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Mr. Smarty Plants - Possible medicinal uses of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)

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Thursday - April 13, 2006

From: Stoughton, MA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Medicinal Plants
Title: Possible medicinal uses of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides)
Answered by: Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

I recently read an article about the healing properties of Spanish Moss. It mentioned reducing bad cholesterol in the human body. What exactly are the properties in this plant that are good for you, and is it poison if you make tea out of it?

ANSWER:

Oral extracts of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides), a non-parasitic epiphyte in the pineapple family, have been found in a few studies to reduce blood glucose in laboratory animals. The compound primarily responsible is called HMG, short for 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaric acid. HMG is now featured as an ingredient in a few herbal diabetic supplements.

Spanish Moss has also been found to have some dermatological and analgesic uses.

I don't know if it would be poisonous to make a tea out of it. My brief perusal of literature didn't reveal any information about toxicity and I didn't find it listed on the toxic plant lists I looked at, but I'd prefer to know more before stating that it can definitely be consumed in tea form.

It does have a long history of uses by indigenous peoples throughout its range. The Houma Indians of Louisiana used it somehow to treat fevers, while people in Brazil traditionally used it for a variety of medicinal purposes.
 

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