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Abo-Khatwa et al. 1996

Abo-Khatwa, A. N., A. A. Al-Robai and D. A. Al-Jawhari (1996). "Lichen acids as uncouplers of oxidative phosphorylation of mouse-liver mitochondria." Natural Toxins 4: 96-102.

Vulpinic acid extracted with benzene like procedure discribed by Abo-Khatwa et al (1996).

Letharia vulpina yeilded 1 - 5% dry weight of vulpinic acid. Identified as vulpinic acid according to: melting point (recrystallized in ethanol) 148 - 149 C; mass spectrum showed two prominent peaks at m/e 290 and 161 in addition to the molecular ion (M+) peak at m/e 322. NMR major peaks at 3.87 (strong), 7.27 (duplites, J=7.5, 1.5), 7.33, 7.41, 7.44, and 8.13 (duplites, J=8).

Vulpinic acid is an extracellular product of cellular origin deposited on the outer surface of lichen thalli. It is highly lipophilic, posesses ionizable groups and is capable of forming extensive hydrogen bonds.

Usnic acid, vulpinic acid, and atranorin caused uncoupling of oxidative phosphorlation. Usnic acid was most effective (1uM for complete uncoupling), followed by vulpinic acid (5uM), then atranorin (5uM).

Lichen acids known to affect: various microorganisms (gram positive), some vascular plants (spruce, pine, onion), bryophytes, lichen fungi, non-lichen fungi, invertabrates (snails, insects, mites), herbivore vertabrates.

Vulpinic acid acts as an uncoupler of oxadative phosphorlation, attacking mitochondria and gram-positive bacteria.

Abo-Khatwa et al. 1997

Abo-Khatwa, A. N., A. A. Al-Robai and D. A. Al-Jawhari (1997). "Isolation and identification of usnic acid and atranorin from some Saudi-Arabian lichens." Arab Gulf Journal of Scientific Research 15(1): 15-28.

Parmelia tinctorum is called Al-Sheba in Arabic, used as a food spice.


Extracted usnic acid from Usnea articulata and atranorin from Parmelia tinctorum. Soaked lichen for 5 days in chloroform for Usnea and benzene for Parmelia.

Filtered out residue with cheese cloth, and then twice with filter paper.

Evaporated chloroform/benzene solvent in a rotary evaporator.

Added ethanol and cooled overnight to 0-4C to percipitate out crystals.

Purified by recrystalization in ethanol.


Colour test with KOH, bleach, and sulfuric acid.

Elemental analysis of %C and %H using a Perkin-Elmer 240-B.

Melting point analysis.

TLC as described by Cluberson and Kristinsson (1970). 40x80mm precoated silica gel F254 plastic sheets, and developed with three solvent systems:

A: benzene - dioxane - acetic acid (90: 25: 4 v/v) B: hexane - diethyl ether - formic acid (5: 4: 1 v/v) C: toluene - acetic acid (85: 15 v/v)

Sheets were developed and examined under UV at wavelengths of 254 and 300 nm. They were also visualized by spraying with sulfuric acid and heating to 110C for 10 min. Mass spectra were recorded with E1 HX-100 mass spectrometer, using the direct inlet system (ion source temperature 270C, ionizing current 60uA, electron energy 70 eV). IR spectra were measured on a Perkin Elmer 1320 infrared spectrometer (2 mg/0.1mL chloroform).

NMR spectra were recorded with Varian EM-390 NMR spectrometer at 60 MC using CDCl3 as a solvent and 1% TMS as an internal standard.

UV spectra of benzene solutions of extracts (1 mg/mL) were compared to authentic samples with a Hitachi 100-80 spectrophotometer.

The mass spectra of a large number of lichen secondary compounds are described in: Huneck, S. 1974. Nature of lichen substances. In: The Lichens. eds. V. Ahmadjian and M. E. Hale. Academic Press, New York, pp. 495 – 522. Huneck, S., C. Djerassi, D. Becher, M. Barber, M. von Ardenne, K. Steinfelder, and R. Tummler. 1968. Massenspektrometrie und ihre anwendung auf strukturelle und stereochemische Probleme. Tetrahedron 27: 2707-2730.

Identification data for usnic acid and atranorin is described in Abo-Khatwa et al (1997).

