How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To)

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.

Seeing how St. Patrick’s Day is this month, I thought it appropriate to share a bit about my new favorite green herb, usnea (Usnea spp.), with you today. 

Now, I won’t be talking much about what usnea is, how to identify it, or how to harvest it. If you’d like to get an exclusive video where you can join me for an usnea harvest (and learn how to make a traditional usnea tincture too), you can sign up on the form below to access that right away. You’ll also receive my bi-monthly email Letters and get access to my Seasonal Living Collective too! (Feel free to unsubscribe anytime!)

In this post, I want to teach you how to make an usnea tincture using the hot extraction method which is a quicker way to make a strong, potent tincture.

With that said, hot extraction tinctures can be dangerous so I’m also going to share some lessons I’ve learned on how NOT to make a hot extraction tincture too!

If you decide that tincture making isn’t a fit for you, that’s okay, you can purchase a pre-made usnea tincture from one of my favorite herb suppliers when you click on the button below.

What’s So Great About Usnea

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.

First of all, I love folk herbalism. Folk herbalism is when you prefer to use herbs the way they’ve been used for centuries past, but it can also refer to those who like to use local herbs that grow close to where they live.

I can’t really tell you why I prefer this style of herbalism over other styles. 

Perhaps it’s that I think our ancestors knew a thing or two about plants and their medicine without all the “insight” that science provides us today. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m so very grateful for science, and I love to blend that into the herbalism I practice. However, I have to be careful not to rely on it too much. Intuition and hands-on learning can take you far when it comes to using herbs for your health. Having some herbal mentors and getting an herbal education from a school that supports both styles doesn’t hurt either!

Maybe another reason is that I find self-sufficiency to be ideal, and using herbs that grow in these mountains takes me one step closer to that.

This is where usnea comes into play. 

usnea on stick

At the end of 2015, I learned to identify usnea, and I realized that it grows everywhere in the mountains where I live. So, my husband and I took our four boys and went out hunting for it one evening. We brought back a good bit of it that we’d collected from fallen branches, and I set off learning how to use it and how to preserve it.

Usnea isn’t really water-soluble which means that it needs something a bit stronger than water to extract the chemicals it holds out of it. What you need, is alcohol and heat.

There’s More Than One Way To…

Tincturing herbs can be as simple or as complex as you want to make it as there are many ways to do it. However, the more I study plant medicine, the more I learn the reasoning behind these complex methods of tincturing.

Like I mentioned above, I prefer folk herbalism, and with folk herbalism, tincturing is simple. You take some water, some strong alcohol, and mix them 50/50. If you don’t want to worry about mixing water and alcohol, you can simply use beverage alcohol, such as rum, vodka, or brandy, that is 40-60% alcohol and use that without adding any water to it (since these types of alcohol already contain water). Then you fill a jar 1/2 full of herbs, cover it with your water/alcohol mixture, and let it sit for two to six weeks. After that, you strain the herbs and store your tincture. When you need to use it, you start with a low dose and you work your way up until you get the results you’re looking for.

Pretty simple, right? Right. But, when it comes to folk tinctures, dosing isn’t always consistent, and there’s a bit of adjusting the dose involved. This is where chemistry and ratio tinctures come into play. This is also where things start to get a little complex. As a beginner herbalist, I avoided making ratio tinctures and stuck to simple tried and true folk preparations I’d found. However, over the years, and with more practice and study under my belt, I became more comfortable with making my own formulas, making more complicated preparations, and diving deep into understanding chemistry, particularly where plants were concerned.

At this point in my herbal journey, I’m really curious about how to make effective herbal preparations that are going to do what I want them to do, and it boils down to understanding which solvents (water, alcohol, vinegar, glycerin, etc.) extract which plant constituents (flavonoids, glycosides, tannins, polysaccharides, etc.) from the plant material. The method of extraction (temperature and time) is also a factor in how strong and effective a preparation turns out too.

I hope I’ve not lost you at this point.

If you are interested in learning how to make a traditional usnea tincture using the ratio method (as well as watching me harvest some fresh usnea and teach you about it along the way), simply enter your name and email in the form below. You’ll get instant access to the video, and you’ll receive my bi-monthly email Letters and get access to my Seasonal Living Collective too! (Feel free to unsubscribe anytime!)

And if you’d rather purchase a premade organic usnea tincture, you can do that when you click on the button below.

Otherwise, let’s move on to how to make hot extraction usnea tinctures.

How To Make A Hot Extraction Usnea Tincture The RIGHT Way

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.

So I say “the RIGHT way” with a bit of sarcasm because I don’t really believe there’s one “right” way to do anything in herbalism. However, I do believe in trying different things out and learning from mentors.

Herbalist Stephen Buhner, the author of Herbal Antibiotics, says that usnea tinctures best in a combination of water and alcohol (1:5 in 50%) and that a hot extraction method will yield better results (Buhner, 1999).

Since this man has done a ton of study on antibacterial herbs, I trust his opinion, so I decided to follow his method when it came time to tincture the usnea I’d gathered. 

Below, I’m going to share two different methods for making great hot extraction usnea tinctures with you. Both follow a similar method, but one is faster than the other.

Method 1: 3-Day Crockpot Usnea Tincture

1:5 tincture using 50% alcohol

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.


  • 1-ounce fresh usnea 
  • 50% vodka (100 proof)
  • mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
  • kitchen scale
  • mason jar
  • crockpot


  1. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 1-ounce of fresh usnea.
  2. Using a sharp knife, chop your usnea into small sections. Place it in a coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) and grind it as fine as you can without getting it too hot. This will result in a fine green powder and white string-like material.
  3. Place all of your herbal material in a mason jar.
  4. Next, pour 5-ounces of vodka over your herbs. Cap tightly. Your liquid should look green.
  5. Place a dishcloth in the bottom of your crockpot. Place your jar on top of the dishcloth. Next, fill your crockpot with water until it reaches the top of the crockpot or comes within 1 inch of the top of your mason jar. Turn the heat on low.
  6. Let this tincture sit in your crockpot, uncovered, for 3 days. Carefully remove the jar once a day and let it cool. While it’s cooling down, add more water to your crock to bring it back up to level. You may also open your jar and then recap it to release any pressure built up in your jar. Once it’s cooled a bit, return it to the crockpot.
  7. When 3 days are up, remove the jar and let it cool. At this point, you can strain the tincture from the plant material (you may want to use coffee filters for this). It should now look brown and smell herby. Compost the plant material, and store your usnea tincture in a dark bottle in a cool, dry place.


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.

I feel like this method produces a high-quality tincture as it contains both water and alcohol and it uses heat to speed up the extraction process. If you’d like to extend the infusion time and possibly create a stronger end-product, feel free to keep it in the crockpot for a few more days. Just keep an eye on the water level, and be sure to open the jar each day to release any pressure build-up from heating the alcohol!!

Method 2: Double Phase 7-Day Crockpot Usnea Tincture

1:5 tincture using roughly 50% alcohol

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.


  • 1-ounce fresh usnea 
  • water
  • 95% alcohol
  • mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
  • kitchen scale
  • mason jar
  • crockpot


  1. Using a kitchen scale, weigh out 1-ounce of fresh usnea.
  2. Using a sharp knife, chop your usnea into small sections. Place it in a coffee grinder (or mortar and pestle) and grind it as fine as you can without getting it too hot. This will result in a fine green powder and white string-like material.
  3. Place all of your herbal material in a mason jar.
  4. Next, pour 2.5 ounces of water over your herbs. Stir and cap tightly. You won’t have much liquid. Instead, your usnea will look wet and soupy.
  5. Place a dishcloth in the bottom of your crockpot. Place your jar on top of the dishcloth. Next, fill your crockpot with water until it reaches the top of the crockpot or comes within 1 inch of the top of your mason jar. Turn the heat on low. This will result in a strong decoction. Let this sit in your crockpot for 1 day.
  6. On day 2, carefully remove the jar and let it cool. Once cool, open your jar and add 2.5 ounces of 95% alcohol. Stir and cap tightly. You should now have more liquid.
  7. Place your cooled jar back inside of your crockpot to sit for 6 days on low heat. Be sure to carefully remove the jar once a day and let it cool. While it’s cooling down, add more water to your crockpot to bring it back up to level. You may also open your jar and then recap it to release any pressure built up in your jar. Once it’s cooled a bit, return it to the crockpot.
  8. When 6 days are up, remove the jar and let it cool. Strain the tincture from the plant material. It should now look brown and smell herby. Compost the plant material, and store your usnea tincture in a dark bottle in a cool, dry place.


