Wild lettuce is not lettuce at all. It isn’t even a vegetable. Instead, it’s a member of the sunflower family. Nevertheless, it is a powerful medicinal herb with many uses like treating chronic pain, asthma, and insomnia. In fact, the dried sap of this lettuce was well-known as a substitute for the narcotic opium during the Civil War. However, since wild lettuce doesn't have the same narcotic base as opium, it’s less likely to cause respiratory depression, stomach upset, constipation, and diarrhea.

This herb grows all over the world and is also known as acrid lettuce, bitter lettuce, chicory lettuce, and opium lettuce, as well as green endive, and German Lactucarium. Use of uncultivated lettuce is safe for most people. Nevertheless, do not use the herb without first checking with your physician or another healthcare professional. This article is reputably sourced and well-researched. However, the information herein doesn’t constitute medical advice and is not intended to prevent, cure, or treat, any disease.

Top Health Benefits of Wild Lettuce

Lactucin and lactucopicrin are the two active chemical compounds in wild lettuce. In his book, A Field Guide to Medicinal Wild Plants, the horticulturist Bradford Angier tells how versatile the Appalachian people found the drug. They used it as a diuretic, anti-spasmodic, analgesic, and mild sedative.

Treats pain

When nicked, the stalk of the wild lettuce plant leaks a milky substance that dries into a dark sticky latex or sap. This action is similar to how opium releases from poppies. Wild lettuce, nicknamed opium lettuce, is well-known for its pain relieving properties. It’s a favorite among people wishing to avoid opioid medications and narcotics.

Research about wild lettuce as a painkiller

wild lettuce in the bowl

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The use of wild lettuce to treat pain dates back to antiquity. Though, it’s difficult to know the exact variety of lettuces used. Some studies found that the lettuce was weaker than opium but with fewer side-effects. Documentation from the same review showed that, in some cases, lactucarium was more effective than opium. Though, many of these reports represent anecdotal evidence -- collected from informal sources. A more recent study found that the active chemical compounds in wild lettuce are as useful as ibuprofen for pain relief and also provides sedation in rats.

Wild Lettuce Leaf - 450 mg (100 Capsules, ZIN: 514665)
  • Wild Lettuce - Lactuca sativa or Lactuca verosa - (Garden Lettuce, Wild Lettuce, Great Prickly Lettuce) - Medicinal...
Wild lettuce leaf (100% Kosher Lactuca Virosa) l Natural opium lettuce...
  • 100% GENUINE PURE LACTUCA VIROSA - We do not mix or substitute with less potent Lactuca varieties. Used to make your own...
  • HARVESTED AT PEAK OF POTENCY - Our growers have decades experience with Wild Lettuce and know exactly when to harvest...
  • 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. Many people find wile lettuce works wonders for them. Some few people do not. If it doesn't...
Wild lettuce leaf (100% Kosher Lactuca Virosa) l Natural opium lettuce...
  • 100% GENUINE PURE LACTUCA VIROSA - We do not mix or substitute with less potent Lactuca varieties. Used to make your own...
  • HARVESTED AT PEAK OF POTENCY - Our growers have decades experience with Wild Lettuce and know exactly when to harvest...
  • 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. Many people find wile lettuce works wonders for them. Some few people do not. If it doesn't...

Treats menstrual cramps

hot compress put in the stomach

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Three out of four women suffer from period pain or dysmenorrhea. During menstruation, the uterine muscles regularly contract, and sometimes they don’t completely relax. This dysfunction causes a decreased blood flow to the uterus which causes the pain. The use of wild lettuce for treatment of menstrual cramps stems from the compound’s diuretic, anti-spasmodic, and analgesic properties.

Research about wild lettuce for cramps


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There are no research studies regarding wild lettuce and cramps. However, Steve Guidry, MD mentions in his book The Plant Paradox that any plants in this species are helpful in reducing inflammation, increasing blood flow, and improving nutrition — all of which are helpful in treating cramps. Other herbs are useful in treating menstrual cramps and other gynecologic conditions like menopause, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and infertility. Herbs and supplements that have more support from medical or trial-based evidence include:

  • Black cohosh for menopause
  • Vitamin B1 for cramps
  • Vitamin E for cramps
  • Calcium for PMS
  • Vitamin B6 for PMS
  • Chasteberry for PMS and cyclic mastalgia

Treats respiratory illnesses

patient assist with walker to walk

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Respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis occur when airways become inflamed or constricted. This swelling causes wheezing and stridor. As airways close, breathing becomes more difficult, and panic occurs. Evidence exists that wild lettuce effectively treats respiratory conditions such as asthma and bronchitis. Historically, doctors treated Whooping Cough with the same herbs. Several of the plant's medicinal properties benefit users with respiratory problems including anti-spasmodic, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and sedative. The last being important to relax the airways and the patient at the same time.