Afolayan et al. 2002

Afolayan, A. J., D. S. Grierson, L. Kambizi, I. Madamombe and P. J. Masika (2002). "In vitro antifungal activity of some South African medicinal plants." South African Journal of Botany 68: 72-76.

Interviewed Xhosa traditional healers, Inyangas, Sangomas, and experienced rural livestock farmers that have been using herbs for the treatment of their animals for years.

They tested the antimycotic activity of 12 medicinal plant species traditionally used as an antifungal, including one lichen species, Usnea barbata.

One popular use: Used to treat mammary infections in cattle. Affected organ is washed several times with decoction of plant material

Other use: Ingestion and catarrh of the stomach of man. Method of preparation: Tincture or decoction taken orally several times daily.

Extracts from Usnea barbata showed the second highest activity against fungi of the 12 medicinal species tested.

Ahmadjian and Nilsson 1963

Ahmadjian, V. and S. Nilsson (1963). "Swedish Lichens." The American Swedish Historical Foundation and Museum [Philidelphia. Yearbook.] 1963: 38-47.

Interviews with Swedish elders, and some discussion of modern research. Several lichen species discussed. Mostly medicinal uses discussed.

Cetraria islandica used since 16th century for medicine, 600 lb sold annually in Sweden in 1963. Appetite stimulant, food for reducing diets. Coughs, colds, asthma, catarrh, whooping cough, chest ailments. Diabetes, nephritis, tuberculosis, cancer. Dried, ground, decoction. Sold commercially. Also used for pig feed, and as famine food. Called Islandslav. Cows mild better if fed lichen. In 1900’s was overharvested, so picking was forbidden unless used for human food. Government issued pamphlets on what lichens to eat and how to prepare them.

Usnic acid from lichen marketed commercially for bacterial and fungal skin diseases and tuberculosis. Tradenames Usno (Finland), Usniplant (Germany), Binan (Russia)

Parmelia saxatilis called stenlav. Used to remove warts. Brown boiling water dye.

Usnea spp. used for foot blisters

Cetraria islandica, Cladina rangiferina, Cladina silvatica, Cladina alpestris, Nephroma arcticum, and Stereocaulon known by Saami as reindeer food.

Airaksinen et al. 1986

Airaksinen, M. M., P. Peura, L. Ala-Fossi-Salokangas, S. Antere, J. Lukkarinen, M. Saikkonen and F. Stenbäck (1986). "Toxicity of plant material used as emergence food during famines in Finland." Journal of Ethnopharmacology 18: 273-296.

Cetraria islandica has been commonly eaten in Scandinavia, particularly in Norway and Iceland, less often in Finland. Reindeer lichen (Cladonia spp.) was eaten more rarely. Eaten not only in times of hardship, but also as a dessert jelly instead of potatoe starch. It is particularly good with acidic berries like cranberry that mask its slightly acrid taste. It was used as an emergency food for humans and livestock in northern Europe, especially Norway, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union. In Iceland the Jónsbók (law book) in 1280 mentions ‘gros’ (lichen, probably Cetraria spp. and Cladonia spp.) as a natural product that could not be collected without landowner permission. In Norway Cetraria islandica was called brödmose or broedmåså (bread moss), matmåså (food moss), or svinmåså (swine moss). But usually considered to good for animal fodder, and would have used Cladonia for that instead. Cetraria nivalis may sometimes have been collected with it. The last major collection of Iceland and reindeer moss in Finland and Sweden happened during WWI at the recommendation of the authorities.

Cetraria islandica contains lichen acids that make bread made from it bitter. It was soaked in a basic solution to remove this flavor. Traditionally the lichen was soaked in a 2% solution (thick enough to make a potato float) of birch ash. Later 0.5-1% solution of sodium or potassium carbonate was used. After removing needles of pine and the lower part of the lichen it was soaked in solution for 1-5% days. After rinsing and drying, it was ground. Cooking it for 10 min has been recommended as a pretreatment method. The pretreatments of lichen decrease its weight, and 2 kg of dry lichen produces 1 kg of processed flour. The flour was used for making bread, but also for other dishes like gruel and porridge. When bread was made, meal of rye or oats was added to improve the dough. The lichenin and isolichenin easily form a gel, and this property ment it was used for preparing desserts.

Presently Cetraria islandica is sold in health food stores in Sweden and Finland for use as an expectorant, appetizer and roborant, and to soften the gut contents. It contains mainly fumarprotocetraric and alloprotocesteric acids, a very little usnic acid.

