Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How this Medicine Can Stop a Cold in Its Tracks

The Outdoor Apothecary is reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

This usnea tincture recipe is super easy to make, but is so good for you and works to promote healthy immune, urinary health.

What is Usnea?

I’m sure that you’ve probably seen this lichen many times as it grows in lacey bunches attached to trees all over the world. I see it often on my walks in Northeastern Connecticut, but it wasn’t until recently that I realized its medicinal worth. 

After doing some research on how best to prepare usnea in order to get the most out of this wonderful specimen, I decided to share what I’ve learned.

Usnea is a greyish-green lichen with medicinal properties that grows on trees, rocks, and shrubs.  It’s often referred to as Old Man’s Beard due to its resemblance to an old man’s beard. 

A lichen is an organism that has characteristics of a Fungus and Algae. In Traditional Chinese Medicine Usnea Lichen is known for its “cooling and drying” energetic properties and its ability to “clear heat, move damp, and resolve toxicity”. 

Usnea is antimicrobial, antibacterial, vulnerary, and antifungal. 

usnea tincture

What is Usnea Good For?

Usnea is good for supporting a healthy immune response in the respiratory tract and mucus membranes, healthy functions of the urinary system, and maintaining a healthy microbial balance within the Urinary System. 

What I love so much about Usnea is that it truly is one of the most powerful locally-sourced immune medicines to turn to when you’re starting to feel a cold or flu coming on.  When taken at the onset of a cold or flu, when your immune system is working like crazy to respond, Usnea’s antibacterial properties disrupt the metabolic function of bacteria and prevent the bacteria from reproducing and making you sicker! How amazing is that?

Where Do You Find Usnea?

Tree lichen can be found in many places and forests around the world.  Usnea typically grows on pine, spruce, juniper, and fir trees along with oak, hickory, walnut, apple, and pear. If you have any of these trees around you, and the air quality is good, then chances are also good that you’ll find Usnea.

foraging usnea

Identifying Usnea

The best and easiest way to identify Usnea is to hold a strand in your fingers and gently pull on both ends. The outer green sheath will pull apart, revealing a white inner core that will stretch before snapping. Usnea is elastic; other lichens aren’t.

Is Usnea Harmful to Trees?

When I first noticed usnea growing prolifically from trees in the forest near my home, I thought the lichen must be hurting the trees, but what I found out was much different. In fact, seeing usnea growing is an indication of air purity since usnea will not grow where there is pollution or poor air quality. 

With that being said, it’s important to note that lichen is in no way harming your trees. However, lichen is rarely found on healthy, vigorous trees, so the presence of lichen may point to an unhealthy or dying tree (caused by other reasons, such as pests or disease).


foraging usnea

How Do You Gather Usnea?

When foraging and harvesting Usnea for tincture, tea, or other preparations, it’s best to harvest from dead fallen branches and limbs and not from living trees because of the extremely slow-growing nature of this lichen. 

Processing Usnea into Medicine

For home use, usnea is best used as a tincture. Making a tincture is very easy using the folk method, where exact amounts are not necessary.

When the tincture is finished, and the longer you leave it in the jar, the better, strain the liquid and decant into dark-colored dropper bottles. Keep the tincture in a dark, cool place. This has a shelf life of about a year.

foraging usnea

How to Use Your Tincture

Usnea tincture is not recommended as preventative medicine, but rather as a medicine to be used when illness has already begun. Take a dropper full every four hours at the onset of a cough or cold. It is thought that Usnea stops bacteria from multiplying and thus shortening the duration and severity of the illness.

If you don’t like the taste, go ahead and add it to some hot tea or juice, or add it to a spoonful of honey. 

Usnea has no known side effects but may be harmful in large doses. Don’t use excessively or over long periods of time.

Below are the steps necessary for preparing a dual-extract usnea tincture recipe.


