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Plant Information

Scientific Name: Lactuca virosa
Alternative Names: Lettuce Opium, Bitter Lettuce

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  • Bienial
  • Wild Lettuce is related to common lettuce (Lactuca sativa), and native to Central and Southern Europe.
  • It can grow to 200cm tall, the stem and leaves are purple flushed, and the leaves are less divided and more spreading – not spiny like Prickly Lettuce Lactuca serriola.
  • This is the coldest hardy of all lettuces – it has the highest latex content and nutrient density.
  • It will produce reasonable salads during midwinter - before the plant goes tough and bitter.

Culinary Uses

  • The young leaves are a good ingredient for salads.

Parts Used

  • The leaves.

Medicinal Uses. It is said that

  • "Wild Lettuce" has long been known in the world of "natural remedies" or "alternative treatments".
  • It is often referred to as the poor man's opium.
  • Lactuca virosa was used in the 19th century by physicians when opium could not be obtained.
  • It was studied extensively by the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1911.
  • They discovered two chemicals responsible for the properties of L. virosa - lactucopicrin and lactucin.
  • In the United States, this plant experienced a new increase of interest in the 1970s.
  • Today it is un-scheduled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), meaning it is legal to grow, purchase, and own without a prescription or license.
  • Wild lettuce is used for whooping cough, asthma, urinary tract problems, cough, trouble sleeping (insomnia), restlessness, excitability in children, painful menstrual periods, excessive sex drive in women (nymphomania), muscular or joint pains, poor circulation, and swollen genitals in men (priapism).
  • To as opium - make a tea or a tincture.
The information contained within this website is for educational purposes only. This site merely recounts the traditional uses of specific plants as recorded through history. Always seek advice from a medical practitioner.

Mountain Herb Estate, and its representatives will not be held responsible for the improper use of any plants or documentation provided. By use of this site and the information contained herein you agree to hold harmless Mountain Herb Estate, its affiliates and staff

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