LACTUCA VIROSA: A Natural Painkiller

Family: Astareaceae

Species: Lactuca Virosa

Common Name: Wild lettuce, Opium lettuce, Bitter lettuce, Prickly lettuce

Lactuca virosa is a biennial tall plant with a pale green central stalk, sometimes spotted with purple. The numerous, large, radical leaves are obovate-oblong, stem leaves are small and alternate,  heads are numerous and shortly-stalked, while flowers are pale-yellow.

The whole plant is rich in a milky latex that flows freely from any laceration. This latex has a bitter taste and narcotic smell. When its latex is collected, dries and hardens turning brown, and is known as lactucarium.

Wild lettuce grows best in loosely packed, well-drained soil and blooms during late summer. It grows freely in various regions of the world including Australia, America, India and southern/central Europe. It’s propagated by scattering seeds over the ground in spring. When bruised, the plant exhibits a smell very similar to that of opium poppy.

MEDICINAL PROPRIETIES

The whole plant is rich in a milky sap that flows freely from any wounds, which hardens and dries when in contact with oxygen. This sap can be made into an alcohol tincture or the fresh leaves and flowering tops can be tinctured, rather then dried, and taken as teas, smoked or less often in capsule form.

The sap contains “lactucarium“, which is used in medicine for its antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties. Lactucarium has the effects of a feeble opium, but without its tendency to cause digestive upsets, nor creates addiction.

It has been taken internally in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, neuroses, hyperactivity in children and rheumatic pain. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower. The sap has also been applied externally in the treatment of warts.

RECREATIONAL USE

The effects of smoking Lactuca Virosa include languid dream states and aphrodisiac highs. The sedative effects are said to be due to the sesquiterpene lactones found in the latex. Wild lettuce is said to facilitate entering a meditative trance states, and is a powerful tool for dream enhancement if smoked just before going to sleep.

The obtained juice can be concentrated to a resin-like mass and was smoked in the past. The latex is collected from the upper part of the plant by repeatedly cut and harvest the released sap. This sap is left to dry to obtain the final product. The information provided are informative and don’t have the purpose of encouraging the consumption of this plant extract.

 


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