USNEA Overview Information
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.
How does it work?
Usnea contains ingredients that are thought to fight germs that might cause infections. It also might decrease inflammation, pain, and fever.
- 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.
- Mild swelling (inflammation) of the mouth and throat.
- Other conditions.
USNEA Side Effects & Safety
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.
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.