Wild lettuce is a wide-spread plant that looks like a cross between dandelion and thistle. This common plant has been used as a painkiller and sedative for millennia. Its effect is strong enough to substitute synthetic painkillers, which is why it’s been used as a replacement for opium in the 1800s’, and it went by the name “poor man’s opium.” Utilizing wild lettuce hasn’t stopped, as water distilled from wild lettuce is still used as a mild sedative in modern day France. The Hopi Indians smoked the sap to induce a mild euphoric dream state.
The plant contains a resinous milky sap, where small amount of pain-relieving opiates are contained. This substance is called lactucarium and is collected and dried. Its main compounds are called lactupicrin, lactucin and lactucopicrin, and have been found to have analgesic activity equal or greater to that of ibuprofen in mice. It’s been also discovered that lactucin and lactucopicrin to possess sedative activity in measurements of spontaneous movements of the mice.
According to Iraninan researchers’ findings, opium lettuce was well known as a painkiller and sedative before the Victorian period.
The Institute for the History of Science wrote in the paper, Lettuce, lactuca sp. as a Medicinal Plant in Polish Publications of the 19th Century, the following:
“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”.
Aside from its pain relieving properties, the plant can help with cough. It has even been used successfully in the mitigation of whooping cough (pertussis) symptoms.
The wild lettuce can also be used in dealing with:
- Anxiety – wild lettuce has a mild sedative effect which makes it great for this condition
- Sleep and Insomnia – it’s been long used in treating insomnia
- Pain and Tension – thanks to its opiate properties, wild lettuce not only reduces pain, but it can also get you high. This quality makes it very useful in relieving pain
- Migraine / Headaches – it’s believed to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches
- Asthma – this was its initial use. Even today, people claim that wild lettuce has reduced their asthma related problems
Wild lettuce isn’t always used as a remedy. Because of its opiate like effect, people have also used it to feel mild euphoria, though it contains no actual opiates. This makes it completely legal for usage, while providing effects similar to opiates without altering the results of a drug test.
Note that consuming 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
In order to get the thick milky sap, you need to cut the plant. You can make a tincture by adding the sap in alcohol, or you can also tincture the fresh leaves and flowering tops. By drying it, you can make tea, or even smoke it. Approximately 1.5 grams of opium lettuce sap is typically infused in a tea. It is said to have a sweet taste. Only about 0.25 grams are smoked in a pipe. It is considerably more potent when smoked.