This tincture will turn out a deeper brown than the first and will also contain sediment from the plant. Feel free to leave it or siphon it. It’s up to you. 

I feel that this longer method produces a better tincture in the end. I really have no way of knowing that as I don’t test my homemade tinctures (other than by taste, but that’s not very scientific). I simply prefer hot processed preparations to cold processed ones and time is your friend. Perhaps it’s intuition. Perhaps it’s preference.

The more you work with herbs and use them, the more you’ll learn what you prefer.

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.

Method 3: Traditional 6-Week Tincture

As with any herb, if you’re not in a hurry to make your tincture or you’re not a fan of hot extraction methods, you can always go the traditional route, combining your herb and alcohol in a jar, and let it all sit in a warm, dark place for 6 weeks. In the end, you’ll have a high-quality tincture to use.

Again, you can sign up to get instant access to a private video where I’ll show you how to identify and harvest fresh usnea as well as how to make a traditional tincture with it using the ratio method via the form below. You’ll also receive my bi-monthly email Letters and get access to my Seasonal Living Collective too! (Feel free to unsubscribe anytime!)

Don’t Be Neglectful When Making Hot Extraction Tinctures

So, I got a little lazy when I made my first 7-day usnea tincture. Instead of removing the jar from the crockpot and adding my water while the jar cooled, I poured the water into the crockpot with the jar still in.

Guess what happened?

How To Make An Usnea Tincture (And How Not To) | Growing Up Herbal | Learn how to make an usnea tincture the right way and the wrong way.


I had usnea in my eyes, hair, and mouth. I had burns on my arms from the hot liquid. Shards of glass were everywhere (thankfully not in my eyes though), and I had usnea plastered to my cabinets and ceiling that I had to scrub off by hand.

It. Took. Hours. 

So, do NOT add water to your crockpot while your jar is in it. The change in temperature will cause your jar to break. If the jar has been sitting in there for a while and you’ve not opened the lid to release the pressure from the steam, it will burst into thousands of pieces.

Just don’t do it. I think I have PTSD from the sound of it. Seriously… I’m overly cautious about hot extraction tinctures these days.

Let’s Review

Usnea is a great antibacterial herb. It is best prepared with a combination of water and alcohol as a hot extraction tincture.

You can purchase a high-quality premade usnea tincture from Mountain Rose Herbs right here.

Or, if you’re into DIYing your herbal preparations, you can make your own tinctures via one of the crockpot methods above or by going the traditional route, which I’ll show you how to do when you sign up to get instant access to a private video below.

In this video, I’ll show you how to identify and harvest fresh usnea as well as how to make a traditional tincture with it using the ratio method via the form below. You’ll also receive my bi-monthly email Letters and get access to my Seasonal Living Collective too! (Feel free to unsubscribe anytime!)

So what about you? Have you ever made an usnea tincture before? How’d it go, and what do you use it for? Share with me in the comment section below!


  1. Christy Dickison says:

    Oh. My. Word.

    I’m about to cry FOR you!!!!!

    Looking forward to trying usnea. It’s not an herb that I’m familiar with.

    • Meagan says:

      It’s been a fun one to explore… at least after I got my kitchen cleaned up!

      • Pamela says:

        Hi, I’ve made this with 100% alcohol vodka let sit for 6 weeks. Shake every day. What’s wrong with this method??

        • Meagan Visser says:

          I think that’s perfectly fine as vodka is a mixture of alcohol and water so you’d get the benefits of both solvents extracting specific properties from the plant material. And, you can’t go wrong with a 6-week maceration time if you have time to wait. My only advice would be to let the mix sit in a warmer location in order to speed up the extraction process… or make it more effective. Everything I’ve ever read about making usnea tinctures says to do a hot-extraction when tincturing it, but I don’t think for a second that’s the only way it can be done. Thanks for sharing what works for you!

      • Pam Desjardine says:

        Meagan, why not put the tinture directly in the crock pot to steep? The lid is vented and has a nice low warming temperature. The just strain the tincture into jars. I use this method to make balm of Gilead and it works very well.

        • Meagan Visser says:

          I’ve never heard of anyone making a tincture this way, but if you’ve done it successfully, that’s good to know. I would assume that some of the alcohol and volatile oils from the herbs would evaporate out through the vented lid as it is heated, but perhaps it’s not enough to make much of a difference. Anyway, thanks for your comment. I may give that a try the next time I do this!

          • Nanny says:

            Hi Meagan. I bought an Usnea tincture from my health food store. On the box it says it is antibacterial and antivirus. I developed a cold after babysitting two of my great-grandchildren who had colds. I was stuffed and coughing up some colourful phlegm. The dosage is 1/2 teaspoon three times a day. I took my first dose three hours ago and five minutes after taking it, my nose cleared. I’m still coughing occasionally but not like I was! The old saying if it tastes bad, it will work is definitely for this herb! Ugg, it does not have the best taste! Hahaha
            But I have confidence I will feel better shortly

          • Meagan Visser says:

            Ha, ha! Yes, I have to dilute most tinctures in a wee bit of water and just drink them fast and follow it with more water to rinse the taste from my mount. Not all, though. There are some that I like the taste of, but I’m not sure usnea is one of them. Best of luck recovering from your cold!

          • Leah says:

            I live in central Florida and the usnea that I harvested looks different than the one I bought from my local herb shop. The one I found was a forest green color with feet and a white core and looked bushy/coral like. The one I bought was thin and long with no feet and is a pale green grey/brown (dried) color. I want to make sure that I actually found usnea and not a toxic look alike. Also what would the dosage be for a 35lbs 2.5 year old? Also would you suggest this herb for making a salve? And last question: for acne would you suggest using the tincture watered down 50% distilled water 50% tincture as an acne treatment toner?

          • Meagan Visser says:

            So there are different species of usnea that are all used similarly. Some may have feet, others may not, but all need to have the white core. If I were you, I’d share a photo of what you harvested in a plant identification group on Facebook to see if anyone there can help you positively identify it. Those groups can be really helpful. As far as determining dosage for children goes, I detail that process here. And yes, usnea is a great herb to infuse in oil and make into a salve. And I don’t recommend using alcohol on the face. It strips the skin of needed oils. Instead, I suggest cleansing the face with a gentle soap, using a hydrosol, floral water, or micellar water to tone afterwards, and then follow up with a moisturizing oil or cream. You can find some past skincare content here.

        • Erin says:

          Because the alcohol will just evaporate.

    • Wilda Bezet says:

      Gosh girl; I’m glad you survived that accident! Actually, I’m too lazy for the hot extraction method…at least for now. I’ll just stick to the 6 week method. My greatest concern right now is learning how to prepare, use, and dose my herbal concoctions. Thanks for the great article.

    • John Sparks says:

      Thank you for the help and advice on 6week process, I read through it all and then some through the 7 day process hope your alright.

  2. Robin says:

    Oh my goodness- I’m so sorry that you had to learn the hard way. And I’m so thankful that you shared this experience so none of us will make the same mistake. Thank you for sharing, and thanks for keeping your sense of humor!

    • Meagan says:

      LOL! I hope no one else has to experience that too! I’ve made hot process tinctures ever since I started making my own at home, and this was the first time one has every exploded on me. It pays to not get lazy… no matter how many times something has gone well for you. Thanks for your comment, Robin!

      • Colleen says:

        I have usnea growing abundantly in my woods and collect it everyday on my walk routine. I use it in salve and tincture form. I use strong delicious brandy to macerate 6 weeks in quart jars. strain and set brandy aside, then steep the usnea uncovered in several quarts of water for hours until it reduces to same amount as brandy. strain that decoction and mix it with the brandy. it’s nature’s doxycycline.

