Usnea / Angi angi
Usnea barbata a.k.a. Angi angi in Aotearoa.
Usnea grows on trees like an "Old Man's Beard", cascading from the trees looking much like a white beard. We know that the trees are the lungs of our planet & Usnea is also referred to as "Lungs of the Forest", it's also a natural remedy that can protect our lungs from infections.
Usnea is not a plant but a lichen, which is actually a complex relationship between an algae & a fungus.
There are many types of Usnea growing all around the world and it has a long history of medicinal use in many cultures. It's known to be antibacterial, antiviral & antifungal and is used to help speed the healing of respiratory, urinary & reproductive tract infections.
I've used Usnea powdered directly onto wounds to prevent infection & speed healing (was quite extraordinary on a gnarly staph infection).
I also use it in a tincture form & as a decoction to boost the immune system or to treat sore throats, acute/chronic lung infections & bronchitis. I’ll often add small amounts to my daily infusions or bone broths for an extra immunity boost.
It can be taken internally for urinary tract infections or used in a sitz bath for thrush.
Much care is needed when gathering Usnea (as with ALL foraging). Do not rip Usnea from the trees! Usnea is very slow growing, so the best way to gather Usnea for medicinal use is to pick it up from the ground or off fallen branches. After a storm is the best time to do this.
Every time I go for a bushwalk I find loads of Usnea littering the pathways, and simply pick it up as I walk along. Make sure you're gathering from a clean site as Usnea will soak up heavy metals & contaminants in the soil.
When the Usnic acid content is high (and therefore most potent medicinally) the Usnea turns an orange color - so these are the best pieces to collect for medicinal use.
Be sure to ID accurately as the commonly named 'old man's beard' variety, or the lichens that you find growing on old fence posts are NOT the medicinal variety (which is angi angi / Usnea barbata).
I've been using Usnea a lot in natural dyeing, it creates a lovely rich reddish orange / brown color on wool.