Wildcrafting usnea on a sunny afternoon!
By James Wood, Wild Water
Summer is the time to get outside and explore. For the herb lover this exploring is usually motivated by the collection of some sort of plant ally. For me today, this plant (or lichen) ally was Usnea!
Usnea is known in the herbalism community for its actions on the respiratory system and is known as the ‘Lungs of the Forest’. As noted in a previous post about the ‘doctrine of signatures’ concept, the signature of Usnea shows us how it may be good for respiration since it looks so similar to the bronchioles of the lungs. Our Swapper at Roots and Flowers says, “Usnea is an immune system tonic that can be used in acute situations as well as for long term immune enhancement and general prevention. Use it to help heal respiratory and sinus infections, bronchitis, pneumonia, strep throat, colds, flues, as well as urinary tract, kidney, and bladder infections.”
In western Washington, this lichen is found growing on fir trees, and I’ve even found it on a huckleberry bush.
My journey today began with a barefoot hike into the forest with Usnea on my mind. Hiking up hills, over fallen trees, and over moss-covered rocks, I walked for thirty minutes with minimal sightings of Usnea. After meandering around the cedar forest with much distraction by the delicious beams of color coming from various huckle and salmonberry bushes, I saw an open clearing in the distance and headed for it in hopes of finding my forest friend Usnea.
When I reached the open clearing the bright sun was reflecting off of the salal bushes and there I saw the Usnea-drenched trees all around me! I proceeded to pick my medicine and eat my fill of red huckleberries while getting up close and personal with a few slimy banana slugs. Traditionally, it is best to collect Usnea from fallen branches, since the lichen takes a very long time to grow. I collected what I thought I would need, gave my thanks, and turned around and headed home.
When I found my way back to the cabin, I counted my blessings from the forest and was ready to make some medicine! I picked off all the tree scraps that found their way into my collecting bag, rough chopped my Usnea, and into the jar they went.
A simpler’s tincture worked in this case, which is roughly one part herb to one part alcohol. In this case my alcohol was organic everclear.
The medicine making process brought a smile to my face knowing that the Usnea tincture would be ready in just a few short weeks to provide immune and respiratory support!
Check out The Swap for some Usnea products made by our Swappers!
Children’s Herbal Antibiotic Syrup
Respiratory Rescue-Lung Compound