  3. Michelle says:

    I feel the same about folk medicine, even though I have a background in science and I am a “clinical” dietitian. My first herbal teacher has a deep reverence for the plant world, and that is something I try to keep in mind as I work with the plants. I also prefer to use the many plants available locally, looking for alternatives to the sometimes exotic herbs from outside our region.

    Sorry about your tincture mishap (similar event with me during fermenting). I wonder how usnea was used traditionally, before the advent of distilled alcohol tinctures (or crockpots!) Thanks!

    • Meagan says:

      I’m not sure how usnea was used before, Michelle. I’ve heard some herbalists say they tincture it with apple cider vinegar so maybe that was one option.

      • Adrienne says:

        Yes I was wondering how I could ever use usnea for example if I got a sore-throat when I was out camping and I had no vodka, and no oil. Also I had a friend with terrible lung problems and he would have taken usnea but he was going to AA and didn’t want to use any alcohol. I could not find anything on line for an alternative way to extract and suspend the wonderful properties of usnea. I’m not a chemist, I just make herbal remedies. I was thinking of powdering some dried usnea and putting the pad. in oil and keeping it by the wood-stove on a low temp. I don’t know if that would extract all the properties eventually ?

        • Meagan says:

          Usnea is best extracted with a double extraction of water and alcohol. With that said, you could try making it with water and glycerine as glycerine extracts almost as well as alcohol. If you were out in the woods, however, and have no alcohol to use, the best way to benefit from usnea is to make a tea with it using water. And yes, you can infuse it into oil. I go into much more detail about how to use and prepare usnea in the Essential Herbal magazine article I mentioned.

          • Tracy says:

            I’d like more information on Usnea oil infusion also because I’d like to use it in salves. The link above sends back and error. Thanks!

          • Meagan Visser says:

            Hi, Tracy. They rearranged their URLs at some point and that broke the link. However, I’ve updated it so you should be able to access the back issue with my article now. Thanks!

        • Kevin Owings says:

          Smoke it.

        • Klarka says:

          If you cant consume alcohol you can drop the tincture into a small cup of boiled water (stir) and the alcohol will evaporate in 10 mins or so.

      • Ron says:

        Can a ninja style blender be used to chop & grind the usnea? Also, can the usnea be collected and stored to be processed into a tincture later on? I have an abundance of it growing around my house in trees I’m clearing all of the deadfall and limbs out of. I don’t want to see a valuable resource destroyed but I also can’t have the ground clutter of dead wood covering the ground in my trees as I have other projects to use that area for as well. Help?i

        • Meagan Visser says:

          Yes, you can use any kind of blender to chop it, and you can definitely collect usnea and store it in a clean glass jar for later use. In fact, it’s very common to use dried usnea if you don’t have any fresh lichen available. I leave my fresh usnea sitting out in the open for a week or so before placing it in a jar and capping it. Hope that helps, and good luck with your yard work! We have a lot of that to do over the coming months as well.

    • Jillaine Comardo says:

      I’ve read that its s antimicrobial, antibacterial, vulnerary and antifungal properties.
      It’s sometimes used as a field dressing. Usnea has been used for mouth sores. There are many articles on line.

    • Ada Ledesma says:

      Is it possible to order the tincture from you? I have some health difficulties and am not able to prepare myself! Do you know anyone I can order from? Thank you very much…

  4. mirte says:

    Hi! safe for pregnant mamas? : ) also my little one is 1.5 years old-is he too young to take this?

    • Meagan says:

      Hi, Mirte! I remember seeing some well-respected herbalists say to avoid it during pregnancy. I don’t remember seeing why they said that so perhaps it depends on why you’re taking it, dosage, frequency, and other things of that nature. Unless you are familiar with herbs, I feel that it’s often best to work with someone who is, especially during pregnancy. This herb is safe for children though. Hope that helps!

  5. Christine says:

    Oh my gosh! I’ve never seen a tincture explode like that before! Wild! Glad you are alright. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and I’ll look for more information about usnea in the next Essential Herbal!

    • Meagan says:

      Yeah, me neither, Christine! It totally caught me off guard. I’ve heard about being careful with hot alcohol tinctures, but like I said in the post, I’ve made them so many times before and never had a problem that I got lazy with this one. The only difference was that this one was in the crockpot longer so that could have had something to do with it. Anyway, I’m VERY careful now. I don’t want to have glass in my face or to have to scrub my cabinets and ceiling again!

  6. Ann says:

    I’m confused — at the end of your first method, the three-day ‘quick’ one, you state at the end that “it contains both water and alcohol”, yet the ingredients only list usnea and vodka, but no water. Also, in your directions, you never mention adding any amount of water.

    I’ve re-read the three-day method several times and still see no mention of added water to the tincture, am I missing something? I just want to be clear about the ingredients.

    Thank you.

    • Meagan says:

      Sorry for the confusion, Ann. The vodka itself contains water so you don’t have to add it. Vodka is 50% alcohol, 50% water so when you use it to make a tincture, it extracts both water and alcohol-soluble plant constituents. Does that make sense? Hope that clarifies things a bit, but if you have any other questions, ask away!

  7. Kristina says:

    What percentage alcohol did your vodka have? Thanks; I’m having trouble determining what percentage is best for this lichen.

    • Meagan says:

      So, vodka is 40% alcohol which is a bit less than the recommended amount. You may be able to find a brand that is 50%, but I usually follow the guidelines for the 7-day double extraction tincture so I mix 95% alcohol (Everclear) with 50% water to get as close to the 50% recommendation. Does that answer your question??

      • Cyn R says:

        I’m a little confused by the arithmetic here–say you use 4 oz of 95% vodka–50% of water would be a little less than2oz, so the end result would be about 2:1 vodka to water? or is it 2 oz vodka to 2 oz water? If you only had 50%alcohol vodka, that would be 1:1 vodka to water by itself? I wish I had found this site before I was super lucky enough to find two stuffed quart jars worth of usnea on a fallen tree. I had just learned about it, so I was ecstatic about the find, and collected all I could find. We have also had a lot of wind, and branches down, so that added even more. What a treasure. In any case, what I did was shake out any debris or bugs and pack it into a jar and filled it with vodka. the two jars have been sitting in a dark cabinet in the kitchen for at least three months. What should I do with it now–drain/filter? should I add water and heat it, or is it too late for that??

        • Meagan Visser says:

          What I’m referring to in this post is using a 190-proof (95%) grain alcohol and diluting it with water. You can ignore all of that if you’re using vodka since it’s already diluted with water. Just strain it when you’re ready before bottling and labeling it.

          • mindie Rasmussen says:

            I have used both vodka and now everclear.am doing the 6 week in dark glass jar in a warm window for the heat.I have to say I find it kinda funny people are so confused with the alcohol and water ratio.but good luck to everyone!!!

          • Meagan Visser says:

            Thanks for sharing, Mindie, and best of luck with your tincture!

          • PS says:

            Thank you for the wonderful advice and clear directions. I think that 100 proof vodka (a bit hard to find) is half water and half alcohol, right?

          • Meagan Visser says:

            Yes, vodka is usually 40% or 50% alcohol so it would be either 80 or 100-proof. You can also take a 95-proof alcohol and dilute that with water if you’d like.

  8. Leah says:

    This is so cool! I have a whole new perspective on this stuff now.
    How often would you take the tincture, and how do you figure out dosage?

    • Meagan says:

      I normally use this tincture when my body is fighting an infection and I want to give it some extra support so I take it frequently throughout the day in small doses (5-10 drops or so with each dose). Hope that helps. My article in The Essential Herbal magazine explains this herb further.

  9. Maria Oberlin says:

    What about boiling water and then adding it to the crockpot with the jar still in it? Seems like that wouldn’t cause an explosion.

    • Meagan says:

      I suppose you could do that, but I’m still hesitant, especially after this past explosive event. I do believe the biggest issue is the sudden temperature change so boiled water would decrease that chance. Nontheless, if you try it, wear eye protection, just in case!

