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Iceland moss (Cetraria islandica)

Icelandic moss (Cetraria islandica)Icelandic moss (Cetraria islandica)

The Iceland moss has a doubly misleading name: Neither is it typical of Iceland, nor is it a moss. It is a lichen - that is, a hermaphrodite of fungus and alga that live together in symbiosis. The lichen's pads, about a hand's width high, can cover large areas, so it is called "rock grass" in Scandinavian countries. Its braun-green, leathery lobes curl up in dry conditions and form whitish green, antler-like branched forms.

Origin and cultivation.

Everywhere in the temperate latitudes of the northern and southern hemisphere this lichen is widespread - also in Germany, but here it is protected. Icelandic moss copes well with nutrient-poor sites such as mountains, bogs and tundras, but is extremely sensitive to air pollution; it is therefore rarely found near settlements. In addition, like almost all lichens, it grows very slowly. Therefore, Icelandic moss mostly comes from wild collections. Harvesting takes place in late summer; the lichen is then stored in a darkened place to dry.


In pharmacy, Iceland moss is known as "lichen" (Latin for "lichen"). It consists of up to 50 percent mucilage-forming polysaccharides, which, when taken internally, lay a protective layer over the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat and stomach and thus have an irritation-relieving effect. In addition, it has a mild antibiotic property that helps with inflammation of the respiratory tract and gastrointestinal tract. Due to its gentle effect, Icelandic moss is suitable for children and the elderly. Bitter substances are responsible for its unusual taste, which also increase appetite.

Use of Icelandic moss.

Iceland Moss TeaIceland Moss Tea
  • Icelandic moss is used for mucous membrane irritation in the mouth and throat, irritable cough, hoarseness and sore throat. Forms of administration include aqueous extracts in cough syrups and pastilles.
  • In the stomach, too, the resulting mucilage film has an irritation-relieving effect and supports the stomach lining in its function as protection against stomach acid.
  • Shower gels and deodorants make use of the antibiotic effect of Icelandic moss. It prevents bacteria, whose metabolic products are responsible for the smell of sweat, from multiplying. In addition, its tannins reduce sweat production.
  • Head dandruff is sometimes caused by a skin fungus, in which case it can be combated with a shampoo containing an extract of Iceland moss.
Here's what you should keep in mind when using Icelandic moss.

As a tea, Iceland moss is infused twice to soften the bitter taste (the first infusion is poured away after brief stirring). However, the antibiotic effect is then also greatly reduced. The second infusion is strained after ten minutes and drunk.

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