Wild lettuce resembles something between a thistle and a dandelion. This unique plant has been used as a sedative and a painkiller for millennia.
It used to be called “poor man’s opium” back in the 1800’s, as it was considered to be opium substitute. The Hopi Indians were inducing a mild euphoric dream state by smoking the sap.
Even nowadays, water distilled from this plant is used as a mild sedative in France.
The resinous milky sap in wild lettuce contains a small concentration of pain-relieving opiates. When collected and dried, the substance is called lactucarium. Lactucin, lactupicrin, and lactucopicrin are the main active components of lactucarium.
In one animal (mice) study, researchers have shown to provide analgesic effects equal or even greater to that of ibuprofen. Lactucopicrin and lactucin have also shown to provide sedative effects in measurements of spontaneous movements of the mice.
Iranian researchers have discovered that opium lettuce was a popular sedative and painkiller before the Victorian period, which indicates that the plant has been used for ages. The Institute for the History of Science described the opium-like effects of wild lettuce in the study called “Lettuce, Lactuca sp. as a Medicinal Plant in Polish Publications of the 19th Century“.
They said although the substance showed weaker action than that of opium, it showed no side-effects. In some cases, lactucarium gave better curative results than opium. Wild lettuce doesn’t contain opium, but still, it possesses numerous characteristics that are similar to it. Besides having pain-relieving properties, it also helps cough treatment. Its effects have proved successful in the mitigation of pertussis ( whooping cough) symptoms.
Uses of Wild Lettuce
Anxiety – The mild sedative properties makes wild lettuce great for anxiety.
Sleep and Insomnia – This plant has long been used in the treatment of insomnia.
Relieves Pain and Tension – Due to its opiate like effects, wild lettuce is also known as opium lettuce. Besides relieving pain, it also causes a mild opiate like high, which makes it great for pain-relieving treatment.
For Headaches / Migraine – It is believed that opium lettuce reduces the severity and frequency of migraine headaches.
For Asthma – This plant was initially used to treat asthma. Even today, asthma sufferers say wild lettuce have helped them reduce the frequency and severity of their asthma symptoms.
As a Mild Euphoric – Its opium like effect is the most common reason why people choose this wild lettuce. Although it doesn’t contain actual opiates, this plant causes a feeling of mild euphoria similar to opiates. It is legal and provides effects similar to opiates without affecting the results of a drug test.
However, it’s not recommended to use it in a salad, as large doses of wild lettuce might cause vomiting, nausea, dizziness, and anxiety.
How to Use Wild Lettuce
A thick milky sap is released when a wild lettuce leaf or stem is cut or broken. The sap can be used in the production of alcohol tincture, whereas the flowering tops and fresh leaves can be tinctured, or dried and used in a capsule form, as teas, or smoked.
Around 1.5 gr. of sap from wild lettuce is usually infused in a tea which is supposed with a sweet taste. Around 0.25 gr. are smoked in a pipe, but it’s significantly more powerful when smoked.