  10. Anonymous says:


  11. Rachel says:

    I love usnea! I’ve been finding so much of it on my walks in the woods and for some reason it just makes me so happy to gather it (I get like that with different plants at different times. For a while it was red clover 🙂 ). I’d also read that heat was needed to effectively extract the medicinal properties but hadn’t seen good recommendations on how to do that (until now) and was hesitant to heat alcohol on the stove. I ended up putting my usnea and vodka in a jar and putting the jar outside on a black surface where it would heat up quite a bit through the day. I have a lovely golden brown color like the usnea tincture I’ve purchased. I’m glad to see another method I can use now that the days are cooling off and the sun isn’t as strong.

    I’ve also used usnea on an infected foot that was beginning to show a red streak. We soaked in in Epsom salts and plantain then used a bandaid to tape a piece of usnea to the site, which I’d heard was something Native Americans used to do with it for infections. It seemed to work because the infection went away and the wound healed.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Thanks for sharing your experiences with usnea, Rachel. I always like hearing how people feel about herbs and how they put them to use in their lives. Thanks again!

    • Jan's says:

      I had been on 3 g of anti biotic for a month without my infected fingers healing. it had been diagnosed as Staph infection by a hospital.
      The infection had begun to spread and I had been warned that I’d have to have an operation to scrub out the infection. Nice!
      I had heard about usnea so whilst staying at a holiday home I picked some. Being completely desperate by this time.
      I wound some round my hand, I made a sort of tincture with alcohol. And I put small amounts of alcohol soaked usnea between my lip and gum.
      Don’t K of which worked but with in about three days I was healed.
      That modem anti biotic resistant infection had been cured.

  12. Brian says:

    I live on the border of ga. and n.c. in the mountains. Usnea is everywhere in our area near creeks and streams. Never noticed it until I read your article. Do a lot of canning, preserving, etc. This will be my first attempt at making a tincture. You mentioned you took 5 to 10 drops several times a day when I’ll. About how many times a day would be your recommendation

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hi, Brian. I’m glad you’ve spotted some usnea in your area. A word of caution here… if this is your first attempt at making a tincture, let me encourage you to be very careful making a hot-process tincture, especially when it comes to keeping enough water in your crockpot and opening your jar occasionally to relieve pressure. Hot-process alcohol tinctures can explode as I’m sure you gathered from my experience at the end of the post!

      With that said, I typically use usnea when an infection is present (I’ve seen it work really well for respiratory infections). I use it in small dosages (5-10 drops at a time) every 2 hours or so depending on the severity of the infection and symptoms present. Finding the right dosage for you is based on various factors. You can learn more about different ways to dose herbs here. Hope this helps, and good luck with your tincture. Be sure to share a photo of it by using hashtag #growingupherbal if you share it on social media! I’d love to see it!

  13. Brian crowder says:

    Just completed my first try at the 7 day process. Came out great, I think. After straining 3 times with coffee filters, got about a third of a jelly jar of tincture. The smell reminds me of cold herbal tea. There’s so much usnea around here, could I use scissors to harvest only the best looking usnea. That may help to make sure it’s just the usnea I’m harvesting. I’ll take pics of the entire process of my next batch and send them to you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Awesome, Brian! Thanks for sharing. And the best harvesting practice for usnea is to gather it from fallen tree limbs instead of harvesting it directly off the tree if possible. I usually make new tinctures when I have about 1/3 of my first tincture left… that way I don’t make too much tincture that doesn’t get used quickly enough. Also, it doesn’t hurt if a little tree bark goes into the tincture along with the usnea. Hope that helps!

  14. Brian crowder says:

    What about the little white “flowers” that are on the tips of some of the usnea. Should I cut them off?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      There are many species of usnea, and many of them have different characteristics. None of them, that I’m aware of, actually flower, but some of them reproduce and form whitish, round disks. These are fine to use in your tincture, and you don’t need to cut them off.

      • Tarang Bates says:

        I am wondering if Brian is harvesting what i know as “Old mans beard” which may be in the same family…not sure, has some similarities. However one is a bromeliad and the other is a lichen I believe.

        • Meagan Visser says:

          Hmm… I’m not sure. There are so many common names that are used for several plants. That’s why it’s important to know the Latin binomial names for plants as those are specific to each plant.

  15. Brian crowder says:


  16. Marti says:

    I’m glad to see this article. Thank you for sharing. I wondered if the lid should be on the crock pot but the picture answered that question but I was thinking perhaps you should state that for some of us that don’t pay attention to details. Also what do you know about using kudzu?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Thanks, Marti. I plan to update this post soon with some new information so I’ll try to include that then. I don’t know much about kudzu personally. I do know it’s used as a food and for therapeutic purposes, but I’m not all that familiar with it. Sorry I couldn’t be of more help.

  17. ak herb guy says:

    Great article, it’s difficult to find information about people doing hot ethanol extractions for their tincture and i’m excited to read the update. I’m a bit concerned with ethanol vapors coming into contact with mason jar lids and pulling some of that material into the tincture. After some research the solution that I have worked out is using a hermetic glass storage jar but replacing the gasket with rye paste and baking it in the oven before immersing the jar in the water bath. I was a bit concerned about ethanol vapor escaping and igniting in the oven but I believe that the rye paste provides a good seal even before it’s heated. I have a Rhodiola Rosea tincture immersed in a water bath at 180 degrees right now and so far it appears the rye paste gasket is working as intended. The home distillation community also recommends PTFE as a safe material. I’m also curious what temperature the water is in your Crockpot when it runs at low? I have an Instant Pot Ultra so i’m able to choose the exact temperature, I settled on 180F and it appears to be working great, i’m about 3 hours into my water bath and the liquid has a rich pink color that looks very similar to my last Rhodiola tincture which I made by soaking in vodka for 4 weeks. There’s not a ton of information out there on people doing hot alcohol extractions at home so it’s hard to know how long and at what temperature is necessary to extract most of the beneficial compounds we’re after.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’m honestly not sure about the exact temperature of the crockpot water. I try to keep mine closer to 100 degrees (in all reality, it’s probably around 120, though), and I typically water bath tinctures and oils for 3-4 days at a time. I’m always very happy with the results. Hot water alcohol extractions aren’t something I do all that often — only when needed. I prefer to tincture by moon cycles as that’s easier, safer, and results in a high-quality tincture.

  18. Anonymous says:


  19. Sahnei says:

    Hi I’m curious about using the glycerin tincture as a douche. Would you dilute the glycerine tincture or do you think it could be paired with coconut oil in a bullet?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, I would dilute the glycerine tincture in water or mix it with the coconut oil before using it. And as I’m sure you know, douching isn’t recommended to do on a regular basis as it can disrupt your normal pH and bacterial balance, leading to more problems. It’s only recommended for acute issues. Hope that’s helpful to you!

  20. Alicia says:

    I apologize if this has already been addressed….I now live in San Antonio and I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it fresh here so my question is do you know of where I could buy this herb dried? I am wondering if umckaloabo would be another good option to have on hand in place if usnea?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’m not familiar with umckaloabo root, but Mountain Rose Herbs sells dried usnea that you could use.

  21. Reid says:

    A couple of years ago, I made an usnea tincture using a fairly crude method; I found instructions on the internet suggesting that the usnea be placed in boiling water for a minute or so, then immediately transferred into a jar of strong alcohol (I used 90-proof vodka). After that, the trick was to shake the jar two or three times a day and let it sit for a couple of weeks before straining.
    In the end, it seemed to work out all right; I used a few times when I felt a cold coming on, and it definitely sped up my recovery rate. Usually it takes me about five days to ‘completely’ get over a cold, but after taking the usnea tincture three times a day, I was feeling 100% after just three sleeps. A truly indispensable herbal remedy!!!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Awesome, Reid! Thanks for sharing. That is a simple way to make an usnea tincture which is great if you’re not concerned about finding an exact dosage. You can easily titrate your dosage up or down depending on your needs.

    • Michelle says:

      I am very allergic to many pharma products , especially antibiotics like penicillin.
      Usnea has helped my diverticulitis
      In hours , my pain recedes considerably and resolves.
      I have avoided the broad spectrum antibiotic assault of conventional tteatmt successfully.

