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Lettuce Bitter

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  • Botanical: Lactuca virosa
  • Family: Asteraceae
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Lettuce Bitter

Botanical

Lactuca virosa

Family

Asteraceae

Known as

Bitter Lettuce, Lactuca virosa, Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce, Laitue vireuse, Opium Lettuce, Poisonous Lettuce, Rakutu-Karyumu-So, Gift-Lattich, Wilder Lattich, Stinklattich, Stinksalat

Collection Times

August to September

Parts Used

leaves

Medicinal

coughs, insomnia, restlessness

Properties

analgesic, antispasmodic, digestive, narcotic, sedative, tonic

Description

It is a biennial herb growing to a maximum height of 6 feet. The erect stem, springing from a brown tap-root, is smooth and pale green, sometimes spotted with purple. There are a few prickles on the lower part and short horizontal branches above. The numerous, large, radical leaves are from 6 to 18 inches long, entire, and obovate-oblong. The stem leaves are scanty, alternate, and small, clasping the stem with two small lobes.

The heads are numerous and shortly-stalked, the pale-yellow corolla being strap-shaped. The rough, black fruit is oval, with a broad wing along the edge, and prolonged above into a long, white beak carrying silvery tufts of hair. The whole plant is rich in a milky juice that flows freely from any wound. This has a bitter taste and a narcotic odour. When dry, it hardens, turns brown, and is known as lactucarium.

Properties & Uses

Wild lettuce is a plant. The leaves, sap (latex), and seed are used to make medicine.

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, swollen genitals in men (priapism), and as an opium substitute in cough preparations.

The seed oil is used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and as a substitute for wheat germ oil.

Some people apply wild lettuce latex directly to the skin to kill germs.

Some people inhale wild lettuce for a recreational "high" or hallucinogenic effect.

Traditional Use

Whooping cough.
Asthma.
Urinary tract problems.
Cough.
“Hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis).
Trouble sleeping (insomnia).
Restlessness.
Painful menstrual periods.
Sexual disorders.
Muscle and joint pain.
Killing germs, when the latex is applied to the skin.

Cautions

Poisonous. Cases of poisoning caused by this plant have only been recorded very rarely. Can cause drowsiness, or if taken in excess can cause restlessness. Side effects include distorted vision, loss of balance, and in lactating women an increse , substantial, in milk production (galactagogue).

Distribution

Europe, including Britain, from Belgium south and west to N. Africa, Central Russia and W. Asia.

Constituents

L. virosa has been found to contain lactucic acid, lactucopicrin, 50 to 60 per cent lactucerin (lactucone) and lactucin. Lactucarium treated with boiling water and filtered is clear, but on cooling the filtrate becomes turbid. It is not coloured blue by iodine test solution. The usual constituents of latex are albumen, mannite, and caoutchouc.