Updated: Jan 26
This is an old post relocated to my new website. We're now located at 810 Washington Ave, in Brooklyn.
Two Things: First and foremost - WE MOVED!! Spiral Herbal Remedies now located at 48 Grand St in SoHo. Secondly... I wanted to share some info on an herbal favorite that served me so well recently. This is the stuff that revs me up - strange tidbits of information unearthed as I delve deep into the practice of herbalism. How about this for weird - this herbal remedy is composed of two completely different organisms cohabitating ... in the same body. You heard that right. Usnea - a weird name for an even weirder multi-organism - is a lichen. It is part algaeand part fungi in a mutualistic relationship, meaning both organisms benefit from their unlikely alliance. The fungus provides a solid form for the algae - which is normally floating in water - and the algae provides photosynthesis for the fungus. There's an interesting parallel to this relationship that exists in our own bodies. We too have a mutualistic relationship with microorganisms. In fact, 90% of the cells that exist on or in our body are NOT human. 90% are bacteria, virus and fungi. In the medical world, these microorganisms are called our "normal flora". The microorganisms compete for space on the surface of our skin and on the surface of our colon. In that competition they maintain a balance, no one of them overpowering the other. When they're in balance, we don't feel sick and don't have infections. What does this have to do with Usnea? Usnea it's an antiseptic, which means it's an antibiotic, an anti viral, anti fungal and anti-parasitic. I'm sure you're familiar with the downside of non- herbal antibiotics and how they affect your normal flora or what is now being referred to as your microbiome. Bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics. Bacteria easily mutate and are able to render antibiotics ineffective. Antibiotics also have a bad habit of killing off our normal flora, disrupting the delicate balance between bacteria, viruses and fungi. When bacteria are killed the other microorganism have a chance to spread out and we end up with viral and yeast (fungi) infections. The cool part about Usnea is that it doesn't kill ALL bacteria - it only kills gram negative bacteria such as Strep and Staph but not gram positive bacteria such as E Coli, which is an important part of our microbiome. Usnea is selective - which benefits our mutualistic friends. Usnea is also an anti-viral, anti- fungal and anti parasitic, so if the balance happens to be disrupted, it can take care of any overgrowth of the other microorganisms. Do you remember the last time you had a strep infection? Remember how painful your throat was? Can you recall how painful an infected cut can feel? The other amazing part of Usnea is that it also contains a painkiller. It is a beautiful mix of properties that deal with all aspects of an infection. I hate to admit that I'm human sometimes but I did have the flu or strep a few weeks ago. There were some irritants in the air of my living space that made my nose run like crazy. The constant nose blowing irritated my respiratory system, which left me susceptible to an infection. When it hit, it hit hard. My throat felt like someone was sticking a knife in it, I developed a fever and I had all-over body aches. So I mixed some of my favorite herbs together, including Usnea, and made a tea. (I'd given away or sold all of my Gone Viral Tincture, so tea it was.) As I sipped the tea, my sore throat went away immediately. Within a half hour, I felt much better. A few hours later, my fever broke. Unfortunately, my nose continued to flow. That's when I realized I needed an air filter. With that in place, everything cleared up. See below for the picture of the Usnea I found while visiting family on Cape Cod. A drive down an abandoned road had me jumping out of the car constantly to pick up fallen branch after fallen branch covered in Usnea. Usnea is like the canary in the coal mine. It's an air-pollution indicator and only grows where the air is crystal clear. The cape is great for that. It's important to only harvest usnea that has fallen to the ground. It thrives in the high branches of trees and starts to break down after a few weeks on the ground. It's not a parasite to the tree but it attaches itself to branches, using yet another organism to suspend itself in the air. The best time to harvest is shortly after a storm. Mature usnea falls off in high winds, it's profile is larger with its reproductive parts. Any Usnea growing on dead branches also lands on the ground. The usnea I found had probably been knocked down last week in that snow storm. Most of it wasn't in contact with the ground but the pieces that were needed to be discarded. Usnea is being added to my Cold and Flu tincture called Gone Viral. I am thankful to my teacher Karen Rose of Sacred Vibes Apothecary for introducing me to this lichen. I'm also grateful to the plants, fungi and lichen themselves that live around me, making themselves known just when I need them the most. Come by Spiral Herbal Remedies at Dusty Diamond Holiday Market this holiday season. Stock up on Care Packages for those you love. What better holiday gift is there than the gift of health. The market is open daily except Tuesdays and holidays. 37 Union Square West. If you prefer, just switch over to the tab on this website that says Spiral Herbal Remedies I hope you enjoy some family time over the holidays!