  22. Vicki says:

    Hi Meagan,
    I made my first Usnea tincture this summer. I did 95 proof alcohol in a jar full of Usnea. I kept it in a dark closet for 3 months. I’m at the three month mark right now. I originally planned on a 6 week extraction period because that’s what I had read, but decided to let it keep “brewing”. I took some out about a month ago when it was about 8 weeks and mixed it 50/50 with water as an acne treatment for my teenagers. It’s worked awesome! Like totally cleared up their acne. That has been my first experience with it. This was my first attempt at making it. My liquid in my jar is still clear. It’s getting a little cloudy but it’s not brown at all. Do you know what that means? Everywhere I’ve read it says that the finished product would be brown.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      How odd. My usnea tinctures always turn out brown, but I always make mine using the hot process extraction methods outlined in this post. Maybe it’s the heat that causes it to turn brown. I’m not sure. Also, don’t forget that you’ll want your usnea to sit in a combination of water and alcohol (either half water and half 95-proof alcohol OR straight vodka/brandy) as you won’t want to miss out on the water-soluble constituents available. You won’t get these if the usnea sits in 95-proof alcohol only. Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

      • Jamie M Harvey says:

        So, I went to buy Everclear, but they were out. I purchased 100 proof vodka instead. The question is…do I mix with water, or, like you said, is Vodka half water, half alcohol? And what is the difference. I would think that 100 proof is 100 percent of any alcohol.

        • Meagan Visser says:

          You won’t need to add any water to vodka as it already contains water. If your vodka says it’s 100-proof then that means it contains 50% water and 50% alcohol. Everclear is 190-proof which means it is 95% alcohol and 5% water. Basically, when you’re looking at proofs on different alcohols, half of the proof is how much alcohol it contains. Another example is brandy. My favorite brandy brand is 80-proof which means it only contains 40% alcohol, and it makes a great alcohol to use when tincturing dry herbs as many call for 40% alcohol. Does all of that make sense? You can check out my Using Herbs page on tinctures to get another explanation that may further explain all of this. Hope this helps some!

    • JENN says:

      what an awesome idea! thanks for the acne experiment idea. my son can’t get rid of it and he’s done a cleanse, diet elimination, vitamins and herb teas. (yes, there’s a lot more to the story with his health.) also, this is good for lungs. can it be used as a tonic to strengthen lungs to alleviate asthma? his lungs are so sensitive. or does usnea need to be “pulsed?”

      • Meagan Visser says:

        I have never found any information that supports using usnea as a respiratory tonic. It would be useful to use during respiratory infections, but I’m not so sure it would help to generally strengthen the lungs. Mullein is my go-to respiratory tonic, but there are many other herbs suited to the respiratory system and asthma, such as horehound, thyme, and even lobelia. Hope this is helpful!

        • Sarah says:

          For respiratory infections, do you use it orally? I read that it’s such a strong antibiotic that it should be used internally with caution because it can mess up a person’s gut biome if taken too much. Also, how would you go about using it for an inner ear infection? Just a couple drops inside the ear, like rubbing alcohol?

          • Meagan Visser says:

            Yes, you would use it internally for any infection. I would never put an usnea tincture inside the ear as that can really hurt. You can rub it on the skin around the outside of the ear, but I’d still use it internally. However, you can make an usnea-infused oil and use that inside the ear. I’ve never heard that usnea can disrupt the gut microbiome. I’d love to know where you heard that so I can look into it, though.

          • Marilynn B says:

            I had a painful infection from a cut of some sort in my ear canal and it was not improving with hydrogen peroxide applied on a cotton ball. I moistened a wad of usnea and inserted it in my ear, and the infection quickly cleared up.

  23. Bree says:

    Hey Meagan! I am attempting my first tincture ever! I’m truly excited to have found your blog. I have found tons of Usnea near the property I am at. I had started the 3 day crockpot method you recommended but as day 3 came around I remembered a step that had slipped my mind and that was to (take the usnea jar out of the crockpot to let it cool each day). Now is that a big factor to how the tincture will turn out, if so is it necessary to start over and why is that an important step? Also I was wondering if I should be shaking the jar each day to mix up the separation & herbs or if I should just be letting it settle? I hope you are not confused with my questions and I can’t wait to hear back!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Your tincture is definitely not ruined. The only reason I say to take the jar out and let it cool is so you can replace any evaporated water in the crockpot without the risk of the jar breaking (which will ruin your tincture) and so you can open the jar to release any pressure that builds from the heated alcohol. Hot process alcohol tinctures can be dangerous so these are just precautionary measures. As for shaking the jar each day, I don’t do that as I open the jar once it’s cooled and stir it then, but you don’t have to do that. Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions! Good luck!

  24. Dr. Deb says:

    I am on day 4 of 7 with my tincturing Usnea taking a warm bath in my crock pot. I’m curious what the advantage is to starting off solely with a water decoction, and adding the alcohol the next day, as in method 2 above (vs going straight to a 50/50 menstruum). Reason I ask is that my herb was so light and fluffy that had to add 5 oz of water to my 1 oz of herb just to get it all wet. Thus, when I added Everclear, it was another 5 oz, so I will end up with a 1:10 tincture not a 1:5 tincture as I was targeting. doesn’t matter all that much as I can just double the dose, but I’m curious for the next time.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      So, the two methods mentioned here (3-day and 7-day) were simply what I found others doing. I think the method you choose really comes down to the alcohol you have on hand and what percentage it is (40%, 50%, 95%), how much time you have to invest in the process, and how strong of a tincture you’re looking to make. The 3-day method is the quickest and simplest, but it doesn’t produce as strong of a tincture (in my opinion) since there’s less infusion time. With the 7-day, you have a good bit of time to extract water-soluble plant constituents as well as a good bit of time to extract the alcohol-soluble constituents. In my way of thinking, the longer the infusion time, the more constituents can be pulled out, and the strong your preparation is in the end. Again, the choice is up to you. You could always follow the directions for the 3-day method and let it sit for a full 7 days to make it stronger. You can also forget the crockpot altogether, and instead, do a 12-hour hot water infusion, add your alcohol, and let it sit for 6 weeks in a warm, dark place to infuse. Again, it’s a matter of preference.

      As far as your tincture ratio goes. Usnea is fluffy. The more your grind and chop it, the more it will pack down, allowing the liquid to cover it. To create a 1:5 tincture, you would have needed to use 2.5 ounces of water and 2.5 ounces of alcohol. If the 2.5 ounces of water wasn’t enough to completely cover the herb at first, that’s okay. It’s not the end of the world if the liquid doesn’t cover the herb. The idea is to let the water and herb sit together for 24-hours and then add the alcohol. You can actually put the liquid and herb into a blender and blend it together to help break it down even further if you’d like. Once your alcohol is added, you can blend it all again before adding it back to the jar and crockpot. Also know that the longer the mixture sits, the more the herb will break down, and the better your liquid will cover it. And yes, you can just double the dose of the 1:10, and it will work just fine!

      I hope all of this helps, and if you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

  25. Alexander Jacobs says:

    I’ve been making and using usnea tincture for years. I harvest usnea along the shores of Lake Superior where it is very green, moist and stretchy. I squeeze the alcohol from one “old man’s beard” in tincture, apply it directly to a skin wound and wrap it in gauze. It’s called an Usnea Poultice and works wonders for skin infections. I also ingest the tincture 10 drops at a time 3xs a day when fighting off a skin infection.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Thanks for sharing, Alexander. I’m curious. Do you find the alcohol-soaked usnea to be too much (as in too strong or drying) to wound tissue? I’ve always been taught that alcohol should not be applied straight to wounded tissue as it’s damaging to new cell growth.

  26. Gerald Herd says:

    OK now I’m an OOLD codger trying to learn new tricks. I learned about Usnea and made a batch with 40% vodka.
    When I finished I was able to get less than 2 oz liquid back to bottle. I am going to try another using your 3 day
    method and I wonder if that shrinkage is normal and would it ruin the product if I used more vodka in order to end
    with more liquid at the end?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, it does soak up a good bit of the liquid, but I’ve had the best results when I finely chop the usnea and even try powdering it in a coffee grinder before covering it in alcohol. Also, squeezing it as hard as possible, even pressing it between two flat plates, can help to extract all the liquid out of it. You can add more alcohol to it, but know that it will lessen the strength of the final product resulting in you needing to use larger doses. Hope that helps, and let me know if you have any other questions!

