Lactuca virosa is wild lettuce and sometimes known as opium lettuce and while some report as having  psychoactive effects, it contains no opium.  Regardless,  it definitely does cool the nerves and deafen pain..  Perhaps its’ sedative properties cause some hypnotic states (dream states) for some too?

This plant grows all over the world.  It often appears in my gardens and I let her rise into a mature plant.  But, be careful, she will, like lettuce, produce many seeds that will multiple hundred fold.  Regardless, I adore this prickly weed and respect her medicinal gifts.

Humans didn’t always rely on pharmaceutical painkillers, but in the past several years, some reports indicate that 4 out of 5 people relied on a prescription narcotic to help alleviate pain. The several billion-dollar industry has boosted the percentage of people taking painkillers that are even stronger than morphine. These include include such drugs as fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, and oxycodone. The numbers grew from 17% in 1999 to 37% in 2012, according to one study. Use of strong painkillers like Vicodin and OxyContin are higher now, too. Sales of these drugs have more than quadrupled in recent years.   All these chemically produced drugs have terrible side effects some being very addictive too.

Before these drugs appear, people used willow, poppy, and wild lettuce were for pain killing.   Wild Lettuce is not only is it a pain-killer, it is also a natural sleep aid remedy, reduces inflammation and is a stress reliever.  This makes it quite a perfect ally in the world needing relief.   Here are a few of the more common pain-control uses for wild lettuce:

  • arthritis
  • painful menstrual cycles in women
  • headaches and migraines
  • pain from bruises/broken bones/cuts
  • even hangovers

Here are some other benefits:

  • Mild Diuretic: Wild opium lettuce can increase a person’s urinary flow. That’s why it is commonly used to treat urinary tract infections and edema.
  • Sleep and Insomnia Issues: Having trouble falling asleep? Wild lettuce has got you covered. This natural drug has powerful sedative properties. After a dose or two, you’ll relax which will help you slip straight into a dreamless slumber.
  • Anxiety and Restlessness Wild  lettuce has some significant anxiety reducing and relaxing properties. The mild sedation calms the nerves and eases tension in the body and mind.
  • Coughs and Asthma  If you have a chronic cough or asthma trouble, this lettuce plant can help ease your discomfort.  It helps to loosen and expel phlegm from the respiratory tract. Making it easier and more comfortable to breathe.

The main compound at work in Wild Lettuce is called lactucin, and its derivative lactucopicrin. It is found in the white milky sap of the plant.  It also contains sesquiterpene lactones.  All lettuces actually contain sesquiterpene lactones, but wild lettuce contains them in higher quantities. If you find a plant, gently cut the stalk and watch the white milk sap ooze.   This milk is what acts upon the system and is responsible for reducing stress and inflammation in the body.  Actually, Wild Lettuce gets it’s very name from the Latin word for milk, lactuca.  It is sometimes called Lettuce opium although it is not a poppy nor does it contain morphine. The more bitter the lettuce is, the more of these active compounds are present.  This might be a great reason to eat those other bitter lettuces.

These two compounds have a pain killing and anti-inflammatory effect on the immune system, because they inhibit the NF-κB protein. This protein controls the cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme, also known as COX-2, an enzyme responsible for pain and inflammation. Other pain killers such as ibuprofen work in the same or similar fashion.

Wild Lettuce is an analgesic much like acetaminophen the active chemical in Tylenol.   A recent study reported that analgesics could reduce the stress associated with social rejection. Social rejection stress, is an emotional pain felt when one feels left out or during a relationship breakdown. Social rejection stress can causes stomach aches, headaches, and have other effects like sleepless nights. The study was looking at the effects of Acetaminophen, It showed that it not only reduced physical pain, but emotional pain as well.  I think it is safe to assume an Analgesic would have a similar effect as analgesics generally dull the body (physical and emotional).    This effect can be viewed as a lessening how much one gives a damn…which is kind of at the heart of stress reduction.   While this study was not done on Wild Lettuce, we can conclude logically, as an analgesic, it can offer the same benefit.

In 1909, Beatrix Potter published The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies. The story begins with the following words: It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.” I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit. They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!   In the story, the bunnies eat the sprouted lettuce in the garden and fall fast asleep. The word “soporific” does do a good job of describing the effect. It comes from the Latin word for drowsy or sleep inducing, soporus. The Greeks and Romans referred to wild lettuce as such, as well as noting its usefulness against fevers and colds.

Medical research confirms this. We can take one example of a study of the efficacy of lettuce seed oil in treating insomnia. In a study published in 2011, 72% of participants with insomnia showed a very much or much improved quality of sleep from taking 1000mg of lettuce seed oil before bed. The tradition of lettuce seed oil as a medicine goes all the way back to ancient Egypt. It is said that it was also used for mummification.

Another study in 2005 expounded upon the specific neurochemistry involved in the analgesic and sedative properties of the active compounds found in wild lettuce. This study was specifically done in mice, but the chemistry is the same. Mice were given lactucin and its derivatives, and were then tested for their slowed responses. The results showed sedative effects for up to 90 minutes after being administered the lactucin.

The biochemical effects of sequiterpene lactones on the human body are well known. They produce sedative and relaxing effects by inhibiting the COX-2 enzyme, an enzyme responsible for stress and inflammation. The ancients knew long ago that sprouted lettuce, or wild lettuce, was soporific. That’s why it has been used as a natural calmative throughout history.

The recommended dose varies, but approximately 1.5 grams of opium lettuce sap is typically infused in a tea to be sipped for pain-killing effect.  The leaves of Lactuca virosa may be boiled in water to make a tea that has slightly sedative effects. However, it is the plant’s “milk-juice” that contains the largest concentration of active compounds.

Wild lettuce may be prepared and consumed in several ways: tea, tincture of making “balls” from the sap.

Here is one method to harvest the sap:

  1. Put leaves of the lettuce into a blender and lightly blend them (not too much).
  2. Once the leaves are blended, place them in a pot of water and bring it to a boil.
  3. After the water has turned a dark green, almost brown colour take it off the stove.
  4. Next, strain the leaves from the water by pouring the mixture into another pot through a mesh strainer. Make sure as little of the actual leaf gets through the strainer as possible.
  5. Squeeze the leftover wild lettuce extract all the water that’s still within.
  6. Put the dark green water (now empty of leaves) back on the stove and let it simmer. Let all the water boil off until there is only a paste left. This paste is concentrated wild lettuce extract.
  7. You can pour it into a small medical vial and store it in your bug out bag, medical cabinet, or elsewhere for later use.

I have created a wild lettuce tincture CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

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