Usnea, also known as old man’s beard, is not a plant but a lichen—a symbiotic relationship between an algae and a fungus. The entire lichen is used medicinally. Usnea looks like long, fuzzy strings hanging from trees in the forests of North America and Europe, where it grows.
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For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 StarsReliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 StarsContradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 StarFor an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
This supplement has been used in connection with the following health conditions:
Common Cold and Sore Throat
Refer to label instructions
Usnea has a traditional reputation as an antiseptic and is sometimes used for people with common colds.
Elderberry has shown antiviral activity and thus may be useful for some people with common colds. Elder flowers are a traditional diaphoretic remedy for helping to break fevers and promote sweating during a cold. Horseradish has antibiotic properties, which may account for its usefulness in easing throat and upper respiratory tract infections. The resin of the herb myrrh has been shown to kill various microbes and to stimulate macrophages (a type of white blood cell).2Usnea has a traditional reputation as an antiseptic and is sometimes used for people with common colds.3
Refer to label instructions
Usnea contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs.
Traditional Use (May Not Be Supported by Scientific Studies)
Due to its bitter taste, usnea stimulates digestion and was historically used by herbalists to treat indigestion. It was also reportedly used over 3,000 years ago in ancient Egypt, Greece, and China to treat unspecified infections.1
How It Works
How It Works
Usnic acid gives usnea its bitter taste and also acts as an antibiotic in test tube studies.6 Test tube studies have suggested an anti-cancer activity for usnic acid. However, this action has not been sufficient to warrant further investigation in humans.7 Usnea also contains mucilage, which may be helpful in easing irritating coughs. Again, this has not been studied in humans.
How to Use It
Usnea, 100 mg three times per day, can be taken in capsules.8 Tincture, 3–4 ml three times per day, can also be used.
Interactions with Supplements, Foods, & Other Compounds
At the time of writing, there were no well-known supplement or food interactions with this supplement.
Interactions with Medicines
As of the last update, we found no reported interactions between this supplement and medicines. It is possible that unknown interactions exist. If you take medication, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a new supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
The Drug-Nutrient Interactions table may not include every possible interaction. Taking medicines with meals, on an empty stomach, or with alcohol may influence their effects. For details, refer to the manufacturers’ package information as these are not covered in this table. If you take medications, always discuss the potential risks and benefits of adding a supplement with your doctor or pharmacist.
There are no known side effects of usnea. It is considered safe for use in children. The safety of usnea during pregnancy and breast-feeding has not been established.
The information presented in Aisle7 is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires June 2015.
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