  27. Gerald says:

    Last year Alicia ask where she could buy Usnia. I’m also in Texas but it won’t be found in central Texas. I got mine from Monterey Bay Spice Co. Rather expensive. Would be nice to go to the woods gather my own.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I know Mountain Rose Herbs sells it. I’m not sure how that price compares to Monterey Bay Spice Co. though.

  28. DorA says:

    Thank you for sharing this recipe. I just completed the 1:5, 3-day method (actually turned into 4 days…oops) but the result is a thick, muddy mess and it’s not draining into a usable tincture. Should I add more alcohol or how would you suggest I remedy this?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Try straining it through a fine-mesh sieve first and then strain the resulting liquid through a coffee filter. The sieve will remove the larger herb particles, and the coffee filter will remove any smaller particles that get through. Hope that helps!

  29. Margaret says:

    Hi Meagan,
    Thanks for this super informative and very funny post. You have probably saved me a world of hurt!!!
    After a recent storm I was harvesting usnea from a fallen branch. The lichen was wrapped around the limb and I had to unwind it. As I was almost done, something bit/stung/stabbed me and it really hurt!!! My hand swelled a bit around the bite/sting. It hurt less over time after 24 hours l the pain and swelling were gone. No harm. no foul! I’ve searched the internet for info on what this critter could be, to no avail. It it February in the PNW, big snowstorm, lots of snow on the ground, freezing temperatures. What could be living? This raised the question for me of how to prepare usnea before I grind and tincture it. Do I rinse it off in water? No one seems to talk about this stage, so I’m confused. Thanks!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      As far as cleaning and preparing fresh herbs for use goes, I think it depends on how you’re using it and what herb it is. For usnea, you can give it a good shake and let it sit for several hours after harvesting so anything can crawl off it. If you’re using it for an infused oil, you won’t want to wash it with anything. However, if you’re tincturing it, you can gently rinse it under running water to remove bugs, dirt, and debris. Hope that’s helpful!

  30. Margaret says:

    Thanks! Yes it is helpful and very timely too. I just finished walking around the property and picking up the last bits and am set to do the 2 step process for tincturing. I still don’t know what bit me, but that may be a long lasting mystery! LOL. Thanks for this great site. It is very informative and lots of fun. Margaret

  31. Tina says:

    Hi! I was wondering if you had any ideas how to heat extract usnea without a crockpot, I live off grid and cannot use a crockpot.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      You can decoct it on the stove with hot water, and then pour the usnea and water into a jar, add your alcohol to it, and let it sit for 4-6 weeks. That will work great if you have the time!

  32. Nicole says:

    Meagan, I ran across this post, and I thought I’d tell you how I’ve been tincturing Usnea. Hot extractions just put me off for reasons I can’t quite explain, so I tend to shy away from them. However, I know Usnea is one of those things that tend to try to force your hand. I garden quite a bit, and I start my own plants with seed heating mats and grow lights. One day, I had a bit of an epiphany and I decided to wrap a seed mat (like a low powered heating pad) around the jar of Usnea and vodka. I used a clothespin to keep it in place, and walked away. For 8 weeks. I came back to a lovely brown tincture. The mat kept the tincture at 90-100 degrees the whole time. It was perfect!

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Interesting, Nicole. Thanks for sharing. Perhaps a consistent 80-100 degrees isn’t enough to build up pressure from the alcohol inside the jar. I do think I’d still open the lid every day or two, just to be on the safe side. You never know! Anyway, that definitely sounds like an easier way to get the hot extraction process. I’ll have to order some seed mats and give that a try with my next usnea tincture.

  33. Cindy Szymandera says:

    Hello! I attempted the Method 2: Double Phase 7-Day Crockpot Usnea Tincture the other day and ran into a problem. My crockpots don’t seem to go under 120 for the first hour and afterwards range up to 130-140 on warm (higher on low heat), so I was afraid this might be too high? Is there a maximum temperature it should not exceed during both the water and alcohol heat extraction phases? Anyways, so I opted to use my excalibur dehydrator since I could set the exact temperature. I opted for 104 degrees – not sure why but I think I read somewhere this was a good temp but cannot find now where I read that! In a facebook group I am in, another herbalist advised she let the usnea and water infuse for 48hrs versus 24hrs so I thought this might be stronger and why not. However, after I took the usnea and water phase out of the dehydrator it was a beautiful red brown but also covered in fluffy pockets of grey mold. So, I am thinking this was because the temp was too low or could it be that it should not have been left for more than 24hrs or a combination of both? Any feedback would be most welcomed! TIA

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Before modern studies on how temperature affected herbs, most folk herbalists would have used natural heat sources (like the sun or placing their preparation in near a stove) to warm their herbs. These sources would have kept the temperature of preparations quite low. However, with modern inventions like the crockpot, we are able to create preparations much faster due to the higher temperatures. We’ve also learned through various studies and tests how much heat is too much for herbs (and this really depends on the herb, the plant part you’re using, the constituents you’re trying to extract from it, and how you’re extracting them). At the Herbal Academy, my alma mater, they recommend not going above 140 degrees for most preparations. I personally prefer to stick to lower temperatures when possible, but that higher temperature does provide a bit more freedom. Where alcohol is concerned, because it is flammable and your jar will combust if too much pressure builds up in it, I do not recommend heating alcohol tinctures too hot in a crockpot. Instead, the dehydrator, like you mentioned, or a heating pad may be a better choice if your crockpot gets too hot.

      As far the 48-hour water infusion goes, I do not recommend that simply because bacteria will grow in water, especially when it’s warm. Teas and infusions should be consumed within 24 hours, and decoctions should be consumed within 48 hours. A 24-hour usnea infusion is enough time to pull water-soluble constituents from the usnea, especially if you’ve ground and chopped it well. Once you add the alcohol to it, it will preserve it, and as it sits, both water- and alcohol-soluble constituents will continue to extract from the plant material. Hope that answers your question!

  34. PS says:

    One other question…Should I avoid gathering it from fallen branches…could it be possible that it was growing on poison oak and I couldn’t identify that when I harvested it from the ground?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I would recommend gathering it from fallen branches, but you’ll definitely want to distinguish between a branch and a piece of poison oak. With that said, I’ve never seen usnea grow on poison oak but only on trees.

  35. jenn says:

    This is a great post! right now i only have dried usnea. does that change the potency to measure dried vs fresh? also, my first batch of dried usnea was a lovely light green. the second batch from a different company is brown and has pine twigs and needles in it. it was work but i picked it out. it says it was wild crafted. but is it ok it’s twiggy and brown??

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’ve never heard that the potency changes between fresh and dried usnea as usnea is quite dry, even when it’s freshly harvested. As far as the brown usnea goes, I’ve never seen usnea look brown in color. Fresh and dried usnea are both green. Maybe contact the company and ask them about it. There are many different kinds of lichens, and if it was wild-harvested by someone, I’d want to make sure they harvested the appropriate kind!

  36. Kathy says:

    Will I get the same results with dried usnea?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, you can use dried usnea just as you would fresh. Both are fairly dry so using fresh or dried should yield very similar results.

  37. Friend says:

    In Buhner’s herbal antibiotics book he says to heat extract usnea in water only for 48 hours in a crockpot. Then cool and add to alcohol to continue the extraction WITHOUT heat for two weeks. Heating your alcohol extractions is a bad idea – alcohol will cook off even at relatively low heat, the vapors are also not good for you. Plus as you discovered trying to double boil a mason jar in a crock pot comes with its own set of dangers.

    The heat is only needed for the water extraction portion, it won’t make much difference to the alcohol extraction.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, you can definitely follow that method, and that’s what I do when I’m not in a rush. However, if I’m in a hurry and want my preparation finished in a week or less, I opt for the heated crockpot method. I will add that once I add alcohol to the decoction, the jar is capped so the alcohol can’t escape. This is why it’s important to remove the jar, let it cool, and open the jar to release the pressure from the alcohol evaporation. That’s also a good time to refill the water in your crockpot!

