Peltigera soap

I had to use the lichen infusions in soaps.  That's just obvious.  If one can get colour from something one has to try it in soap.  I was very curious to see what I would get from the lichens in terms of colour.  So I made a few soap with the different lichen decoctions that I had.

After some thought, I decided that they would all share the fragrance of Vetiver, but I would add other essential oils that I felt would match the colour or character of the specific lichen I was using.  Vetiver is a masculine kind of scent, rather dry and I thought it was a great base scent.  I knew that there was no hope of the lichen scent to come through the soaping process on it's own.

One lichen, Evernia prunastri (Oak moss) is extensively used in the perfume industry as a fixative and base scent.  The method of extraction is a trade secret and anyway, I couldn't get hold of that, it doesn't grow here, so Vetiver had to suffice.  But other lichens also have this very distinct and generally pleasant smell and one of the benefits of using lichen as a dye is that the wonderful scent stays with the yarn or cloth through it's lifetime and every time the garment is washed the scent is very noticeable.

I started with Peltigera canina and used a recipe for the soap that I think is going to be a good one.  It contains lard which I find gives a lovely hardness to soaps in the absence of palm oil, which I have a hard time getting without even getting into the ethical issues.  I didn't expect any colour from the Peltigera and I didn't really get any.  I'm pretty sure that whatever slight colour there is, is as much a function of the essential oils as the lichen itself.  So why bother?  Well, besides satisfying my own curiosity, I thought they might be cool to try out.  The Cetraria islandica soap that we made some time ago turned out to be very popular.  And lichens have many unique components and they are still being researched for all sorts of medicinal uses.  Many have anti bacterial, anti viral and anti fungal properties.  Peltigera canina has been used as a liver tonic and cough medicine, as well as to treat urinary disorders, thrush, tuberculosis, and rabies. I wouldn't count on it as a rabies cure, though!
The recipe for the lichen soap was:

30% Olive oil
25% Lard
25% Coconut oil
15% Soybean oil
5% Cocoa butter

The water phase was Peltigera canina decoction and I scented with Vetiver, Orange and Cubea litsea.  I put some dried plant material on top of it just to make it a little bit interesting.  I didn't have the dried lichen so I used Gallium verum, Ladys bedstraw, which I had handy.  Peppermint and Lemongras. (I made a mistake, the soap in the picture is indeed scented with Vetiver, Orange and Cubea litsea, but the water phase isn't Peltigera canina.  I got my soaps a little bit mixed up, sorry about that.  The right picture of this soap is in a post dated Nov. 7 2011.)

I made four soaps with the different lichen decoctions that I had and I had a blast.  They didn't give any spectacular colours, but there was one surprise.  But I like the Vetiver scent with the variations and I think these soaps just might be the coolest gift to the biologists in the family.

Will the lichen do anything for the skin?  I don't know, but I decided to use some of the decoction in a face cream.  It's quite nice and since I have been reading some magazines with cosmetics ads I'm pretending it's one of those 100$ miracle night creams that will make me beautiful overnight.  And guess what!  It seems to work.  Overnight!  I just love the placebo effect.


  1. So simply beautiful ! I decided to soap with only al natural ingredients about 2 months ago and I am not regretting it. your site is so helpfula nd so detailed. I am so appreciative.

  2. I always love your posts. Sometimes, they even make me want to visit Iceland. Your love for your land, plants passion for nature comes through every time. Can you let us know how some of your past experiments have worked on your skin? For example - how did your salt seaweed one turn out? xox Jen

  3. Ambra, You clever girl -lichen in soap! What a gorgeous result, too...the "Ladys' bedstraw" makes a beautiful topping! Thanks for another interesting & educational post. :)

  4. I love reading your posts Ambra. They are always so informative and heart-felt. I read all your posts, but couldn't leave a comment due to the blogger issues. Luckily I am using my mom's comp and the blogger seems to be working here.
    The soap looks lovely and I particularly am in love with the pretty pink blush kind of color you got.

  5. Thanks guys! But just so you know, you're all going to be so sick of lichen by the time I'm done :)

  6. The colour is so beautiful and the topping fits perfectly. I love Your ideas.


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