Everything You Need To Know About Wild Lettuce

Everything You Need To Know About Wild Lettuce
Lactuca Virosa

Used as a substitute for opioids in the early 19th century, wild lettuce is still available today as a legal herbal remedy. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about the plant's history, potential uses, side effects, and how you can spot and prepare your own wild lettuce holistic remedy.

HAVE YOU HEARD OF WILD LETTUCE?

Nothing like the lettuce you will find in supermarkets, wild lettuce has a rich and diverse history as a holistic pain reliever. It is likely you may have never heard of this naturally growing plant before, but don’t write it off just yet—nicknamed the “opium lettuce”, that might give you some indication as to how useful it can be.

Found along riverbeds and roadsides, the plant grows mainly in parts of central Europe, the Middle East, and several states in North America. Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) is a member of the Asteraceae family, and flowers on a biannual basis. That last point is an important one, especially when it comes to the preparation of wild lettuce, which we will cover off shortly. With the key facts of the plant covered, we can move on to a more exciting topic, its potential as a versatile pain reliever.

THE PLANT HAS A LONG HISTORY OF MEDICINAL USE

THE PLANT HAS A LONG HISTORY OF MEDICINAL USE

Aside from the extensive anecdotal history of its use, there does appear to be some science behind wild lettuce’s ability to subdue pain. Research has identified the presence of two key compounds, lactucarium and lactucin. In a review published on the NCBI, researchers found that “lactucarium is a diuretic, laxative and sedative agent”, going on to add, “it has anticonvulsant and hypnotic effects as well”.

Two further studies explored the effects of lactucin. The first found that lactucin showed analgesic effects in mice that were similar to ibuprofen. The second also observed “sedative and analgesic properties” when it was investigated in albino-Swiss mice. Granted, there is some difference between rodent models and the effects on a human, but you need only look at the extended medicinal use of wild lettuce to realise there must be some correlation.

Wild Lettuce

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From a medicinal standpoint, the sap of the plant was widely used in the early 19th century as a treatment for kidney disorders and contractions in pregnant women. Later, in 1917, medical journals published the plant's ability to soothe coughing, nervous irritation, and promote sleep. Given the mildness of its side effects, wild lettuce was used when opioid medication was not suitable.

WHAT IS THE OUTCOME AND SIDE EFFECTS OF WILD LETTUCE?

WHAT IS THE OUTCOME AND SIDE EFFECTS OF WILD LETTUCE?

With wild lettuce having an analgesic impact, its uses have been broad. Ancient cultures believed it helped suppress nymphomania and hyperactivity, although many would argue the former can be a highly beneficial condition. As we already know, the Victorians used it for pain relief, but it could also be used for anxiety, cramps, respiratory ailments, and insomnia. There are even some cases of the plant's sap being applied to the skin as an antibacterial treatment, although anecdotal accounts are mixed. Some users report irritation after using the sap directly on their skin.

Unfortunately, when it comes to side effects, research into wild lettuce doesn't get a lot more comprehensive than what we have already reviewed. The study published on the NCBI noted a scenario where eight patients were admitted to the hospital for wild lettuce toxicity. Symptoms included nausea, blurred vision, dizziness, and vomiting. Recurringly, all patients recovered in a matter of days. The difficulty with this report is that it is not known how much of the plant they consumed, only that they “had ingested a great deal of the herb”. In the majority of anecdotal accounts, mild doses don’t appear to inflict any severe side effects.

SPOTTING WILD LETTUCE

SPOTTING WILD LETTUCE

We have spoken at great length about the plant’s uses and side effects, but how do you spot and prepare your own “opium lettuce treatment”? Correctly locating the herb can be difficult as it is similar to other species in the lettuce family; however, if it adheres to the following markers, chances are you have some naturally growing wild lettuce in front of you:

• Roughly 1–2 metres tall
• Leaves grow all the way up the stalk to the top of the plant
• The stalk is soft and easily penetrated by a nail or pocket knife
• Leaves have a slightly serrated edge and oval shape
• Flowers on the wild lettuce are yellow and similar in appearance to dandelions
• Flowering typically takes place between June and August; this is the optimal time to harvest

You don’t just cut it down and blend it up. What we are after is the milky sap, as this contains the compounds responsible for its benefits. To do that, we need to cut the wild lettuce plant piece by piece and scrape the fluid out of the stem. The best approach is to start at the top and break or cut the plant in one-inch intervals. As you remove each section, squeeze the sap out of the stalk and collect in a bowl or container. The fluid can either be consumed raw, or dried and processed into an extract.

HOW DO YOU CONSUME THE SAP?

HOW DO YOU CONSUME THE SAP?

The entire harvesting process can be a little tedious; fortunately, powered extracts offer a simple and effective means of experiencing wild lettuce without having to painstakingly harvest one. Products like the one available here are perfectly legal and can be added to tea for a simple but effective remedy.

It is worth noting that the sap, once dried, can also be smoked. However, expect the effects to be significantly more profound. The likelihood of severe side effects are much greater when wild lettuce is consumed this way, so never smoke more than 0.25 grams at a time.

ALL THINGS IN MODERATION

ALL THINGS IN MODERATION

As is the case with a majority of herbal remedies, the correct dosage is often overlooked. Many studies are not able to offer a specific dosage because of the variable nature of holistic treatments. The potency of wild lettuce can change from one plant to the next, as can individual human reactions. We know from the studies above that there is scientific support for the plant's pain-relieving qualities, but we also know that too much of a good thing can have negative consequences.

Always start with a low dose and work your way up to the recommended amount. This way, you can identify how you react, ensuring your experience is a beneficial one.

Disclaimer:
We are not making medical claims. This article has been written for informational purposes only, and is based on research published by other externals sources.