Is it true that moss can dress a wound?

BBC Wildlife Magazine - - OUR WILDWORLD - Chris­tian Dunn

AIn­deed. Sphag­num mosses, which blan­ket many peat bogs and fens in the UK, are a nat­u­ral an­ti­sep­tic and were col­lected on an in­dus­trial scale dur­ing World War One and – to a lesser ex­tent – World War Two. With cot­ton in short sup­ply, en­tire com­mu­ni­ties were mo­bilised across the UK, Ire­land and north­ern Amer­ica to har­vest what was then known as ‘bog­moss’ – specif­i­cally Sphag­num pa­pil­lo­sum and S. palus­tre – with chil­dren given days off school and Scouts and Guides or­gan­is­ing for­ag­ing ex­pe­di­tions. The plants were turned into dress­ings and dis­patched to the bat­tle front, where they proved far more ef­fec­tive than cot­ton ban­dages. Wounds dressed in sphag­num were less likely to be­come in­fected, and the moss was far more ab­sorbent than any fab­ric al­ter­na­tive, thanks to a cell struc­ture that al­lows it to hold more than 20 times its own weight in liq­uid.

Though the poppy is preva­lent as the sym­bolic plant of the two ma­jor con­flicts of the 20th cen­tury, the hum­ble sphag­num moss saved the lives of count­less soldiers and should share the ac­co­lade.

Mil­lions of sphag­num dress­ings were sent to hos­pi­tals in Europe dur­ing World War One.

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