Herbs & Plants

Rocella tinctoria

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Botanical Name : Rocella tinctoria
Family: Roccellaceae
Genus:     Roccella
Species: R. tinctoria
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Class:     Arthoniomycetes
Order:     Arthoniales

Synonyms: Roccella,Lacmus. Orchella Weed. Dyer’s Weed. Lacca caerulea. Lacca musica. Orseille. Persio. Rock Moss. Lichen Roccella. Roccella phycopsis. Roccella Pygmaea. Turnsole. Touresol. Laquebleu.

Common Name : Cudbear,Litmus

Habitat:  Rocella tinctoria is a type of lichen. It is a thallophytic plant of the division Lichenes; occur as crusty patches or bushy growths on tree trunks or  bare ground, seashore rocks on all warm coasts and some mountain rocks.

Roccella tinctoria is a small, dry, perennial lichen, in appearance a bunch of wavy, tapering branched, drab-coloured stems from 2 to 6 inches high, springing from a narrow base. These bear nearly black warts at intervals, the apothecia or means of fructification peculiar to lichens. It is found principally on the Mediterranean coasts but other species from other localities are also sources of commercial Litmus.

Blue and Red Orchil or Archil are used for dyeing, colouring and staining. The red is prepared by steeping the lichen in earthen jars and heating them by steam. The blue is similarly treated in a covered wooden vessel. They are used as a thickish liquid for testing purposes.

Cudbear, prepared in a similar way, is also used as a dye. It is dried and pulverized, and becomes a purplish-red in colour.

The preparation of Litmus is almost exclusively carried on in Holland, the details being kept a secret. About nineteen kinds seem to be there, varying very much in value.

The lichens are coarsely ground with pearlashes, and macerated for weeks in wooden vessels in a mixture of urine, lime and potash or soda, with occasional stirring. In fermentation the mass becomes red and then blue, and is then moulded into earthy, crumbling cakes of a purplish-blue colour. The scent is like violets and indigo and the taste is slightly saline and pungent. Indigo is mixed with inferior kinds to deepen the colour.

Blue Litmus Paper is prepared by steeping unsized white paper in an infusion or Test Solution of Litmus, or by brushing the infusion over the paper, which must be carefully dried in the open air.

Red Litmus Paper is similarly prepared with an infusion faintly reddened by the addition of a small percentage of sulphuric or hydrochloric acid.

Vegetable red, much used in colouring foods, is a sulphonated derivative of orchil.

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Other Species:
Two of the chief sources of Litmus are now R. Montagnei of Mozambique and Dendrographa leucophoea of California.

Lecanora Tartare, or Tartarean Moss, was formerly much used in Northern Europe.

R. pygmaea is found in Algeria\.

R. fuciformis is larger, with flatter, paler branches.

R. phycopsis is smaller and more branched.

Inferior kinds of Litmus are prepared from species of Variolaria, Lecanora and Parmelia.

Medicinal Uses:
Part Used: The whole plant, for its pigment.

Chemical Constituents: The lichen contains a brown resin, wax, insoluble and lichen starches, yellow extractive, gummy and glutinous matters, tartrate and oxalate of lime and chloride of sodium. The colouring principles are acids or acid anhydrides, themselvescolourless but yielding colour when acted upon by ammonia, air and moisture.

The chief of these are Azolitmin and Erythro-litmin, sometimes called leconoric, orsellic and erythric acids.

The dye is tested by adding a solution of calcium hypochlorite to the alcoholic tincture, when a deep blood-red colour, quickly fading, should appear, or the plants can be macerated in a weak solution of ammonia, which should produce a rich violet-red.

Demulcent and emollient. A decoction is useful in coughs and catarrhs.

Other Uses:  R. tinctoria is the lichen from which Litmus is obtained. The lichen is boiled with water, containing chalk in suspension, and then concentrated in vacuum; it is then dried, freed from impurities and put in large vats together with the liquor and ammonia. It is kept at 25 to 30 degrees F. for two or three months and then dried and powdered.

Litmus is used officially as a test for acids and alkalis. Acids impart a red colour to blue Litmus and alkaloids cause reddened Litmus to return to its original blue. It may be used in solid or liquid forms as well as on the papers.
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Cudbear is a purplish-red powder prepared from a species of the Rocella tinctoria, Lecanora Acharius and other lichens.

Cudbear is employed for colouring purposes as a dye.It  is very difficult to extract, so the liquid preparations are rarely uniform in colour, and for this reason powdered Cudbear is generally used. The powder is made from an ammoniacal infusion of the lichen evaporated to dryness and then reduced to powder. In pharmacy it is sometimes used as a test for alkalies and acids.

It is an alcoholic or agueous preparation of a deep red colour, which is lightened by the addition of acids and changed to a purplish red by alkalies. It yields about 35 per cent of ash, mostly sodium chloride.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider


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