Specification & Spread

Foxfeet herb — herba huperziae selaginis
Foxfeet (fir moss) — huperzia selago = lycopodium selago
Сlub-moss family — huperziaceae.

It is a perennial herbaceous evergreen cryptogamous plant 5-25 cm tall with poorly developed root system.
The stems are upright or ascending, equally dichotomous branching. Its lower and older parts are lodged.
The leaves are linear-lanceolate, entire or weakly and finely serrated, sessile, up to 9 mm long and 1-1.5 mm wide, rigid, dark green, located on the shoot in 8 longitudinal rows, spaced from the stem horizontally or directed obliquely upwards. In the sinuses of the upper and middle leaves, specialized organs of vegetative reproduction are often formed — brood buds that fall easily and give rise to new species. Unlike club-mosses belonging to the genus Lycopodium, foxfeets do not form strobilas (sporogenous spikelets).
The sporangium is small, reniform, green or yellowish. It is located in the upper and middle part of the shoot one by one in the  sinuses of the unchanged leaves.

The sporulation takes place in April – June, mature spores are scattered in July – August.

Spreading. Foxfeet has a circimboreal range. It is spread in the tundra, forest-tundra, northern forest zones and in the corresponding mountain belts of more southern latitudes. There are separate locations in the Caucasus, Kamchatka, the Kuril Islands and Chukotka.

Habitat. It grows in mossy dark coniferous (fir-spruce) forests, in tundra communities and alpine phytocenoses.
The raw material base of foxfeet is limited, since it grows in small flower beds. The annual growth of shoots is no more than 4 cm, the development of spores and outgrowth occurs slowly (14-22 years). For the protection of natural thickets and ensuring the need for foxfeet herb, it is important to introduce it into culture using the ability to grow vegetatively by cuttings or brood buds.


Foxfeet herb contains quinolizidine alkaloids (0.4-1.1%), the main of which are

  • selagin
  • annotinin,
  • lycopodine and
  • pseudoselagin.

It also contained

  • carotenoids (25 mg%),
  • resinous substances and
  • flavonoids.

Harvesting and storage of raw materials

Harvesting. The harvesting of the aerial part is conducted in August – September, cutting off the green and yellowing parts of the shoots up to 20 cm in length with a sharp knife or scissors and leaving the leafless brown part.

Security measures. Foxfeet herb should be collected carefully, without damaging the plant root system and the bases of the shoots. For the preservation and rational use of natural thickets it is necessary to leave at least 5-10 shoots in each flower bed. The repeated harvesting on the same flower beds is allowed not earlier than in 6-10 years, since even small annual harvestings of foxfeet greatly deplete its natural resources.

Drying. It is dried in a dryer at 50 ºС with good ventilation, spreading the raw material in a thin layer of 1-2 plants on a cloth or paper. The air drying in the shade, under sheds, in attics with good ventilation is also permissible.

The raw materials are whole or partially minced leafy above-ground shoots which are up to 20 cm long with sporangium, single leaves and brood buds.
Foxfeet is characterized by the presence of white brim and papillary outgrowths on the leaves, which distinguishes it from the common club-moss (Lycopodium clavatum L.) and the stiff club-moss (Lycopodium annotinum L.).

Properties and application

Foxfeet has long been used in traditional medicine as soothing, pain killer, laxative and emetic agent, but due to the significant toxicity of preparations from this plant, it is better not to use it.
Foxfeet received great popularity as a means of getting rid of chronic alcoholism.
The treatment is carried out only in stationary conditions by narcologists by a special technique. Acceptance of foxfeet herb tea causes a general painful condition, severe repeated vomiting, salivation, sweating, lowering blood pressure, arrhythmia, muscle fibrillation and slowing of breathing. While taking alcohol or smoking tobacco, these symptoms are intensified. Under the action of decoction of foxfeet herb, patients develop a persistent gag reflex to receive alcohol and thus create an aversion to alcohol.
Similarly, foxfeet herb can be used to treat nicotineism.

In Russia (in the Far East) foxfeet is used for infertility. Outwardly, it is used to treat conjunctivitis, baldness, various skin diseases – dermatitis, eczema, psoriasis, etc. In Chinese medicine, foxfeet is also useful for getting rid of infertility, blood pathologies, tumor processes, improving the condition of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, as well as for the treatment of helminth infections.

Thyrotoxicosis, diabetes, cardiosclerosis, liver and kidney diseases, gastric ulcer, tuberculosis, asthma, hypertension, epilepsy, atherosclerosis of cerebral vessels, pregnancy lactation. It is also forbidden to use the plant for cosmetic purposes.