Usnic Acid

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Information about Usnic Acid

Usnic acid is a furandione found uniquely in lichen that is used widely in cosmetics, deodorants, toothpaste and medicinal creams as well as some herbal products. 

Liver safety of Usnic Acid

Taken orally, usnic acid can be toxic and has been linked to instances of clinically apparent, acute liver injury.

Mechanism of action of Usnic Acid

Usnic acid is a dibenzo-furandione which is uniquely found in lichen (Usnea) species, which are distributed worldwide.  In vitro usnic acid has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activities, and lichen extracts containing usnic acid have been used in folk medicine externally for wound healing and athlete’s foot and internally for sore throat, toothache and fever.  Usnic acid has also found several commercial uses, largely in perfumery and cosmetic products, but also in medicinal creams.  However, usnic acid appears to be toxic when taken orally in high doses and, for instance, can cause ataxia and paralysis in animals grazing on lichen contaminated crops and grains.  Usnic acid has been purified and extensively studied in vitro and has been shown to uncouple oxidative phosphorylation in isolated mitochondria, which may account for its broad antimicrobial activity.  Uncoupling of oxidative phosphorylation by decreasing the efficacy of energy use and causing increased thermogenesis has been proposed as an approach to treatment of obesity.  However, this approach is potentially dangerous and has not been shown to be effective in causing weight loss other than by extreme toxicity.  Nevertheless, usnic acid has been used in several commercial over-the-counter weight loss products.

Herbal and dietary supplements

Chinese and Other Asian Herbal Medicines

Multi-Ingredient Nutritional Supplements

See also Nutritional supplements

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