Iceland Moss plant - Cetraria Islandica (Parmeliaceae)

Medicinal Use of Iceland Moss – Cetraria Islandica (Parmeliaceae)


Yellow-green lichen growing in undulating, leathery tufts up to 3 in (8 cm) across.

Habitat & Cultivation

Iceland moss is native to northern and alpine areas of Europe. It flourishes in sub-Arctic and mountainous regions on rocks and on the bark of trees, especially conifers. It is harvested throughout the year.

Part Used

Whole plant.


Iceland moss contains lichen acids (including usnic acid) and about 50% polysaccharides. Usnic acid and the other lichen acids are powerfully antibiotic. The polysaccharides are antiviral.

History & Folklore

Iceland moss has been used since ancient times as a cough remedy, and has also been used in European folk medicine as a cancer treatment.

Medicinal Actions & Uses

Strongly demulcent, Iceland moss soothes the mucous membranes of the chest, counters congestion, and calms dry and paroxysmal coughs, being particularly helpful as a treatment for elderly people. Iceland moss is also very bitter and, within the gut, has both a demulcent and bitter tonic effect—a combination almost unique in medicinal herbs. It is thus of value in all kinds of chronic digestive problems, for instance irritable bowel syndrome.