Cetraria islandica - Iceland moss

It is fun to use all sorts of plants in soaps.  I love to make teas and infusions with herbs that I grow in the garden and I also love to pick some fresh plants from nature.  Foraging, I guess it is called.  To me it is wonderful that one is able to walk around and pick things for free.  I guess that for those who are brought up in countries where fruit grows on trees that is just very common, but here we don't have that.

I am always careful not to pick endangered species.  My parents were both biologists and both specialized in plants so I have been brought up with a healthy respect for nature.  We don't have such variety of wild plants as more southerly countries, but we have some really nice ones.   Alpines are of course right at home here, but I don't pick those since the habitat is really delicate and it is better to pick some of the plants that grow in lower altitudes, some of them weeds.  Nettle grows here in abundance.  Angelica too.  And we have a wonderfully fragrant variety of thyme that I would love to try and capture in oil.

All plants are not equal, though.  Some plants here are foreigners that have gotten quite out of control.  They are strong and robust plants that run over the more delicate local flora.  Good examples of these thugs are the Alaska lupin and Cow Parsley.  Pretty plants, but quite a nuisance in our nature.  These two I am picking in great quantities for my daughter's (fast approaching) wedding.  Two flies in one...  Flowers for free and preventing them setting more seed.

But this post was supposed to be about something local:  The Iceland moss.  This curious plant is really a lichen.  It was traditionally been used here to feed starving people (that was the general condition back in the old days) and it is supposed to do really good things for you when eaten.  It was used in cooking for soups and stuff, but also very commonly boiled in milk and drunk that way.  It is considered antibiotic and was used for coughs and tuberculosis among other things.  Topically it was used to treat boils!  But use it in soap and you have this really nice, abrasive scrub.

The recipe I used is very simple.  For something so natural and lovely I thought Olive oil is perfect and with a bit of Coconut. So the recipe turned out to be:

73% Dark Olive oil
27% Coconut oil.

The liquid (standard Soapcalc 38%) is Iceland moss tea and crumbled Iceland moss in the soap.  SF 5%.

The stuff on top is dried Iceland moss, but that isn't such a good idea because it is very brittle.  But it looked nice!

The photo: I was very happy to get my first real soap mold. It's small,but I don't make large batches. The trivet is a 1$ find. It looks worn, but I like shabby. I really like second hand stuff I love to think who owned it before me and why they let it go.



  1. This one sounds wonderful! Let us know how it is on your skin when you try it! I am a big fan of using local ingredients. xoxo Jen

  2. Very interesting post. I had not heard of Iceland moss before. :)

  3. I'm really impressed. It just sounds so exotic, "Icelandic Moss". A great sounding name on it's own, but yours is the real deal! I've never done the "tea thing" for liquid, but I have some Catmint plants out front that might be good brewed that way. Do you find that the brewed mixture affects the smell of the soap, or does it just add skin goodies to the final soap?

  4. Jen, I thought it was going to be scratchy, but it isn't. It's a soft abrasive. The stuff on top just gets wet and soggy so I cut it off.
    Dish dash bags, thanks :)
    Becky, I have used peppermint tea in my peppermint soap and a bit of infused peppermint oil, but I still added some essential oil. But I did one interesting experiment with infused "Tension Tamer" tea. Both tea and oil and no added scent. That scent came through in a very nice and subtle way. I used about 4 tea bags each in tea/oil and let it sit in a warm liquid for some time. I haven't done "Sleepy Time" yet (I have infused the oils and have the tea frozen in the fridge, but time... you know), but I thought that would be cool as a night time bath soap


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