Resembling a cross between a dandelion and a thistle, wild lettuce has been used as a painkiller and sedative for millennia. In the 1800s, wild lettuce was considered a substitute for opium and was sometimes called “poor man’s opium.”
The Hopi Indians smoked the sap to induce a mild euphoric dream state. Even today, in France, water distilled from wild lettuce is used as a mild sedative.
Wild lettuce contains a resinous milky sap, which contains a small amount of pain-relieving opiates. When this substance is collected and dried, it is called lactucarium. The main active compounds of lactucarium are called lactupicrin, lactucin and lactucopicrin, and have been found to have analgesic activity equal or greater to that of ibuprofen in mice.
Lactucin and lactucopicrin were also found to have sedative activity in measurements of spontaneous movements of the mice.
Used before Victorian Era
Researchers in Iran have found that opium lettuce was well known as a painkiller and sedative before the Victorian period. Thus, it is likely that it has been used for eons.
In the paper, Lettuce, lactuca sp. as a Medicinal Plant in Polish Publications of the 19th Century, the Institute for the History of Science affirmed, “The action of the substance was weaker than that of opium, but free of the side-effects, and medical practice showed that in some cases lactucarium produced better curative effects than opium”.
Despite opium lettuce not containing opium, it has multiple characteristics that are similar to it. In addition to its pain-relieving properties, it is also known for assisting with coughs. It has even been used successfully in the mitigation of whooping cough (pertussis) symptoms.
Opium Lettuce Uses
Wild Lettuce has a mild sedative effect which makes it great for anxiety.
Wild Lettuce has long been used to treat insomnia.
To relieve Pain and Tension
Wild Lettuce is also called opium lettuce because of its opiate-like effect. Not only does it reduce pain, but it has also been known to cause a mild opiate-like high. This quality makes it very useful in relieving pain.
For Migraine / Headaches
Wild Lettuce is believed to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.
Wild Lettuce was originally used as a treatment for asthma. Even now, many people claim that their use of the herb is responsible for fewer and less severe asthma-related problems.
As a mild Euphoric
One of the most prominent reasons people choose Wild Lettuce is for the opiate-like effect. Wild Lettuce causes a feeling of mild euphoria very similar to opiates, though it contains no actual opiates. Not only is this completely legal, but it also provides an effect similar to opiates without altering the results of a drug test.
Eating large doses of opium lettuce can cause nausea, vomiting, anxiety, and dizziness. So, it is probably best not to use it in a salad.
How to Use Opium Lettuce
When a stem or leaf from a wild Lettuce plant is broken or cut, it will bleed a thick milky sap. This sap can be made into an alcohol tincture, (Lactucarium) or the fresh leaves and flowering tops can be tinctured, or dried and made taken as teas, smoked or less often in capsule form.
Approximately 1.5 grams of opium lettuce sap is typically infused in tea. It is alleged to have a sweet taste. Only about 0.25 grams are smoked in a pipe. It is considerably more potent when smoked.