Herb: Sphagnum Moss
Latin name: Sphagnum cymbilifolium
Medicinal use of Sphagnum Moss:The whole fresh plant is antiseptic. Because of its absorptive properties, it makes an excellent wound dressing and has been widely employed for this purpose in the past. Its use is said to have saved the lives of thousands of soldiers in the First World War. The moss is dried thoroughly before use. A tar extracted from the decaying moss is antiseptic and is seen as a valuable external application in the treatment of eczema, psoriasis, pruritus and many other forms of skin diseases. It is very beneficial for allaying irritation from insect bites and can also serve as a preventative to being bitten.
Description of the plant:
(11 3/4 inch)
Habitat of the herb:Wet and boggy spots, preferably on peaty soils, mostly near heather, on mountains and on moors, forming large or small patches where there is sufficient lime-free water.
Other uses of Sphagnum Moss:The fresh plant is permeated with minute tubes and spaces, resulting in a system of delicate capillary tubes that has the effect of a very fine sponge. The dried plant can absorb up to 16 times its own weight of water and so has been found to be effective when used for surgical dressings, sanitary towels, babies nappies etc. The moss can absorb moisture laterally, as well as from above, it holds onto all the moisture until fully soaked before releasing any. Thus a dressing of the moss needs to be changed less frequently than cotton wool dressings. Sphagnum moss also makes a good packing material for protecting delicate items in transit, it can be used as a cotton wool substitute and as a potting material for many species of orchid. The semi-decomposed plant, excavated from bogs, is a first rate soil conditioner and is also used in seed and potting composts. However, the extensive use of this product is leading to the destruction of many natural moss bogs, a delicate habitat that takes centuries to be restored. Small scale use of sphagnum moss peat is probably sustainable for local use but alternatives need to be sought for larger scale use.
Propagation of the herb:The plant is easily propagated by division. The whole plant can be chopped up into small pieces and each piece will grow into a new plant.
Cultivation of Sphagnum Moss:Wet and boggy spots, preferably on peaty soils, mostly near heather, on mountains and on moors, forming large or small patches where there is sufficient lime-free water.
Known hazards of Sphagnum cymbilifolium:None known
Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.