This is an interesting section in which we will look at lichens and how they can be used for everyday, basically, medicinal purposes. It has not been a secret for a long time that Islandic Cetraria is widely used in various syrups or lollipops for various respiratory diseases. However, people often do not even suspect that all this is growing around us, and if they know, they are often confused, because there are around 500 different lichen species in Latvia. 60 of them are protected, so if you do not recognize the lichen, then it is better not to collect it for your own needs.
So what exactly is lichen? Lichen is a combination of fungus and algae, on average each lichen contains 5-10% algae and the rest is fungus. The fungus obtains various organic substances from the alga, at the same time the alga obtains water from the fungus and is protected from the effects of sunlight, forming a mutually beneficial symbiosis and it continues to exist.
There are different groups of lichens that can be encountered:
Krevu's claws - form a thin layer that is tightly attached to the substrate (the base on which it grows). Fine fruiting bodies can be seen on the surface.
Scale lichens - close to the base, but the edges of the lichen are slightly raised, like scales.
Leaf lichens - will already be a more developed group of lichens, it will be separable, both the base and the whole side. At the base, you will already see fungal threads that help the lichen to stick to the base.
Shrub lichens - the foliage will resemble more bushy forms - the lichen will be branched.
As you will have already noticed, lichen is a plant species that can survive practically, i.e. it will be minimally affected by weather conditions, but the environment (pollution) will have a strong influence.
Crevaceous and scaly lichens live the longest (up to 5,000 years on average), leafy and bushy lichens live less (up to 100 years on average). Creve and scale lichens grow up to 2 mm per year on average, leaf and bush lichens up to 3 mm per year.
Lichens are sensitive to environmental pollution and can be used to determine the age of a forest, cave drawings, as well as the cleanliness of the environment. Lichens do not like to live in a polluted environment, accordingly, the cleaner the environment, the wider the diversity of lichens. The science is called lichenometry. The equipment is able to determine the composition of the air at a specific time and place, but lichen shows environmental pollution in the long term, because their species diversity is greater and they occupy larger areas, the cleaner the environment.
Man, over time, has learned to use lichen for various purposes due to its availability, and it is found not only in medicine, but also in beauty care and even lichen is added to perfumes such as Chanel No. 5 and, of course, in food, yarn dyeing, magical rituals and room decoration.
If we have decided to supplement our home medicine cabinet with various representatives of the lichen species, then let's carefully familiarize ourselves with each of the lichens we need and not damage them unnecessarily. In the great diversity of species, it is often possible to make a mistake and collect other lichen species that will not provide the desired effect.