Research about wild lettuce and upper respiratory problems

Research studies on its treatment of respiratory illnesses date back to 1815. These studies document the ability of wild lettuce to decrease the severity of coughing fits, stop bronchial spasms, improve oxygenation, treat hysteria associated with difficulty breathing, and decrease mucus production.

Treats insomnia

As much as 35 percent of the population regularly experiences insomnia. But, all it takes to cure it is a good night’s sleep. The sedative properties of wild lettuce may aid in relaxing the body and calming an overactive nervous system. Holistic practitioners recommend treatment of insomnia and anxiety with the lettuce some call “feeble opium.” It does not decrease respiratory drive and doesn’t upset the gastrointestinal system. However, it produces a dreamy, euphoric feeling in some users. This sedative effect of wild lettuce makes it ideal for treating insomnia.

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Research on wild lettuce and insomnia

According to the journal of clinical sleep medicine, wild lettuce is useful for insomnia due to the sedative actions of hyoscyamine, lactucin, and lactucopicrin. However, while lettuce resin, tea, and powder supplements are helpful for insomnia, some researchers warn that its efficacy isn’t clear. They further caution that hallucinogenic effects occur when inhaled.

Supplementing With Wild Grown Lettuce

Wild lettuce is notoriously bitter tasting. Luckily, capsules, teas, and tinctures exist to offer users more pleasant methods of ingestion. Consider the following options for enhancing your diet with wild lettuce. We chose these products based on high ratings which correlated with positive reviews. Lastly, we used Amazon as a convenient method of comparison.

Best Botanicals Wild Lettuce Leaf Extract

Best Botanicals Wild Lettuce Leaf Extract 1 oz.
  • Crafted from Nature | Our wild lettuce leaf extract is carefully crafted with the best intentions of herbalism
  • More Calm, More Sleep | Wild lettuce leaves have commonly been used to enhance feelings of calmness and as natural sleep...
  • Easy to Take | Easily place 30-40 drops in a small amount of water 3 times daily between meals

This wild lettuce leaf extract contains no chemicals or clones. According to the manufacturer, there are no added fillers, no flow agents, and no genetically modified organisms in their ingredients. The company sources the highest quality ingredients for all of their formulas. Third-party testing confirms that the products have standard minimums of all active ingredients to create potent herbal supplements that benefit the body just like their natural counterparts.

Each amber glass bottle comes with a dropper and 1 ounce of the extract. The cost for Best Botanicals Wild Lettuce Extract is between $ and $. One customer claims the formula helps her relax with no adverse side effects while fitting her budget.

Burma Spice Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce leaf (100% Kosher Lactuca Virosa) l Natural opium lettuce...
  • 100% GENUINE PURE LACTUCA VIROSA - We do not mix or substitute with less potent Lactuca varieties. Used to make your own...
  • HARVESTED AT PEAK OF POTENCY - Our growers have decades experience with Wild Lettuce and know exactly when to harvest...
  • 100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE. Many people find wile lettuce works wonders for them. Some few people do not. If it doesn't...

According to the maker, this wild grown lettuce supplement is 100 percent pure Lactuca virosa. The company never mixes or cuts their product with less potent wild lettuce varieties. Furthermore, they harvest the ingredients at their peak. Their growers have experience knowing when the plant is at its highest potency.

Burma Spice offers a satisfaction guarantee if the product doesn’t work for you. A 3-ounce packages costs between $ and $. One customer rated the product 5 stars saying that it relieves her chronic back pain and muscle spasms.