Cetraria islandica is 50-80% carbohydrate, 3% protein, 2.6% fat, 0.75% Vitamin C (a lot!). The carbohydrate was lichenin and isolichenin, after hydrolysis 97% glucose, galactose, and mannose. Not much ash (1-2%) compared to higher plants, not much calcium, but high in ash concentrations of some elements such as aluminum, iron, nickel, Co, Cr, F, As. Absorbs some toxic elements from the environment, particularly high in lead, but also Cd and Hg. The natural radionuclides Po-210 and Pb-210 both accumulate in lichen, as well as Cs-137 and Sr-90 from nuclear test explosions. Reindeer lichen has similar composition, but less carbohydrate.

Cetraria islandica toxic to mice at 50% concentration (w/w), gastrointestinal symptoms. A little less toxic if boiled for 10 minutes, and a bit better than that if soaked in wood ash solution for two days. If both treatments were done, not near as toxic, but still killed the if fed it in high concentrations for extended periods.

Traditionally people would eat about 50% v/v which is about 25% w/w. Lichen was fed at 25% w/w, after soaking for 2 days in ash water, boiling for 10 minutes, and drying. Rats tolerated this quite well. But may have shown some signs of heavy metal poisenning from lead in the lichen.

Reindeer lichen (Cladonia spp.) was eaten more rarely in Scandinavia, not as often as Cetraria islandica. Cladonia rangiferina, Cladonia silvatica, and Cladonia alpestris were all used for food in extreme times.

If lichens are not stored dry they may start to ferment. In Sweden in 1871 115,000 kg of reindeer lichen were used to make a total of 5500 L of spirits.

Presently Cladonia alpestris is collected and sold for decorative purposes in Sweden and Finland.

Reindeer lichen contains usnic acid.

Reindeer lichen has similar nutritional composition to Cetraria islandica, but less carbohydrate

Reindeer lichen toxic to mice, gastrointestinal symptoms within 3 days of being fed 50% (w/w) lichen, even when soaked in wood ash solution and boiled.

Anderson 1925

Anderson, J. R. (1925). Trees and Shrubs: Food, medicinal, and poisonous plants of British Columbia. Victoria, BC, Charles F. Banfield.

Anderson 2005

Anderson, M. K. (2005). Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California's Natural Resources. Berkley, California, University of California Press.

Anonymous 2000

Anonymous (2000). "Patent Number 6132984."

Patented use of vulpinic acid, by TerraGen Discovery Inc., inventors Julian E. Davies, Barbara Waters, and Geeta Saxena

Antúnez de Mayolo 1989

Antúnez de Mayolo, K. K. (1989). "Peruvian natural dye plants." Economic Botany 43: 181-191.

Peruvian people use an infusion of Parmelia cirrhata is used to produce a beige-yellow dye for traditional textiles (Mullins, 1973; cited in Antúnez de Mayolo, 1989: pg 188)

Also used thalli of Ramalina spp. to produce a yellow dye (Herrera 1941; cited in Antúnez de Mayolo, 1989: pg 189)

Antúnez de Mayolo, 1989: pg 189 Teloschistes flavicans (Sw.) Norm. A mixture of two subspecies, Teloschistes vermicularis spp. solida (Sato) R. Sant. var. subsolida (Sato) R. Sant. and Teloschistes vermicularis spp. solida (Sato) R. Sant. var. solida (R. Santesson, per. comm.) is used to produce a yellow to orange dy by the weavers of San Pedro de Cajas (Junin).

Usnea barbata is used to yield a dark blue dye. (Lira 1940; cited in Antúnez de Mayolo, 1989: pg 189)

Parmelia, Teloschistes, and Usnea dye use previously reviewed in Antúnez 1976, 1977.

All dyes were tested by the author.

Arendt 1872

Arendt, R. (1872). "Lichen spirits." The Chemical News and Journal of Physical Science 26: 118.

This is a summary of the original paper published in 1872 in Chemisches Centralblatt vol. 34.

The process of making spirits from mosses and lichens, discovered by the Swedish, is now used in the northern provinces (Archangel, Pskow, Nowgorod, etc.) in Russia, the brandy exhibited by various distillers at the Russian Industrial Exhibition and was of high quality and especially liked by the English and French. It is a very lucrative industry, yielding 40% to 100% profits.