  38. Agnes says:

    I made an usnea tincture with everclear (190 proof). Once that sat for a couple months I started reading about double extractions. So I decocted the material I had already extracted in alcohol, into water. Let sit for a couple days, then combined the two. Once combined I ended up with a cloudy liquid which ended up settling at the top in a mysterious layer of gunk(?!). The gunk is the colour of usnea, it is not slimy, but is clinging to itself in a curdled like texture. There was a reasonable amount of sediment left over in my alcohol extraction, and I would assume that this is what that is… but I cannot figure out how and why for the separation! Any ideas? Did I totally ruin my tincture?..

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hmm, that sounds a bit scary to use. When you combined the usnea with water, did you do a heat decoction or just let it sit. If you did a heat decoction, it should have been fine. However, if you let the alcohol-soaked usnea sit in water for a few days, bacteria could have started growing in the water. In that case, I would toss the whole thing and start over. Hope that is helpful, and I hope your next batch turns out perfectly! Don’t give up. Try again!

    • Kimberly says:

      Hi Agnes 🙂 I used heat for my dual extraction and the same happened to me. It was my first time too. I used it for two weeks while healing a dangerous infection on my leg caused by a fungal toe nail which my ND removed. I’m floored at the power of usnea. I sprayed it on my leg and ingested it. The Doctor new and approved. It such a strong anti fungal , anti bacterial , anti Candida , anti viral etc. I’m so floored at its power. I had some string detox reactions because I’m out of balance right now but it’s all good.

  39. Jon Kerr says:

    Hi Meagan, I just came upon to your great website on making a Usnea tincture. i live on a small island off the coast of Maine and many of us use Chaga as a restorative immune boosting tea. Given the threat of Covid-19 I decided to make a chaga tincture using a Magic Butter Machines 8 hour tincture setting with Everclear alcohol. Most Chaga and other herbal tincture recipes use an a three to six week alcohol infusion. Given the urgency of the health state we are all in I want to know of others thoughts on the effectiveness of a device like the Magic Butter Machine in making alcohol and mct oil herbal tinctures in an 8 hour time period.
    Thank you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’ve heard great things about the Magic Butter machine, although, I have no experience with it myself. With that said, I’m sure the preparations that come from it are very effective as long as you’re using the right herb and the right solvent to extract the herb’s properties. For most mushrooms, you need both water and alcohol to extract both the water- and alcohol-soluble properties to get the most immune benefits. Hope you found that helpful!

  40. Johnye says:

    Greetings, new here. I started a batch on the 11th of March in Everclear, (190 proof) which I have always used prior to this batch. I cut the usnea into fine pieces before distilling. It’s already a nice light olive green. Do you think I could some of it already? My thinking is that it won’t be as strong but could be helpful with sore throat/cold issues.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, you could strain a small amount out and start using that now. I’ve heard a lot of herbalists recommending that at this time.

      • Tarang Bates says:

        Hi Meagan, thank you for this lovely thread on Unsea. I live in Australia and the macadamia nut trees in our orchard are a great place to collect Unsea….however much of what I am collecting are off old branches that are falling, is it important to somehow wash the herb before processing? I have recently purchased a cold perculator for making tinctures and I am going to use that with alcohol.

  41. Ronda Churchwell says:

    Thank you so much for the detailed and easy to follow information in this post. I just started my 3 day process in the crock put.
    I accidentally used 190 proof Everclear, so I diluted it with the appropriate amount of distilled water to get it to 100 proof, then added more usnea to make it a correct ratio. (I hope!) I’ve harvested extra usnea that I’m not ready to make into anything yet. Is there a particular way that I should store it for later use? I was wondering if it should be kept outside or inside? Dried or kept moist?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I let harvested usnea sit out on a paper towel for 2-3 days once it’s harvested to further dry it before putting it in a labeled glass jar for storage. Usnea is already quite dry, so you should have no mold issues when doing it this way. And yes, it sounds like you corrected your tincture splendidly. I hope it turns out well for you!

  42. Kathy says:

    I have the ever clear 190 proof so how much would I use with it? I have a batch macerating now. I hope I haven’t ruined it by using the ever clear.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      If you only used Everclear with no water, you’ll need to add some water to the batch to get all the beneficial properties from the herb. The easiest way to do this is to strain the usnea from the Everclear and follow directions for the Method 2: Double Phase 7-Day Crockpot Usnea Tincture. Hope this helps, and let me know if you have any other questions.

  43. Neil Fountaine says:

    I am glad to have found this thread. I purchased some Usnea Barbata off the internet as South Florida is scary searching in the woods around here and Usnea is probably not this far south. So, what I got is a sort of a grayest color 1oz bags. Seller is from Illinois and high rate positive. I am NOT displeased, just curious if this is correct. I’d hate to waste time preparing tincture with this to have no results. But, for the past week I have been chewing on about a a small cotton ball sized piece daily and than swallow after about 20-30 minutes. Before this I was taking one of Tylenol, ibuprofen or Aleve 2 to 4 times aday and now I haven’t needed them to ease the neck, back, shoulders, arms and feet this week. Coincidence, maybe? Your advice would be welcome. Thank you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I do believe there are several different species of usnea that are used in herbal preparations. I’m not familiar with all of the varieties, but I would imagine they have some differences in appearance. I recommend purchasing herbs, especially those you aren’t familiar with, from reputable herb suppliers as that’s the best way to trust that you’re getting the right herb. Best of luck!

  44. Angela says:

    Hello there! I enjoyed your post on usnea tincture making. I just finished my double decoction process and had a question. It seems like with all the methods you have tried you would know best.

    So I put my usnea in a jar, in a dark cupboard with 100proof vodka for a few months. I then strained The plant, and put it in a pot with water, reducing the liquid to 1/4 of the total alcohol amount. I simmered, then refilled the water in the pot three times. Ending up with 5oz water extraction and 20oz alcohol extraction. Strained my plant, added the cooled liquid to my alcohol. That sounds right, correct? Now when I look at my jar the two liquids seem to have separated, or as your post says, there is sediment. It’s sort of cloudy and most of it sinks to the bottom but there is a little bit floating on top. I know based on my alcohol content that it’s not spoiled already. The separation occurred Quickly after bottling. So my question is, is this normal? And should I just shake it before using? Or should I remove the alcohol, or scrap my months worth of work altogether?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hi Angela. Yes, sediment in tinctures is perfectly normal. You can leave it and give your tincture a good shake before using it. You can also strain the finished tincture through layers of unbleached coffee filters or cotton cloth to remove the sediment. Either way is fine. There are some herbalists that say leaving the sediment in your tinctures will reduce their shelf-life, so instead of the tincture lasting 5 years, it may only last 3, as bacteria can eventually feed on the sediment. Not everyone agrees on that since alcohol is a great preservative, but it really depends on how much alcohol is in the total formula. I typically strain my tinctures well, but I also use my usnea tinctures before 3 years, so I don’t worry about it all that much. Hope that is helpful!

  45. Mary M. says:

    Your recipes use fresh usnea. How would you adjust yo use dried usnea?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Fresh usnea contains very little water so you could make preparations with either fresh and dried usnea the same way. Hope that helps!

  46. Sherry says:

    Hi Meagan. Have you ever used the Instapot for making tinctures? I used it to make vanilla extract and a sleep tincture with the method attached below. It seemed to work well. I let the extract and tincture sit in a sunny window for a week then.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I do not, Sherry, simply because the Instant Pot temperature gets so hot that I’m concerned it would reduce the effectiveness of the herbs. I think making flavoring extracts is a bit different than herbal preparations though. Hope that’s helpful!

  47. Eddie says:

    Hi Meagan: I have a Soxhlet that I use for many different extractions. Some I use water first and then use a very high proof alcohol next. So basically run it twice. Do you think this would be the way to go for the Usnea?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I don’t know much about the Soxhlet. I’ve never used it, but it sounds like something that would work just fine for usnea.

