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“Sexy Pavement Lichen” Not Recommended for ED

“Sexy Pavement Lichen” Not Recommended for EDXanthoparmelia scabrosa – sometimes called “sexy pavement lichen” - is said to be a “natural” treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED), but experts warn that it could be dangerous.   

Lichens are fuzzy, plantlike organisms composed of both fungi and algae. There are about 3,600 lichen species in North America, but Xanthoparmelia scabrosa is particularly common in New Zealand, where the warning originates.

As the nickname suggests, it grows on paved areas like roads and walkways. Some people try to consume it in its raw state, and some companies grind it for use in supplements.

The composition of Xanthoparmelia scabrosa is similar to the active ingredients found in ED drugs like Viagra. However, the lichen contains toxic chemicals. It might also be contaminated with animal urine, feces, lead, copper, or mercury.

It’s also possible for a product to be marketed as lichen-based, but not contain lichen at all.

One manufacturer used ground Viagra and grass clippings in its product, according to a Newsweek report.

This practice is serious, as ED drugs are not safe for all men. For example, men who take nitrates shouldn’t take ED drugs because the interaction can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

If you’re having trouble with erections, your best bet is to see a healthcare provider who can evaluate your symptoms and suggest an appropriate treatment plan. Because ED can be an early sign of other health conditions, like diabetes and heart disease, it is important to get a full medical checkup.


Rettner, Rachael

“Men Are Being Warned Not to Eat Lichen Touted as 'Natural Viagra'”

(August 20, 2019)

Hancock, Farah

“Don’t lick sexy pavement lichen - here’s why”

(Updated: August 20, 2019)

Jensen, K. Thor

“Stop Eating 'Sexy Pavement Lichen,' Scientists Warn”

(August 20, 2019)

U.S. Forest Service

“About Lichens”