Dual- extract Usnea Tincture Recipe

Usnea tincture recipe - this lichen is an infection fighter.  Unlike most modern antibiotics which disrupt the structure of a cell, this lichen prevents the metabolism of many bacterias such as StreptococcusStaphylococcus, and Mycobacterium tuberculosis.  It is particularly effective for hot, irritable, wet coughs.
4.64 from 25 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 28 days
Total Time 28 days 10 minutes


  • Sharp Knife or scissors
  • Vodka 100 Proof
  • Fine Mesh Strainer or Cheesecloth
  • Crockpot


  • Usnea
  • Vodka
  • Filtered Water


  • Chop usnea into small pieces with a knife or clippers. Can use a herb or coffee grinder.
  • Place the chopped usnea in a clean jar. Pour 100 proof vodka over the plant matter until it is just covered.
  • Seal the jar and store in cool dark place.  Shake twice a day.
  • When ready, strain the usnea-infused alcohol and measure its volume before putting it in another jar. This is your alcohol extraction. Set aside the usnea while you prepare the next step of the double extraction.
  • Measure out filtered water that is double in volume to the amount of alcohol extraction you just measured.
  • Place the Usnea into a crockpot and cover it with the filtered water.
  • Turn the crock pot to its lowest setting and let the usnea and water cook until the water is reduced by half. Anywhere from 24 to 48hrs.  Keep an eye on it.
  • Strain the Usnea from the water.  The water should be about equal in amount to the alcohol extraction.
  • Combine the alcohol extract (tincture) with the hot water decoction.  You now have a dual-extract usnea tincture! 
  • Label the jar with date, alcohol used, where the plant was collected, and any other info.
  • Store tincture in a dark, cool place.  Take 1 dropper full 2-4 times a day to fight virus or infection.


If your crock pot cooks hot, turn it off at night and turn it back on in the morning to avoid overcooking or completely evaporating the liquid. 
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

This tincture will turn out a golden brown color and will most likely contain sediment from the plant. You can leave it as it won’t hurt you, but you can also let it settle to the bottom of your jar and slowly siphon off the clear liquid on the top.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

11 thoughts on “Usnea Tincture Recipe: Discover How this Medicine Can Stop a Cold in Its Tracks”

    1. Barbi Gardiner

      You can use any amount of usnea you want. The trick is to pour 100 proof vodka over the plant matter until it is just covered. This liquid is what you will later be measuring to determine how much water to use for the decoction.

      1. Hello everyone! 🥰

        Ok! I’m a rookie! I am trying to figure all this out (herbal remedies but like a lot of things it’s never ending! 🤪). So what I did was put the usnea in a mason jar, with 100proof alcohol. My question is , now what? I did it backwards on accident….although it says ya can , luckily lol. Any help would be very much appreciated! ❤️. Take care

  1. Hi, I’m at the second stage of the duel extraction. Almost 48 hours later and the water has only reduced by about a quarter. Should I wait a while longer or just use about a quarter of the water left to add to the alcohol extraction? Thanks!

  2. Hi there, I left the usnea in the crock pot for the 2nd part of the dual extraction and all the water dried up…I’m wondering if only using the alcool extraction is still enough….

    1. It sounds like you’ve hit a little bump, but not to worry, these moments are all part of the learning process of crafting herbal remedies. The dual extraction method is a wonderful way to harness both the water-soluble and alcohol-soluble constituents of plants. If you’ve found that the water part of your extraction has evaporated, leaving you with just the alcohol extraction, you’ve still captured a significant portion of usnea’s beneficial properties. For future batches, if you’re drawn to try the dual extraction again, keeping a closer eye on the crock pot or using a lower heat setting could help prevent the water from fully evaporating.

  3. For this process is it best to use it freshly harvested or dehydrated? For the water extraction, do you start with “fresh” usnea, or reuse what was used in the alcohol extraction? If it’s reused, how should it be stored while waiting? Thanks so much!

    1. Barbi Gardiner

      I am using fresh Usnea for this dual extraction, but you can use dried. For the water extraction, you will use the Usnea that you strained from the alcohol. No storage is needed since you’ll make the water extraction at the time you strain it from the alcohol.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Shopping Cart
Scroll to Top