Wild Lettuce Benefits

Wild Lettuce
Latin Name

Lactuca virosa

Also Known As

Bitter lettuce, Laitue vireuse, Opium Lettuce, Poisonous Lettuce, or Rakutu-Karyumu-So



Parts Used

Dried leaves

Traditional Use and Health Benefits

A tall leafy plant with small yellow buds, Wild Lettuce can be found growing in much of Central Europe, Southern England and North America. It has been used for centuries as a folk medicine, enjoying renewed popularity in the 1970’s as a painkiller and for its supposed recreational benefits.

Wild Lettuce Benefits

Pain Relief

Otherwise known as “Opium Lettuce”, this plant does not contain any opiates and is entirely legal. Its pain relieving effects come from the milky white substance it excretes, lactucarium, whose active compounds are comparable to the distilled, synthetic versions found in prescription painkillers. The main active compounds in lactucarium are lactupicrin, lactucin and lactucopicrin. These compounds have been found to possess analgesic activity, along with sedative activity. One study claimed that a mere 30 mg/kg dose of lactucopicrin is similar to a 60 mg/kg dose of ibuprofen. The compounds found in the lactucarium work in the way morphine does, directly impacting the central nervous system, blunting its ability to feel pain.

It is recommended by herbalists as a remedy for severe migraines and is especially effective for women who suffer acute pain during their menstrual cycle.


The pain relieving qualities of Wild Lettuce also aid in relaxing the body. This makes it very useful in the treatment of insomnia and anxiety, with it also called a feeble opium because it does not upset the digestive system. However, it is said to produce a euphoric, dreamy effect making it much easier to drop off to sleep.

This sedative effect make it especially beneficial to an overactive nervous system and it’s particularly good for hyperactive children.

Respiratory Health

Wild lettuce can be used as a natural treatment for asthma and coughs. The powerful herb helps reduce irritation of the bronchial tubes and lungs. It’s also able to loosen mucus and difficulty breathing associated with asthma. Furthermore, it can be an effective treatment for whooping cough and bronchitis.

Typical Use

Wild Lettuce Cut Leaves
1-2 teaspoon per cup of hot water up to 3 times a day.
Herbal Tincture
2-4ml up to 3 times a day.
or as recommended by a herbal practitioner

Folklore and History

The lore of wild lettuce goes back many thousands of years, even back into prehistory. The Egyptians used Wild Lettuce as an aphrodisiac, but warned that excessive use would dull the brain. The Egyptian fertility god "Min" was also the god of magic plants, he is always pictured with stalks of wild lettuce behind him and had an entire festival in his honour. Lettuce seed oil is still used to this day in Egypt for medicinal purposes, massage, cooking, and as an aphrodisiac.

Wild lettuce pops up several times throughout history. Emperor Augustus of Rome was said to have been cured of a serious ailment by an infusion of wild lettuce. Wild lettuce can be found in ancient medicine, as well as an ingredient in magical potions and magical rituals the world over. In the mid 19th century, the industrial trade of Lactucarium flourished as it was a common medicine for headaches and as a cough suppressant.

Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce 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.


Can cause drowsiness, or if taken in excess can cause restlessness