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Evernia prunastri

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===Evernia prunastri=== [“Oak moss lichen”]

FOLK NAMES: Mousse Chêne or Eichenmoss (Europe); Pflaumenflechte (Germany)

USES: Food (Turkey, Egypt, Arab, Copt), Alcohol (Europe), Medicine (Europe), Cosmetics (Europe), Dye (Europe)


Evernia prunastri was used in Turkey to make a jelly (Llano 1944b; Sharnoff 1997). Evernia prunastri, along with Pseudevernia furfuracea, was used by ancient Egyptians to make bread (Perez-Llano 1944; Uphof 1959; Sharnoff 1997). Uphof (1959) reported that the Egyptians were using it as a leavening agent for the bread, and that the use was being continued by Arabs and Copts. According to Sharnoff (1997) this lichen was actually imported to Egypt for this purpose. Perez-Llano (1944) also maintains that there was international trade in this lichen and states that in the 19th century Forstal saw several consignments of Evernia prunastri and Pseudevernia furfuracea for Alexandria coming from the Islands of Archipelago. In 1944 Perez-Llano reported that Evernia prunastri and Pseudevernia furfuracea were still being imported to Europe as a fermentative agent.

Evernia prunastri, along with Pseudevernia furfuracea and Parmelia physodes, was the main ingredient in the “Lichen quercinus virdes”, a drug used in Europe in the 15th century (Senft 1911, cited in Perez-Llano 1944). Lindley (1838) stated that Evernia prunastri was an astringent and febribuge, and recommended it for pulmonary affections. The Pharmacopoeia Universalis of 1846 lists several medicinal uses for the lichen (Saklani and Upreti 1992). And Uphof (1959) says that it is used as an old tonic for intestinal weakness.

In 1838 Lindley recorded that Evernia prunastri had peculiar power of imbibing and retaining odors, and it was of “some request as an ingredient in sweet pots and ladies sachets”. Today Evernia prunastri is an important ingredient in fine perfumes and has been harvested commercially in large quantities since the 16th century (Sharnoff 1997; Pojar and MacKinnon 1994). The lichen is harvested in south-central Europe, mainly France, Czechoslovakia, and Herogovina and Piedmont (Italy) (Uphof 1959; Sharnoff 1997). Volatile solvents are used to extract an essential oil oleo-resin from the lichen for use in perfumes (Uphof 1959). Lichen is referred to as Mousse Chêne or Eichenmoss, and the lichens growing on oak branches are reported to contain the best oleoresin for perfume (Uphof 1959). In Germany where the lichen is used for perfumery it is called Pflaumenflechte (Lange 1957). Evernia prunastri is also used in soap making, as an impalpable powder, or in the form of a resin (Uphof 1959). Evernia mesomorpha is also used in cosmetics to a lesser degree (Uphof 1959). Pseudevernia furfuracea is used in the cosmetics industry in France in the same way as Evernia prunastri, and is probably even more popular.

Evernia prunastri was used to dye wool a violet colour (Uphof 1959). Before it was used for dye it had to be treated with ammonia (probably urine). The lichen was pulped with water and ammonia, and then left to ferment for 2 to 3 weeks.

Evernia prunastri contains evernic acid and some atranorin (Brodo et al. 2001). It is worthwhile to note that although this lichen is widely harvested, it only grows about 2 millimeters a year (Stone and McCune 1990) and thus could easily be over harvested.

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