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Other names
Lichenan; Moss starch
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Lichenin, also known as lichenan or moss starch, is a complex glucan occurring in certain species of lichens. It can be extracted from Cetraria islandica (Iceland moss).[1] It has been studied since about 1957.[2] Chemically, lichenin consists of repeating glucose units linked by β-1,3 and β-1,4 glycosidic bonds.[1]

It is an important carbohydrate for reindeers and northern flying squirrels, which eat the lichen wila.

It can be extracted by digesting Iceland moss in a cold, weak solution of carbonate of soda for some time, and then boiling. By this process the lichenin is dissolved and on cooling separates as a colorless jelly. Iodine imparts no color to it.[3]

Other uses of the name[edit]

In his 1960 novel Trouble with Lichen, John Wyndham gives the name Lichenin to a biochemical extract of lichen used to extend life expectancy beyond 300 years.


  1. ^ a b Perlin, A. S.; Suzuki, S. (1962). "The Structure of Lichenin: Selective Enzymolysis Studies". Canadian Journal of Chemistry. Canada: National Research Council of Canada. 40 (1): 50–56. doi:10.1139/v62-009. 
  2. ^ Cunningham, WL; Manners, DJ (March 1964). "Studies on carbohydrate-metabolizing enzymes. 11. The hydrolysis of lichenin by enzyme preparations from malted barley and Rhizopus arrhizus". The Biochemical Journal. England: Portland Press on behalf of the Biochemical Society. 90 (3): 596–602. doi:10.1042/bj0900596. ISSN 0264-6021. PMC 1202740Freely accessible. PMID 5833367. 
  3. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainGilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). "Lichenin". New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.