Oakmoss contains the substances lichenol, chloroatranol, and atranol to name only a few.
The essential oil has antiseptic, emollient and expectorant properties.
Oakmoss has never played a big role in herbal medicine and it is not mentioned much in the available literature on medicinal herbs.
There is still some references to its use in aromatherapy to treat a headache or sinusitis.
The fragrant substances of this lichen are widely used in the perfume industry and it is also an excellent fixative (a stabilizing or preservative agent) for other fragrances.
When oakmoss is collected for use in aromatic products it is often intermingled with tree moss (Pseudevernia furfuracea), either deliberately or as a “contaminant”. Tree moss is more aromatic than oakmoss but inferior as a perfume fixative.
In ancient times it was imported from Greece and Cyprus to Egypt and used in wrappings of embalmed mummies. Traces of the herb have been found in graves dated back to ca. 1900 B.C.
The lichen has been used as a perfume agent at least since the 1300’s.
In the 1500’s it was common throughout Europe as a fragrance material in sachets (small cloth scented bag filled with herbs and aromatic ingredients) and also in powdered form to powder wigs.
From the mid-1700’s the lichen was used in the form of tincture in (alcohol-based) perfumes.
It has been used as a leavening agent in dough making and also as a seasoning in bread (sourdough bread). Additionally it has been used instead of hops (Humulus lupulus) in beer.
Extracts of the lichen are used to some extent for seasoning in the food industry.