Lichens for colorants

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Hi all, I have started down another rabbit hole of soap colorants (maybe) and have been collecting lichens from my woods to experiment. A search for lichens in this forum lead me to this article https://www.fungimag.com/summer-2014-articles/LR2 V7I2 66-69 Dies.pdf which led me to other articles, videos, books I want to buy. (Oh, boy. I love retirement. 😬) I learned from the first article that you can do a test to see if the lichen will produce purple dye, where you scratch the surface and drop a tiny drop of bleach. If the lichen turns red (and then fades) it’s a species that will produce purple. I found several species in my woods including Umbilarica mammulata, smooth rock tripe - I am blessed to host these rock cliffs covered with these lichens.
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Happily there were enough fallen lichens on the ground to fill a container. I did not pick any lichens from the rocks. These lichens grow very slowly and could be hundreds of years old.
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Rock tripe is a purple dye producing species. Here’s the bleach drop experiment.
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We had a big windstorm in December that brought down a lot of trees, and I found another dye producing species, Flavopunctelia flaventior, or speckled green shield, on pine branches that had blown down.
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Confusingly, this species apparently interbreeds with a non-dye producing species, Flavoparmelia caperata, or common green shield. The bleach test worked on some samples and not on others, so I’m not exactly sure what I have, but I did my best to separate what I thought was the speckled green shield from the common green shield.
The rock tripe and green shields are soaking in ammonia / water baths. There was varying guidance on drying, chopping, etc., but I just put them in whole. Left to right these are rock tripe, speckled green shield, and common green shield. It looks like both green shields are turning color, so who knows.
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They will stay in there for several weeks, but the bath water has started to change color already. Then I hope to experiment with them in soap!
@deanna has an excellent article on using ammonia in soap - thank you! Ammonium hydroxide | Soapy Stuff.
There are a lot of unknowns here, and I am suspicious that the pigments in these lichens are (or will behave like) anthocyanins, the pigment in cabbage, that is pH sensitive and can make exciting colors but turns yellow / blah in the high pH of soap batter. On va voir. I will try a small sample with my precious dye bath once it is ready. If it doesn’t work, I’ll have fun learning how to dye wool and will knit somethings for my grand babies. (I’ll also have to learn to knit...🤔)
To be clear, I am not selling, this is just me experimenting. I welcome your feedback! Does anyone have any experience with lichen or mushroom dye and soap making?
 

earlene

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Sounds like a fun experiment. MY SIL went through a period of trying out all & sundry when she first started dying wool after she started weaving, and then spinning.

Might I suggest you search your local & state library system for the books of interest. I found that by doing this I was able to rule out which books sounded good, but weren't quite and the ones that I deemed definitely worth the price to add them to my permanent home library. Our tiny library doesn't carry a huge number of books, but I can reserve books from any library in our state system, and it saved me a bundle on books I otherwise would have bought and found lacking.

Another option to new, is used. There are loads of used book vendors online. (You may already do this, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. Being retired is great, but our income isn't always as high as pre-retirement.)
 
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Sounds like a fun experiment. MY SIL went through a period of trying out all & sundry when she first started dying wool after she started weaving, and then spinning.

Might I suggest you search your local & state library system for the books of interest. I found that by doing this I was able to rule out which books sounded good, but weren't quite and the ones that I deemed definitely worth the price to add them to my permanent home library. Our tiny library doesn't carry a huge number of books, but I can reserve books from any library in our state system, and it saved me a bundle on books I otherwise would have bought and found lacking.

Another option to new, is used. There are loads of used book vendors online. (You may already do this, but I thought I'd mention it just in case. Being retired is great, but our income isn't always as high as pre-retirement.)
Yes you read my mind - was planning to do exactly that. 😊 There are some used books. Our state library system is ok, but somewhat limited. I’ll definitely try. There’s also loads of info online.
 

paradisi

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Be aware that many lichens contain strong irritants and sensitizers that are stable enough to persist in the finished product. We wash all those out of yarns after dyeing but they remain in something like soap.
 
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Be aware that many lichens contain strong irritants and sensitizers that are stable enough to persist in the finished product. We wash all those out of yarns after dyeing but they remain in something like soap.
Oh no! Thank you for that intel. Do you have any good references you’d recommend? Maybe I’ll use it as wool dye.
 

paradisi

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Oh no! Thank you for that intel. Do you have any good references you’d recommend? Maybe I’ll use it as wool dye.
Not precisely.. you might have good luck searching on the Latin name of your lichen + "contact dermatitis" . A natural dyers' forum would be a good source..the one I belonged to has folded but there's probably newer ones now.

Two used in perfumery, Oakmoss and Treemoss, are only allowed in teeninecy amounts by IFRA because of sensitizing, or maybe banned outright now.

There's a botanical dermatology database the name of which escapes me but I'll update here if I find it again.
 
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Not precisely.. you might have good luck searching on the Latin name of your lichen + "contact dermatitis" . A natural dyers' forum would be a good source..the one I belonged to has folded but there's probably newer ones now.

Two used in perfumery, Oakmoss and Treemoss, are only allowed in teeninecy amounts by IFRA because of sensitizing, or maybe banned outright now.

There's a botanical dermatology database the name of which escapes me but I'll update here if I find it again.
Thanks - I’ll look too. I found this one but they don’t have the two plant families I’m looking for, but that could mean there’s no literature about them. BoDD (Botanical Dermatology Database) – Index to Plant Families.
There is some literature about lichens and contact dermatitis- mostly medical literature I can’t get for free, but I did find this article. Apparently, usnic acid from lichenized fungi is the culprit.

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paradisi

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Yes that's it.

The chemical in Oakmoss that's problematic is Atranol.

As the amounts one would need to use to get color to show in even a small batch of soap, would be very large, any possible sensitizers or irritants would be greatly concentrated.

And as so many lichens are also poisonous (they evolved those chemicals to keep from being eaten, after all), I'd personally choose not to encourage myself or anyone else to risk skin troubles or worse by using them in soap.

Plus as you note, they can be hundreds of years old; I'd bet you can come up with other, more resource-friendly as well as less possibly risky, means of coloring your soap.
 
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Yes that's it.

The chemical in Oakmoss that's problematic is Atranol.

As the amounts one would need to use to get color to show in even a small batch of soap, would be very large, any possible sensitizers or irritants would be greatly concentrated.

And as so many lichens are also poisonous (they evolved those chemicals to keep from being eaten, after all), I'd personally choose not to encourage myself or anyone else to risk skin troubles or worse by using them in soap.

Plus as you note, they can be hundreds of years old; I'd bet you can come up with other, more resource-friendly as well as less possibly risky, means of coloring your soap.
Thanks for that advice- I understand and agree about the lichens being old - I only harvested fallen lichens, especially the rock tripe. There’s YouTube video of a woman making dye from rock tripe in Norway in which plucks the lichens off of rocks. Makes me cringe.
My lichens are all soaking in an ammonia bath and I’ll continue with the experiment, and will continue to research toxicity - I may end up using it as wool dye which would also be fun, and time tested. As I mentioned, if the pigment in lichen is anthocyanin it wont last in soap anyway.
Thanks for the guidance.
 

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