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Usnea
While some complementary and alternative techniques have been studied scientifically, high-quality data regarding safety, effectiveness, and mechanism of action are limited or controversial for most therapies. Whenever possible, it is recommended that practitioners be licensed by a recognized professional organization that adheres to clearly published standards. In addition, before starting a new technique or engaging a practitioner, it is recommended that patients speak with their primary healthcare provider(s). Potential benefits, risks (including financial costs), and alternatives should be carefully considered. The below monograph is designed to provide historical background and an overview of clinically-oriented research, and neither advocates for or against the use of a particular therapy.

Related Terms

  • Ab-Solution plus®, ascorbic acid, atranorin, barbatic acid, binan, depsides, depsidones, diffractaic acid, dihydrousnic acid, evernic acid, glutinol, isoanhydromethyldihydrousnic acid, isodihydrousnic acid, isolichenin, isomethoxide, lichen, Lipokinetix®, longissiminone A, longissiminone B, methylusnic acid, oak moss extract, old man's beard, parmeliaceae, raffinose, sodium usnate, sodium usnic acid, tree's dandruff, tree moss, woman's long hair, Usnea amblyoclada, Usnea barbata, Usnea complanta, Usnea dasypoga, Usnea diffracta, Usnea fasciata, Usnea florida, Usnea ghattensis, Usnea hirta, Usnea longissima, Usnea rubiginea, Usnea siamensis, Usnea subfloridana, Usneaceae (family), usnic acid, usno, Zeta-N®.

Background

  • Usnea species are classified as fruticose lichens, which are a symbiosis of fungus and algae. Usnea grows on the bark and wood of coniferous (e.g., spruces, firs, and pines) and deciduous hardwood (e.g., oak, hickory, walnut, apple, and other fruit trees) host trees throughout the northern hemisphere in Asia, Europe, and North America.
  • Usnea has been used as a therapeutic agent in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for thousands of years. Usnea longissima is traditionally taken by mouth for lung and upper respiratory infections, and applied on the skin to treat surface infections or external ulcers. It is still used today in TCM in liquid extract and tincture form to treat tuberculosis lymphadenitis.
  • Usnic acid is a secondary metabolite uniquely found in all lichens. Usnea or usnic acid has been used as a human papillomavirus (HPV) treatment and as an oral hygiene agent, with limited effectiveness.
  • Usnic acid is also found in various oral (by mouth) dietary supplements, including Lipokinetix®, marketed as a weight loss agent. However, Lipokinetix® may not be safe and may cause liver damage. Lipokinetix®, now withdrawn from the market, contained phenylpropanolamine (PPA), caffeine, yohimbine hydrochloride, diiodothyronine and usnic acid.

Evidence

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Dosing

The below doses are based on scientific research, publications, traditional use, or expert opinion. Many herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested, and safety and effectiveness may not be proven. Brands may be made differently, with variable ingredients, even within the same brand. The below doses may not apply to all products. You should read product labels, and discuss doses with a qualified healthcare provider before starting therapy.

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Safety

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not strictly regulate herbs and supplements. There is no guarantee of strength, purity or safety of products, and effects may vary. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy. Consult a healthcare provider immediately if you experience side effects.

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Interactions

Most herbs and supplements have not been thoroughly tested for interactions with other herbs, supplements, drugs, or foods. The interactions listed below are based on reports in scientific publications, laboratory experiments, or traditional use. You should always read product labels. If you have a medical condition, or are taking other drugs, herbs, or supplements, you should speak with a qualified healthcare provider before starting a new therapy.

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Author Information

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References

Natural Standard developed the above evidence-based information based on a thorough systematic review of the available scientific articles. For comprehensive information about alternative and complementary therapies on the professional level, go to www.naturalstandard.com. Selected references are listed below.

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The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.