"Mattioli says about the lungwort: another mossy plant like lichen grows on the trunks of oaks and other wild trees in the dense woods, larger, parched and dry, coloured green above and yellowish below, with many blotches that make it look like a human lung; this is why many call it lungwort. Some people use it, trusting perhaps more in the name than in its effective properties, for pulmonary ulcers and blood spitting, for which it can easily be of benefit since it is so dry and astringent; others praise its capacity for healing wounds and ulcers of the genitals and also for stemming women’s fluxes, and they say it is very successful in this, and also for dysentery and choleric vomiting." (f. 70v).
This lichen, like all such organisms, is the symbiosis of a fungus and an alga. It grows throughout Europe on tree trunks in deciduous forests. According to the doctrine of signatures, its similarity to the lobes of the lung signalled its beneficial effects for respiratory diseases. Its cooking water was a folk remedy despite being bitter and toxic. Towards the middle of the twentieth century, some lichen products were successfully employed in medicine, although they stopped being used because of other toxic components.
Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid
(Excerpt from the study book of Mattioli's Dioscorides illustrated by Cibo)