Tree Lungwort (Lichen) – Lobaria Pulmonaria: Medicinal & Alternative Uses of the Sign of a Healthy Forest

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This isn’t the herb lungwort, which we’ll be covering next month. This is a very special lichen also called lungwort.

Tree lungwort AKA lung lichen (Lobaria pulmonaria) wowed me the instant I saw it. This is a large distinct lichen, named after its pulmonary appearance.

Tree Lungwort (Lichen) - Lobaria Pulmonaria
Tree Lungwort (Lichen) – Lobaria Pulmonaria

I first spotted it on a tree in damp woods near a creek. Beech, maple and oak are its primary hosts. Oak must be notable; folks names include oak lungs and oak lungwort. It may also show up on mossy rocks.

It’s one of the most stunning sights I’ve seen on the 100 acres, between its large size and unique appearance! It’s a good sign in regards to air quality and whether you’re in a healthy intact forest (as it’s very sensitive to air pollution and deforestation). And it’s slow growing. It can take up to 30 years to grow. These factors also mean it’s on the decline and even endangered in some areas. In some untouched old growth forests it may be common.

Medicinal Uses of Tree Lungwort

Tree lungwort is primarily said to support these body systems:

  • Digestive
  • Respiratory

Medicinal tags include Astringent, Demulcent and Expectorant. See Medicinal tag key for more information.

Common usage includes the dried lichen for a soothing expectorant for coughing children. Especially for chronic respiratory issues like bronchitis and asthma. It may be combined with herbs like coltsfoot. However, barring you live in uniquely lungwort rich woods, there are much less endangered flora that can be used for a child’s cough. One is probably right in your kitchen: thyme.

Alternative Uses of Lung Lichen

Produces an orange dye.

Growing Lobaria Pulmonaria

Having lots of oak, maple, beech, a healthy forest and healthy air may mean there’s tree lungwort in your woods.

It has been grown in a lab on microfilaments, so perhaps there’s future potential for anyone wanting to use it as a medicinal to grow a supply over time?


And the Usual Cautions:

1) Most medicinal herbs, if edible, are meant to be eaten in moderation, even sparingly. Some require extra preparation. Tannins are toxic if consumed in excess.

2) People can be allergic or sensitive to nearly any plant; try new herbs one at a time at your own risk. For instance, saponins commonly cause stomach upset.

3) For medicinal use, I must recommend receiving a diagnosis and working with a reputed health care provider. I generally do not post specific treatments and dosages because I think that is best between you and your health care provider, and ideally monitored.

4) Anyone pregnant, nursing, or taking prescription drugs should talk to a health care professional before adding new food items to their diet.

5) Many plants have look-a-likes, and sometimes they are poisonous.

#ads in References

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The Herbal Apothecary: 100 Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them

Indian Herbalogy of North America: The Definitive Guide to Native Medicinal Plants and Their Uses

Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

The Complete Illustrated Holistic Herbal: A Safe and Practical Guide to Making and Using Herbal Remedies

Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine: 550 Herbs and Remedies for Common Ailments

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