  48. Cynthia says:

    Hi Megan! I have Buhners books also and am learning more about tincturing. I ordered usnea tincture from Woodland Essence last year and have used it for sore throats and my granddaughters swimmers ear infection. I also have dairy goats and have successfully healed a pretty bad laceration on one of my girls using ground usnea powder only and then my daughter in law had a goat with an abscess under the bony head plate from fighting with another goat. After going to vet and trying two rounds of penicillin and then a round of a last resort antibiotic it still did not heal. So I figured why not try filling it full of usnea powder even though I hesitated to try it at first since this was an abscess under the bone not a superficial wound or laceration. We did it and it finally healed up. I use usnea powder on lots of things now. I LOVE usnea
    So I’m going to try making my own tincture now as we have plenty of usnea on our property and we are not close to town or roads or agricultural sprays etc. My question is that I have 200 proof nondenatured ethyl alcohol. Its an organic culinary solvent. Is that to strong? My other option is a good quality locally distilled 80 proof vodka made from wheat. Which would you use for usnea tincture? I’m going with your double phase 7 day. And I learned the hard way about the the crock pot explosion on another project I did so no worries there!!.
    I decided on following your instructions because I always read the “About Me” write up on anybody I think I want to listen to. We share the exact same personality types so….I can trust you to have researched thoroughly lol. Looking forward to reading more about your journey in herbalism.

    • Meagan Visser says:

      LOL! Yes, I’ve definitely done my research! So if you’re going to follow my directions for the 7-day crockpot tincture, you can totally use the 200 proof (95%) alcohol you have as that will be diluted with water, allowing you to extract both water- and alcohol-soluble properties from the usnea. If you use a more diluted alcohol, such as the 80 proof you mentioned, you would simply add it to the usnea at whatever ratio you prefer (1:1, 1:2, 1:5), and either let it sit at room temperature for 6+ weeks or heat it in the crockpot for 5-7 days. Hope that helps. Let me know if you have any more questions!

  49. Christiane Bürkner says:

    Thank you for your article, and insights. I have never worked with hot extraction for tinctures. I guess now I must try them, to see the difference. I also never worked with Usnea, so I will have to give it a go. Thank you for your cautionary tale, and iam glad all turned out well. That could have taken a turn for the worst, if a pice of glass had ended up somewhere vital!

    Thanks and blessed be…

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Yes, you are correct! They can be dangerous so it’s very important to take things slowly and to be cautious! Best of luck when you give them a try, and thanks so much for your comment, Christiane!

  50. Ann says:

    Great information on usnea.While waiting for my Mountain Rose Herbs order,I wanted to check recipes on usnea tincture,as I’ve read that double extraction is better.
    I was wondering which recipe is actually your favorite.I have seen people actually boiling the usnea,let it steep ,then add it to alcohol and keep it for 6 to 8 weeks.
    Also,I avoid grain alcohol and have only been using potatoe vodka.I don’t like using Everclear as many consider it pure poison (plus it is gmo).I do have some polish spiritus at home that I use for sterilizing,which is 192 proof (96% alcohol).
    I am a bit confused at this point.Any ideas?
    Also,do yoo have any recipes on korean and american ginseng tinctures?I made some but not double extraction.I always use 1:5 or 1:4 ratios on my tinctures.
    Thank you

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Hey there, Ann. If you prefer to use vodka, you would cover your usnea in that and that alone seeing how it is a mixture of alcohol and water. This would make a double extraction. If you let the mixture steep for 6-8 weeks (even better if you let it steep in a warm area such as the top of your refrigerator or water tank or even on a seed warming mat) that should make a potent preparation.

      If you want to make a true double-extraction, you have to decoct the usnea in water first then add in pure alcohol (95-proof) until you get a 40-50% alcohol mixture.

      Anyway, hope that helps. And no, I do not have any ginseng tincture recipes on my site at this point, but I’ll definitely look into adding one soon.

      Let me know if you have any more questions.

  51. Lori M says:

    I live in the north Georgia mountains right on the Ga/NC state line. I saw a video about Usnea but had never heard of it. Two days later we had a big wind storm for a day and night and suddenly there were fallen branches all over our property covered in Usnea! I gathered several mason jars full and went to do more research and your site was the first that popped up. I am going to try your method for making a tincture. God is good! Thank you for all your good advice. You are an amazing teacher.

  52. Mike Bass says:

    Enjoyed reading how you make your tincture. Enjoying learning to make and use herbal treatments in place of pharmaceuticals.

  53. Kimberly says:

    Have you ever read Dr. Apelians book? I just made usnea tincture dual extracted. Two months ago I put it in vodka. Then I came down with a terrible leg infection with a fungal toe nail. It was extremely fast moving and painful. Spread up to my knee over night. I got the usnea in my cupboard and it had been 2 months so I strained it and then put it into my crockpot 2 hours. Then mixed the two and started taking it. I also boiled some fresh usnea in water for 5 minutes and drank as tea. I also had my ND remove the fungus nail. But I’m so impressed as this was the first time I’ve used it. I worked in the medical field many years and I was concerned about the leg I didn’t want ganggreen. But the infection is completely gone after 1 week! I sprayed it on my leg too to kill the staph. Not only that it detoxed the heck out of me and kicked on my weight loss. This stuff is amazing. I will forever keep it on hand. My next venture is cough syrup from camomile and pain medicine from the wild lettuce on my wall drying. I’m new at this.

  54. Mary Soyenova says:

    I’ve been making and using usnea for several years and took it during the pandemic, whenever I felt a little stuffy, along with homeopathic remedies. I’m vaccinated and boosted, and wasn’t sick even one day for the past 2 years. I also depend on mullein. I’m 80 years old and in robust good health and am so grateful to be able to forage for medicinal plants.
    Thank you for your recipe and advise.

  55. Pamm says:

    Can you address the antimicrobial properties? I purchased a tincture from another reputable company because the website said it’s very good as an antimicrobial as well. I use it as a spray for my dog’s skin. Apparently the rash is both an infection and fungal. I want to treat her with herbal methods. The vet has her on two antibiotics and a salve. I stopped the salve and use the spray and I really do think it’s clearing up faster. Can you recommend any other herbs?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      There are several antimicrobial herbs that you could use. Usnea is a great one, but herbs like olive leaf, yarrow, calendula, echinacea, osha root, etc. are all known antimicrobials.

  56. Christina says:

    Good evening Meagan and everyone, from Australia. I am thoroughly fascinated with the whole process of making herbal tinctures. Thank you for your comprehensive instructions on the different methods. And I loved reading all the comments as well. Thank you all. How amazing that God has provided all these healing plants for our benefit. Wow.
    I have just made my first usnea tincture as a double extraction and I am so pleased with it.
    However I have quite a bit of sediment at the bottom of my jar and I was wondering if there is anything I can do with this, since it is in alcohol, it should be fully preserved shouldn’t it? So could I strain off the tincture and use the remaining sediment in a salve? What do you think?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      Tinctures made with a low-percentage of alcohol (under 50%) will have a shorter shelf life. Add sediment into the mix, and there’s more of a chance of the tincture growing microbes during that time, which is why I like to strain my tinctures well to remove sediment, and thus, reduce the chance of possible microbial growth. Tinctures made with a higher percentage of alcohol (above 50%) tend to be well preserved, and there’s less chance for microbial growth. Nonetheless, I personally like to remove sediment from the liquid.

      As far as using the sediment in another preparation goes, I’ve never done that myself, nor heard of another herbalist doing it. Once the tincture has finished infusing (or macerating), the plant material is often used up and doesn’t have much else to offer another herbal preparation, and therefore, can be composted. Hope this is helpful!

  57. Julie U says:

    I have made usnea tincture the long way and left it in my kitchen cabinet for 3 months. It never turned brown. Still clear. What am I doing wrong?

    • Meagan Visser says:

      I’ve personally never made an usnea tincture without heat, so I can’t speak from experience. However, from what I know of tincturing herbs, the heat is likely the reason why an usnea tincture turns brown. So if you didn’t use heat and your tincture isn’t brown, it’s still most likely potent and effective. I do like to blend my usnea tinctures in a blender to further break the plant material down, which helps to yield a better extraction, but you don’t have to do that. I’d say go ahead and strain your tincture, bottle and label it, and use it.

  58. doug says:

    Have you heard of DMSO ? It’s an industrial penetrant but has many medical uses. My question is, since it penetrates so easily & quickly, would it make a good medium for extracting usnea compounds ? From what i read it’s not for ingestion but to use as an external medical compound. I’ve tried to find information online about using DMSO with usnea with no luck at all. Please let me know if you either have info on it of check into it to see for yourself. Thanks, doug.

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