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Usnea has been used medicinally for at least 1000 years. Usnic acid, 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 is very sensitive to air pollution, especially sulfur dioxide. Under bad conditions they may grow no larger than a few millimetres, if they survive at all. Where the air is unpolluted, they can grow to 10–20 cm long.
Spotted on Aug 18, 2012
Submitted on Aug 18, 2012