Usnea

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What other names is Usnea known by?

Acide Usnique, Barba de Capuchino, Barbe de Jupiter, Barbe de Saint Antoine, Beard Moss, Mousse d'Arbre, Musgo de los Arboles, Old Man's Beard, Sodium Usniate, Tree Moss, Tree's Dandruff, Usnea barbata, Usnea florida, Usnea hirta, Usnea Lichen, Usnea plicata, Usnée, Usnée Barbue, Usnée Fleurie, Usniate de Sodium, Usnic Acid, Woman's Long Hair.

What is Usnea?

Usnea is a type of lichen that grows on trees. Though lichens appear to be single plants, they are really a combination of fungus and algae that grow together for their mutual benefit. Lichens grow in colorful, flat patches. Usnea may be whitish, reddish, or black. The plant body of usnea is used to make medicine.

Usnea is used for weight loss, pain relief, fever control, and wound healing; and to make phlegm easier to cough up.

Usnea is also used directly on the skin for sore mouth and throat.

Don't confuse usnea with oak moss (Evernia prunastri). Both usnea and oak moss are sometimes referred to as tree moss.

Insufficient Evidence to Rate Effectiveness for...

  • Human papilloma virus (HPV) infection. Early research suggests that applying a specific product (Zeta N, Bergamon Italia) containing zinc sulfate and usnic acid (a chemical found in usnea) to the vagina before and after surgical removal of HPV sores improves healing and reduces the recurrence of HPV infection for up to 6 months after surgery.
  • Weight loss.
  • Pain.
  • Fever.
  • Mild swelling (inflammation) of the mouth and throat.
  • Other conditions.
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of usnea for these uses.

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate (detailed description of each of the ratings).

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How does Usnea work?

Usnea contains ingredients that are thought to fight germs that might cause infections. It also might decrease inflammation, pain, and fever.

Are there safety concerns?

Usnea is POSSIBLY SAFE when used on the skin, though allergic reactions can occur.

Taking usnea by mouth is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. The sodium usniate (usnic acid) that usnea contains might cause liver damage. Sodium usniate is an ingredient of the brand named product LipoKinetix, which is marketed for weight loss. There were numerous cases of liver damage in people taking LipoKinetix. Symptoms, including nausea, weakness and fatigue, abdominal pain, and yellowing of the skin, usually develop from 2 weeks to 3 months after starting LipoKinetix. Symptoms disappear when it is discontinued. Additionally, there was one case of liver failure from taking pure usnic acid by mouth. Avoid taking usnea, LipoKinetix, or any other supplements containing usnea by mouth.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: There is not enough reliable information about the safety of taking usnea if you are pregnant or breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Liver disease: Usnea contains some chemicals that might harm the liver. If you have liver disease, don't take usnea by mouth.

Dosing considerations for Usnea.

The appropriate dose of usnea depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for usnea. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

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You are encouraged to report negative side effects of prescription drugs to the FDA. Visit the FDA MedWatch website or call 1-800-FDA-1088.

Reviewed on 3/29/2011 12:35:40 PM

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