Lactuca spp. (L. canadensis, L. sativa, & L. virosa)

Wild Lettuce

Lactuca spp. (L. canadensis, L. sativa, & L. virosa)

Wild Lettuce

This plant is related to common lettuce; Lactuca sativa, but as it’s common name suggest is a wild species. Wild lettuce is cultivated in Austria, France, Germany and Scotland and can be collected from the wild across the southern United States where it has become naturalized, and from Northern and Eastern Europe. Opium Lettuce, another common names for Wild Lettuce harkens to the milky latex substance that exudes when the plant is broken, which was prepared as a substitute for Opium in the 1900’s by physicians. A preparation from wild lettuce was described in the United States Dispensatory of 1898. Although the prepared latex resin from the plant is purported to have some of the same properties as opium, the effects are much more mild and it is not chemically related to any of the opiate drugs.

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Traditional Health Benefits of Wild Lettuce

Foundational Support

What is Wild Lettuce Used for?

Wild lettuce has been used historically to support nerves and promote restful sleep.* It is a bitter plant and therefore has some historical use for supporting digestion. The chemical constituents found in Wild Lettuce in the milky latex or Lactucarium have been studied for various properties relating to the central nervous system and pain centers in the brain.* Lactucin one of the chemicals is classified as a Sesquiterpene Lactone and the research centers on its action as an adenosine receptor agonist.*

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Active Constituents of Wild Lettuce

Germanicol, Lactucerin, Lactucerols, Lactucic Acid, Lactucin, Lactupicrin,

Parts Used

Aerial Parts

Additional Resources

1.) Harvey Wickes Felter, M.D., and John Uri Lloyd, Phr. M., Ph. D. (1898) 2.) Rollinger, JM; Mocka, P; Zidorn, C; Ellmerer, EP; Langer, T; Stuppner, H (2005). "Application of the in combo screening approach for the discovery of non-alkaloid acetylcholinesterase inhibitors from Cichorium intybus". Current drug discovery technologies 2 (3): 185-93. 3.) Wesołowska, A.; Nikiforuk, A.; Michalska, K.; Kisiel, W.; Chojnacka-Wójcik, E. (2006). Journal of Ethnopharmacology 107 (2): 254-8. 4.) Newall CA, Anderson LA, Philpson JD. Herbal Medicine: A Guide for Healthcare Professionals. London, UK: The Pharmaceutical Press, 1996.

Important Precautions

Not for use during pregnancy or lactation. If you have a medical condition or take pharmaceutical drugs please consult your doctor prior to use


This information in our Herbal Reference Guide is intended only as a general reference for further exploration, and is not a replacement for professional health advice. This content does not provide dosage information, format recommendations, toxicity levels, or possible interactions with prescription drugs. Accordingly, this information should be used only under the direct supervision of a qualified health practitioner such as a naturopathic physician.

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