Arnason et al. 1981

Arnason, T., R. J. Hebda and T. Johns (1981). "Use of plants for food and medicine by Native Peoples of eastern Canada." Canadian Journal of Botany 59: 2189-2325.

The Iroquois rarely ate lichens, but in an emergency they would. The lichens were scraped from a tree or rock, boiled in grease; washed in ashes and water to remove bitterness before cooking. They called lichens gustaot one”ta’. Parker (1910) cited in Arnason et al (1981).

Stowe (1940) says that the Ojibwa ate moss (lichen?) growing on white pine. They dried, boiled, and used in fish or meat broth. Cited in Arnason et al (1981).

The Ojibwa used Cladina rangiferina. Reagan 1928

The Iroquois used Sticta amplissima, "mushrooms cooked and reduced to a porridge". Parker 1910

The Ojibwa called Sticta amplissima jîngwakons wakun, the lichens found at the base of old white pine were boiled until they are like scrambled eggs. Smith 1932.

Nutritional constituents are reported for Cladonia rangiferina and Cetraria islandica

Cladina rangiferina is called asa'gunink by the Ojibwa. Used to wash newborn baby: boil moss, use water in bath. Smith 1932

Gyrophora dillenni is called asine-wakunik by the Cree (Tête-de-Boule), used for difficult childbirth, plant placed on stomach. Raymond 1945.

Parker, A. C. 1910. Iroquois uses of maize and other plant foods. Bull. N. Y. State Mus. 144.

Raymond, M. 1945. Notes ethbotaniques sur les Tête-de-Boule de Manouan. Contributions de l'Institut Botanique de l'Universite de Montreal, 55: 113-134.

Reagan, A. B. 1928. Plants used by the Bois Fort Chippewa. Wisconsin Archaeologist (New Series), 7(4): 230-248.

Smith, H. H. 1932. Ethnobotany of the Ojibwe Indians. Bulletin of the Public Museum of the City of Milwaukee 4(3): 327-525.

Stowe, G. C. 1940. Plants used by the Chippewa. Wisc. Archaeol. (New Series), 21: 8-13

Aslan et al. 2001

Aslan, A., M. Güllüce and E. Atalan (2001). "A study of antimicrobial activity of some lichens." Bulletin of Pure and Applied Sciences 20B(1): 23-26.

Lichen extracts found to be active against several species of gram positive bacteria, but not against gram negative or one microfungi. Distilled water extracts were not effective, chloroform, acetone, and petrol ether were effective.

Aslan et al. 1999

Aslan, A., M. Güllüce and H. Ögütçü (1999). "An investigation on the antimicrobial activity of some lichens." Biyoteknoloji Dergisi 22(2): 19-26.

In Turkish with an English summary.

Ten lichens were tested for antimicrobial activities. These lichens were: Hypogymnia physodes, Cetraria islandica, Cetraria pinastri, Parmelia sulcata, Pseudevernia furfuracea, Lobaria pulmonaria, Cladonia furcata, Cladonia convoluta, Cladonia pyxidata, Ramalina capitata.

Extracts generally found to be active against gram positive bacteria, but not against gram negetive or fungi. Cladonia pyxidata, Cladonia convoluta, and Parmelia sulcata were found to have the strongest antimicrobial activity. Lobaria pulmonaria was found to have no activity.

Azenha et al. 1998

Azenha, G., T. Iturriaga, F. I. Michelangeli and E. Rodriguez (1998). "Ethnolichenology, biochemical activity, and biochemistry of Amazonian lichen species." Emanations from the Rainforest 1(1): 8-14.

Beaglehole and Beaglehole 1935

Beaglehole, E. and P. Beaglehole (1935). "A note on Hopi sorcery." Memoirs of the American Anthropological Association 44(Hopi of the Second Mesa): 5-10.

A First Mesa medicine woman (Hopi) used yellow rock fungus as a cure. It is applied to the cheeks to reduce swelling for toothache and swelling in the mouth

Beeson et al. 1972

Beeson, W. M., H. R. Bird, E. W. Crampton, G. K. Davis, R. M. Forbes, L. E. Harris, L. E. Hanson, J. K. Loosli, J. E. Oldfield, A. D. Tilman, J. R. Aitken, J. M. Bell, L. W. McElroy, W. J. Pidgen and W. D. Morrison (1972). Atlas of nutritional data on United States and Canadian feeds. Washington, D. C., National Academy of Sciences.

