According to an article on the website for NutraIngredients- USA, a British firm, ESB Developments, has isolated what is apparently the first plant-sourced vitamin D3 from lichen. The vitamin D3 is collected from wild-harvested lichen and processed into sprays, softgels, and other products, under the product label Vitashine. Matt Broughton, a director at ESB, would like to eventually grow the lichen in large vats and harvest the vitamin D3. Additionally, he hopes to develop a powder form of the vitamin D3 that could be added to more foods. ESB recently agreed to supply its vegan vitamin D3 to Global Health Trax (GHT) for use in supplements in the US and Canada.
Vitashine is registered with The Vegan Society. According to The Vegan Society’s website this means that the product has "been checked by Vegan Society staff to ensure that they meet our criteria."
Two different forms of vitamin D are used in supplements and fortified foods. Vitamin D2, also called ergocalciferol, is manufactured through the ultraviolet irradiation of a substance called ergosterol that comes from yeast. Vitamin D2 is vegan. Vitamin D3, also called cholecalciferol, is typically made by the ultraviolet irradiation of a substance derived from sheep’s wool.
There is a question as to whether or not vitamin D2 is as effective as vitamin D3 in preventing vitamin D deficiency although several recent studies indicate that both forms of vitamin D are equally effective. You can read more about one of these studies in Vegetarian Journal. For those vegetarians and vegans who would prefer to use vitamin D3, news of this vegan source of vitamin D3 will be welcome.
Vitamin D is also produced following sunlight exposure. Sources of vitamin D2 for vegans include vitamin D2-fortified plant milks, mushroom powder, mushrooms that have been exposed to ultraviolet light, and supplements.