohimbine and diiodothyronine. There is reason to believe that usnic acid, in high concentrations, could possess some toxicity. The National Toxicology Program is currently evaluating the issue.

There is no formal scientific information on the safety or efficacy of oral use of Usnea, although its long history of use strongly suggests value.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

 

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Usnea
http://www.susunweed.com/An_Article_wisewoman3d.htm

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