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Lichenized fungus, or Lichen for short, is a composite organism meaning it is two organisms acting as one, most commonly a symbiotic relationship including alga and fungus. Although they appear to look a lot like moss, they are neither a type of moss or a plant at all for that matter! They do not have roots to absorb water like plants do, however they can produce their own food through photosynthesis. Whilst fungi are normally incapable of photosynthesis, Alga contains chlorophyll, a green pigment, which allows this process to take place! Teamwork indeed.
Where do they grow?
There are about 17,000 species of lichen worldwide, some examples include Reindeer Moss, Iceland Moss (confusing given they are not a moss!) and even Dog Lichen. These highly adaptable organisms grow all over the planet; from tropical rainforests, to the driest deserts, through to snowy tundra! They can grow on most surfaces including rocks, walls, twigs, bark and even on exposed soil surfaces - and display a range of colours depending on the organisms they are made up of. Despite this incredible adaptability, they do require a long time to develop, growing only 1-2mm a year!
What are Lichen used for?
Lichen aren’t just a one trick pony, and have proven useful in many industries from medicine through to perfume. The ancient practise of making wool dye is still used today using Lichen of vivid colours ranging from Gold to Purple.
A leafshape or foliose lichen called Xanthoria parietina, could be used in the production of natural sunscreen. It contains a yellow pigment called Parientin. The pigment absorbs ultraviolet radiation which acts as a sunscreen for the algal cells inside the Lichen.
In traditional medicine, Lichen has been used to treat everything from digestive issues through to skin disorders and respiratory illness. It provides one of the richest sources of vegan vitamin D3 and is often used in vegan supplements.
Every sachet of Tonic contains 1200 IU (30UG) of Lichen sourced Vitamin D3, alongside 1500mg Vitamin C, 25mg of Zinc, and over 350mg of plant micronutrients to aid absorption.
Many of us probably have an instinctive sense of what we think the immune system...