Bhattarai 1999

Bhattarai, N. K. (1999). "Medicinal plants and the Plant Research Division of Nepal." Medicinal Plant Conservation 5: 7-8.

Out of the 100 species of medicinal plant harvested in Nepal, the Nepal government has banned the unprocessed export of 9 of them, including 2 lichens Usnea barbata and Parmelia nepalensis.

Bhattarai et al. 1999

Bhattarai, T., D. Subba and R. Subba (1999). "Nutritional value of some edible lichens of East Nepal." Journal of Applied Botany 73: 11-14.

Biswas 1956

Biswas, K. (1956). Common Medicinal Plants of Darjeeling and the Sikkim Himalayas. Alipore, West Bengal, India, Supt., Govt. Print., West Bengal Govt. Press.

Blankinship 1905

Blankinship, J. W. (1905). "The native economic plants of Montana." Bulletin - Montana State College, Agricultural Experiment Station 56: 1-38.

Alectoria fremontii: "Black moss"; "Tree moss" A long, black, hair-like lichen common on various species of conifers in the mountains, used by the Indians as a famine food. Cattle said to be "Poisoned" by feeding upon it to excess in early spring. Said to be neither palatable nor very nutritious. De Smet 117; Dodge 424; Coville 87.

Evernia vulpina: "tree moss" Employed by the Indians in some sections for making clothing and bedding, as a yellow dye, a yellow paint, and for reducing inflamation of ulcers. Newberry 41; Coville 88; Chesnut 300.

Chesnut, V. K. Plants used by the Indians of Medicino County, California. Cont. U. S. Nat. Herb. 7: 295-408. Washington, 1892. (1902?)

Coville, F. V. Notes on the plants used by the Klamath Indians of Oregon. Cont. U. S. Nat. Herb. 5: 87-108. Washington, 1897. Contributions from the U. S. National Herbarium

De Smet, P. J. Oregon missions and travels over the Rocky Mountains in 1845-46. New York, 1847. Pp. 412.

Dodge, J. R. Food products of the North American Indians. Rep. U. S. Com. Agr. 1870: 404-428. Washington, 1871.

Newberry, J. S. Food and fiber plants of the North American Indians. Pop. Sci. Month. 32: 31-46. New York, 1888.

Boas and Tate 1916

Boas, F. and H. W. Tate (1916). Tsimshian Mythology. Bureau of American Ethnology, 31st Annual Report, 1909-1910. Washington, D. C., Smithsonian Institution.

Bouchard and Kennedy 1977

Bouchard, R. and D. I. D. Kennedy (1977). "Lillooet Stories." Sound Heritage 4(1): 1-78.

Bourne and Allen 1935

Bourne, G. and R. Allen (1935). "Vitamin C in lower organisms." Nature 136: 185-186.

Lichens contain vitamin C, some in the algal cells, but mostly concentrated in the centre of the fungal hyphae.

Brodo et al. 2001a

Brodo, I. M., S. D. Sharnoff and S. Sharnoff (2001a). Chapter 10: Lichens and People. Lichens of North America. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Brodo et al. 2001b

Brodo, I. M., S. D. Sharnoff and S. Sharnoff (2001b). Lichens of North America. New Haven, Yale University Press.

Brooker and Cooper 1962

Brooker, S. G. and R. C. Cooper (1962). New Zealand medicinal plants. Aukland, Unity Press Ltd.

Brooker et al. 1987

Brooker, S. G., R. C. Cooper and R. C. Cambie (1987). New Zealand Medicinal Plants. Aukland, N. Z., Heinemann.

Brough 1984

Brough, S. G. (1984). "Dye characteristics of British Columbia forest lichens." Syesis 17: 81-94.

Brough 1988

Brough, S. G. (1988). "Navajo lichen dyes." Lichenologist 20(3): 279-290.

Burkholder et al. 1944

Burkholder, P. R., A. W. Evans, I. McVeigh and H. K. Thornton (1944). "Antibiotic activity of lichens." Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 30(9): 250-255.

Extracts from 27 out of 42 different species of lichens in eastern North America were found to inhibit the growth of certain bacteria.

Burton and Cain 1959

Burton, J. F. and E. R. Cain (1959). "Antileukaemic activity of polyporic acid." Nature 184: 1326-1327.

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