Wild lettuce, a tall leafy plant with small yellow buds is a close relative of the domestic lettuce. Wild lettuce is also known as Bitter lettuce (because of its bitter leaves). Its botanical name is Lactuca Virosa. In Latin, Lactuca means ‘milky extract’ and Virosa means ‘toxic’. Wild lettuce is also called opium lettuce. This is because the powerful, milk-like latex in the leaves and stem of the wild lettuce is widely used as a substitute for opium in the 19th century.
Where does wild lettuce grow?
Wild lettuce is most commonly spread across North America, Australia, Pakistan, Southern England, Canada, India, and Europe.
Which part of the wild lettuce is useful?
The leaves, seeds, stem, and latex of this herb are most commonly used parts, both commercially and in herbal medicinal preparations.
How to use wild lettuce?
- The leaves can be boiled and then used as food, but can’t say it is delicious as they are a bit bitter as like other bitter lettuce varieties.
- You can rub in wild lettuce latex directly to the skin to kill the germs.
- Dried leaves, flower, and stem of the wild lettuce is used to prepare herbal tea for different ailments.
- It is used in the form of a tincture. 2-3 drops twice a day is safe for even children
What makes the wild lettuce an alternative for opium?
Lactucic acid, Lactucopicrin, Lactucone, and Lactucin are the main ingredients of Lactucarium, the white milky latex of the wild lettuce. These active ingredients of the wild lettuce bring out its sedative and pain relieving properties as just like morphine, these ingredients directly act on the central nervous system to bring down the pain.
The dosage of wild lettuce
Wild lettuce is used in the form of tincture, tea, whole smoked dried herb, and capsules. The most common types, however, include teas and tinctures. The dosage for the pain relies upon a few factors like the intensity of the pain, the age of the person and his or her general health. As of now, there is no definite dosage (with a scientific base) for the wild lettuce. Practically,
- 3 to 4 ml of tincture 2-3 times per day
- 2 to 3 cups of tea (made with two teaspoons of chopped leaves or stems of wild lettuce) per day is considered safe, effective and cause no side effects.
Therefore, if it is consumed in normal doses for small periods, wild lettuce is relatively safe. Overdose brings about drowsiness and restlessness. Excessive doses can slow down your breathing and may cause death.
Are there any safety concerns or risk factors associated with wild lettuce?
As we already mentioned, normal doses of wild lettuce for a small period is safe. However,
- Applying the milky latex directly to the skin can develop an irritation.
- The full impact of the wild lettuce in the body is not fully understood yet. Therefore, pregnant women and nursing mother should avoid using it.
- If you are allergic to Compositae family, including, ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, marigolds, etc. you can develop severe allergic reactions to wild lettuce.
- If you have a scheduled surgery stop using this herb two weeks before it. As the herb itself is a sedative, it is dangerous to take along with anesthesia and other sedative medicines used after the surgery.
- Avoid the usage of wild lettuce if you have prostatic hyperplasia and glaucoma as it aggravates those issues.
- Avoid using wild lettuce if you are already on medication for anxiety related issues or using CNS depressant medicines.
How Wild lettuce fairs in toxicity test?
Lactucarium is brown hardened milky juice(dried) of the plant which comes out when it is scratched. It is believed to contain properties to decrease gastrointestinal inflammation and relives from dyspnoea. It is also used as a laxative, diuretic, and sedative agent(due to the presence of hyoscyamine). It also decreases uterus contractions.
In the early days, desiccated lactescent juice was used as analgesic and sedative. Due to its diuretic effect, it was also used for kidney disorders, bring in relief from uterine contractures. It also helped in conditions like icterus and oedema.
In the study, it was found that Wild lettuce do have side effects if taken in wrong way. It could cause –
- Decreased bowel sounds
- Sympathetic overactivity
- Urinary retention
10 Best Benefits of Wild Lettuce
This herb was well known for its healing qualities and used as relaxing and sedating herb for thousands of years. It is rich in antioxidants. Continue reading to know the top ten health benefits of wild lettuce.
1. Helps to relieve pain
The analgesic property, along with sedative property makes wild lettuce an excellent painkiller. The action of compounds found in the lactucarium is similar to the action of morphine, which depresses the central nervous system, blunting its ability to feel the pain. Therefore, wild lettuce is beneficial for solving the following – colic pain, arthritic pain, muscle spasms, joint pain, muscle pain, and uterine cramps in women during the menstruation.
2. Helps to soothe stress and anxiety
Wild lettuce has a mild euphoric property. It is believed to have properties which inhibit nervous system’s functions. Therefore, wild lettuce is used to soothe the stress and anxiety.
3. An excellent remedy for insomnia
The sedative property of the wild lettuce makes it a good choice for the treatment of insomnia. It helps to induce and maintain the sleep.
4. Used to treat respiratory issues
Wild lettuce can be used as a natural treatment for asthma and annoying coughs due to its antitussive properties. It helps to bring down the irritation of the bronchial tubes and lungs. It also facilitates the difficulty breathing associated with asthma. Besides, it can be an effective treatment for a whooping cough and bronchitis.
5. Helps with migraines and headaches
Wild lettuce works great for treating migraines and headaches. One cup of wild lettuce tea ebbs a headache away amazingly fast. The tincture form of wild lettuce is also effective in getting rid of a headache.
6. Hardening of arteries
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which the arteries become thick and stiff, by this means, blood pressure will increase and the blood flow to the organs and tissues will be restricted. This happens due to cholesterol, fats and other substances to get accumulated in the walls of arteries. The seed oil of wild lettuce helps to regain the flexibility and elasticity of the affected arteries.
7. To treat sexual disorders
Wild lettuce helps to hold back the sex drive. Therefore, it is used to treat nymphomania – uncontrollable and extreme sex drive in women.
8. Skin care
Wild lettuce is beneficial in treating itchy, irritated chapped skin. The latex can use topically to treat minor skin related issues like infections and irritation.
9. Used in treatment of urinary tract problems
Natural diuretics are a safer alternative to diuretic medicines as they pose less or no side effects. Wild lettuce has diuretic property and can be used to treat urinary tract infections.
10. Helps in treatment of PMS (premenstrual syndrome)
Drinking a cup of wild lettuce tea helps to relieve the pain, anxiety, and uneasiness caused by PMS.