Zazzee Naturals Wild Lettuce Extract

Zazzee Wild Lettuce Extract, 500 mg Strength per Capsule, 120 Veggie...
  • CONCENTRATED, POWERFUL, AND POTENT: Our Wild Lettuce Extract Capsules are made from a powerful 4:1 extract for extra...
  • SUPPORTS HEALTHY SLEEP AND OFFERS ALL-NATURAL PAIN RELIEF: Wild Lettuce is a favorite as an all-natural alternative for...
  • SUPER VALUE: Each bottle contains 120 veggie capsules – more than any other similar product. Plus, each capsule...

According to the manufacturer, this concentrated extract is powerful and potent. The capsules contain an extract with 500 mg of 4:1 extract. They derive the supplement from a liquid extract, not dried leaves. Purportedly, this creates a more potent supplement. The supplement is vegetarian though not vegan.

The brand reports that their extract helps insomnia by promoting healthy sleep patterns. Zazzee claims its product is a natural pain reliever. Additionally, it works for coughs, restlessness, anxiety, urinary tract problems, menstrual problems, as well as joint pain, and swelling.

Zazzee makes this product in the U.S. with imported raw ingredients. Third-party testing ensures that each capsule contains the minimum amount guaranteed. The company promises complete satisfaction or your money back.

Each bottle contains 120 vegetarian capsules and costs between $ and $$. One customer who gave the product a 5-star rating says the formulation is more effective than ibuprofen for headaches. She also says that a two-capsule dosage induces sleep within 1-hour.

TerraVita Wild Lettuce Tea

Wild Lettuce Leaf Tea (50 Tea Bags, ZIN: 514671)
  • Wild Lettuce, also known as Lactucarium, Green Endive, and Lettuce Opm., is the precursor to the common forms of...

The TerraVita brand focuses on the nutritional benefits associated with their wild lettuce tea, pointing out that it is a good source of fiber and rich in Vitamin A. Also, they state that the tea benefits users with a mild sedative and analgesic effect that is easy on the stomach. Moreover, they claim it helps with swelling as it is a mild diuretic and diaphoretic. This tidbit means it encourages fluid loss by increasing urination and sweating. It's not pleasant, but it's very helpful.

Each box costs between $ and $ for 25 tea bags containing an indeterminate amount of wild lettuce. Made in Canada, the Fine Whole Herbs company manufactures the TerraVita brand. The product has many happy customers on Amazon. One calls the tea a great alternative to over-the-counter and prescription medicines and gives the product 5-stars.

Precautions Surrounding Wild Lettuce

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Wild grown lettuce is very different from garden lettuce. For one, there are hundreds of varieties. The exact number is unknown. Many are so similar in description, only lab testing can tell them apart. Therein lies the main problem with attempting to forage your own wild lettuce. Besides, several species of wild lettuce are highly toxic.

Lactuca virosa is the species of uncultivated lettuce most supplements use. It has potent leaves and sap that some people say mimics the mighty narcotic pain reliever opium. Regrettably, this feature tempts some users to misuse wild lettuce. Maybe they hope to improve their human experience through this experimentation. However, people often misjudge their tolerance. Furthermore, studies indicate that wild grown lettuce toxicity produces the following:

  • Decreased level of consciousness
  • Agitation
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry eyes
  • Constricted pupils
  • Urinary retention
  • Hypoactive bowel sounds
  • Constipation
  • Ataxia
  • Blurred vision
  • Severe anxiety
  • Hallucinations
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Seizures

Wild Lettuce Supplements Wrap Up

There is a lot of anecdotal evidence supporting the use of uncultivated lettuce for multiple purposes. Consequently, many informal accounts inundate the Internet. Finding important human studies to back up the claims is a little harder. However, it’s not always possible to source data when it comes to natural medicines and supplements.

wild lettuce

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When explaining that nutritional s​​upplements are rarely the subjects of large medical trials, thus are less respected, John Harris, of the University of Massachusettes Medical School said this: “It would be very expensive, and funding is difficult to find for a trial like this since diets and supplements are not patentable. And, there is no money to be made on a positive result.”

There are many types of wild lettuce supplements on the market including:

  • Liquid: extracts, tinctures, and tonics
  • Capsules: powdered extracts
  • Teas: loose leaf and bags
  • Resin: whole pieces and powders made from the sap or latex

To safely supplement with any herbal remedy, do your research. Subsequently, consult your healthcare provider. Then, find the highest-quality product. Remember, dosing with botanicals is not an exact science. Finally, consider factors like tolerance, size, weight, and allergies or sensitivities before trying new supplements with serious side effects.

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