Usnic Acid

Nonessential Micronutrient

OVERVIEW

Summary

Usnea is a fungus/algae that grows on a variety of trees and is often known as Old Man’s Beard or Beard Moss due to the way it hangs from the tree trunks and branches. Usnea contains lichens (hybrids of fungus and algae), which appear to have numerous benefits including antiviral and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may even inhibit bacteria such as streptococcus and staphlylococcus. More recently, usnea is also being promoted as an effective aid for fat loss.

Where to find Usnic Acid

In its raw form before extraction, it is found as a fungus that grows on the trunk and branches of a variety of trees. It is commonly known as Beard Moss or Tree Moss. It is also found in Kombucha mushrooms or tea.

PERFORMANCE BENEFITS

Why athletes use Usnic Acid

Athletes may use usnic acid as an antiviral or antibiotic agent, under the recommendation and careful watch of their health practitioner. Some athletes may consider using it for fat loss, though they do so at their own risk, as there are no safety studies with humans for this use.

Ways that Usnic Acid can enhance Fat Loss:
  • Added to topical fat reduction creams and/or gels to allegedly help increase fat burning
  • Allegedly increase thermogenesis to increase fat loss

HEALTH BENEFITS

Signs of Usnic Acid deficiency

No deficiency conditions are known to exist.

Potential uses for Usnic Acid

Research indicates that Usnic Acid may be useful in the treatment of:

  • Sore throat
  • Minor infections
  • Athletes foot (used topically)
  • Genital herpes (used topically)

DISCUSSION

More about Usnic Acid

Usnea is a fungus/algae that grows on a variety of trees and is often known as Old Man’s Beard or Beard Moss due to the way it hangs from the tree trunks and branches. Usnea contains lichens (hybrids of fungus and algae), which appear to have numerous benefits including antiviral and antibacterial properties. Studies have shown that it may even inhibit bacteria such as streptococcus and staphlylococcus. More recently, usnea is also being promoted as an effective aid for fat loss.

But how does it work?

Usnea appears to kill bacteria by disrupting metabolic functions; in scientific terms, it causes oxidative phosphorylation uncoupling (this means it interferes with the process that links the burning of calories to the production of energy) by acting on the inner mitochondrial membrane. It also appears to have ATP-ase activity. In other words, it kills bacterial cells by cutting off their energy supply.

But what about its fat-loss effects?

Fat loss effects? Oh, yes… Well, this is where it gets a little tricky. You see, it appears most of the claims on usnic acid are based on another nutrient called 2,4 dinitrophenol, more commonly known in the supplement world as DNP. DNP apparently promotes oxidation in the electron transport system, which ultimately leads to an increase in the amount of energy lost as heat, which leads to thermogenesis and theoretically increased fat loss. Manufacturers are claiming usnic acid is a more potent oxidative uncoupler than DNP. Unfortunately, there appears to be only a limited amount of literature on DNP for fat loss. And there’s NONE on the effects of usnic acid on fat loss.

Is it safe?

There seems to be a lot of debate on this, but at Nutros, we like to stick to the facts, and the fact is there is no evidence that this compound promotes fat loss. More importantly, there’s no evidence that this product is safe (that is, it may not be). Plus, the few studies done with usnic acid used mice as subjects, not humans.

In truth

Yes, usnea is used in some deodorant and perfume products (we won’t go into our feelings about that!). However, until there’s any evidence on the safety of this stuff as well as its benefits, we suggest that anybody considering using usnic acid, for any purpose, speak to their health practitioners before doing so.

NOTES ON USAGE

Amount

For its antibiotic properties, use 2 spoonfuls of usnea 30 minutes before mealtimes. Some products contain 100 to 200 mg of usnea, but no definitive amount has been presented in any research.

Timing

If used as a part of a thermogenic (fat-burning) stack, it’s recommended to be taken in the early morning and/or 30 minutes before exercise. For antibacterial properties, use as needed. Topically, usnea can be used 30 minutes prior to and immediately after exercise.

Caution

Please consult with your health practitioner before using usnic acid.

Synergists of Usnic Acid

Often used with other thermogenic compounds or used with ingredients such as aminophylline in topically applied weight-loss products.

Toxicity of Usnic Acid

Usnic Acid has been indicated in dermatitis and eczema when used topically. There are genuine concerns about the use of this nutrient, and it has recently been indicated in a lawsuit against a manufacturer whose product containing usnic acid caused liver disorders in numerous individuals.

Bans and restrictions

None reported.

RELATED RESEARCH

  • Cabrera, C., “Understanding Herbs: Uncommon Antibiotics; Usnea and Lomatium,” Nutrition Science News .3.6 (1998).
  • Garcia Rowe, J., et al., “Some Lichen Products Have Antimicrobial Activity,” Z Naturforsch 54 (1999) : 605-9.
  • Bray, G.A., and Greenway, F.L., “Pharmacological Approaches to Treating the Obese Patient,” Clin Endocrinol Metab 5 (1976) : 455-79.
  • Cutting, W., et al., “Actions of Dinitrophenol,” Proc Soc Exper Biol Med (1932) : 1268-9.
  • Kurt, T.L., et al., “Dinitrophenol in Weight Loss: The Poison Center and Public Health Safety,” Vet Hum Toxicol 28 (1986) : 574-5
  • Al-Bekari, A.M., et al., “Mitodepresssive, Clastogenic and Biochemical Effects of (+)/- Usnic Acid in Mice,” J Ethnopharmacol 33 (1991) : 217-20.