A natural remedy for pain
You might be wondering . . .
What does a lettuce painkiller have to do with jewelry, you ask? Elizabeth makes both!
In this article, you will learn how to identify and prepare wild lettuce painkiller medicine. You will also learn about the many other ailments that this wonderful wild herb can be used to treat.
Wild lettuce (Lactuca Virosa) has powerful sedative and analgesic (pain-relieving) effects, which calm the nerves and ease tension in the body and mind. Additionally, it is a great source of Vitamin A, fiber, and many other vitamins and nutrients.
My husband Jimmy lives with chronic pain. Because of the opioid scare, his doctor cut his dose of Tramadol (a non-narcotic, non-addictive, opioid derived drug) down to 1/4 pill per day, which is absolutely ineffectual. Jimmy’s doctor said to Jimmy about the pain, “I guess it comes with the territory (of getting old)”. This is when you start looking for alternatives.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, it just seems prudent to start thinking a little more about homesteading practices and self-reliance, and especially in light of Jimmy’s experience with Western medicine.
Wild lettuce is a member of the asteraceae family, and a close family relative of the dandelion.
Common Names Include:
Poor Man’s Lettuce
The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, and Chinese all cultivated wild lettuce as a food crop, recording its beneficial use for pain relief.
Native to the Mediterranean region, wild lettuce was accidentally introduced into North America in the late 1890’s, possibly as a contaminate in seed. It is therefore officially on the list of “Invasive Species”. During its 130 years in the Americas, the Hopi tribe had time enough to incorporate it into their religious rituals, smoking the resin of wild lettuce leaf to induce altered dream states.
In the 19th century in the Americas, it was prescribed by physicians to treat anxiety, and insomnia; and as a painkiller when opium wasn’t available.
Having said that, there are no clinical studies that have shown it to be effective in pain management. However, one clinical study from 2009, showed “significant improvement” when used to treat both anxiety and depression.
- Relaxes respiratory conditions such as whooping cough and asthma. Studies show that chemical compounds (sesquiterpene lactones) specifically found in the Asteraceae family are effective in reducing inflammation.
- Skin maladies. Antibacterial qualities of wild lettuce make it a beneficial ointment when applied to open wounds. But other sources say it can cause skin irritation, especially for people with latex allergies.
- Alzheimer’s Disease. A 2016 study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that lactucopicrin increased neuritogenesis in brain cells extracted from lab rats. Wild lettuce has more lactucopicrin than any other plant.
- Recreational use. Wild lettuce has been referred to as “poor man’s opium”. Wild lettuce has psychoactive properties when consumed in excess, and is sometimes used recreationally by people looking for a natural buzz. Lucky for us, it’s 100% legal in the United States. You are free to grow, buy, and use as much as the stuff as you want without prescription or license. Just make sure you’re not allergic to it first. How do you do that? Same as mushrooms: Try a very small amount first, wait four hours, then eat a little more, wait four hours, etcetera, until you reach full dosage.
WHERE TO FIND
This herb loves sunny locations. It can be spotted along roadsides, riverbanks, and in abandoned fields or other disturbed areas. Avoid cultivating plants that grow along the road, as they are likely to have contaminates from exhaust and oil from passing vehicles.
It can grow up to 6ft tall and has bright green leaves which initially form a basal arrangement (all parts grow from a single point in the ground in a rosette pattern). When it is ready to produce seed, it will grow a stalk that produces leaves that more closely resemble our friend the dandelion (the lobes are much more pronounced than those at the base). Leaves on the stalk sprout from a green stem that is occasionally spotted purple.
It is a biennial plant, which means it takes two full years to complete its biological life-cycle. The leaves on the stem are alternate, and vary in length from 2” to 14”, becoming smaller as they go up the stem. The leaves have a conspicuous
mid-vein, and the underside of the vein is covered in prickles. Yellow flowers develop mid-to-late summer, measure 1/2” in diameter, and grow in a branched inflorescence at the top of the stem. After ten days or so, the flower dries, and the fruit expands out to become seed-bearing parachutes, very similar to its cousin the dandelion. The white puffballs provide for widespread distribution, which makes the plant extremely successful at self-propagation.
One of the defining characteristics of wild lettuce is its sap. When scratched or broken, the plant secretes a sticky, milky white substance known as lactucarium. This is where the medicinal properties are.
FOR ORAL CONSUMPTION: Gather all parts of the plant which are above ground. Chop them into bits (or put in a blender for about three seconds), and transfer to a cooking pot. Add cold water just enough to just cover the greens, and bring to a simmer. Cook until the water becomes a dark green/brown color, stirring occasionally. Never allow the liquid to come to a boil or the beneficial compounds will be destroyed. Allow to cool. Strain the juice with a cheesecloth or similar mesh cloth (I use dedicated knee-high stockings), and return to the stove. Continue simmering until the liquid starts to thicken. Remove from heat and allow to cool again. Transfer to a jar with a lid, and store in the refrigerator (or your spring house).
SALADS: In early spring, the leaves are delicious and can be eaten right off the plant or added to salads. Wild lettuce is the most cold-hardy of all lettuces, and can be added to salads right up through midwinter, which is when the leaves become too woody and bitter for consumption.
TEA: Gather a handful of fresh leaves and drop them into a cup of hot water. Let seep for five minutes, remove the leaves, and drink. It’s an acquired taste which I have come to love. Starting off with tea has the added benefit of easing the user into the effects gently.
Because there are differences in potency due to time of harvest and the size, age, and sensitivity of the individual taking it, dose size can vary. Generally a teaspoon or two will do the trick. Start off will a smaller dose if in doubt. While it’s a “safe” drug, it’s still a drug. Taking too much can slow your breathing, which can be dangerous. Additionally, if taken every day (as for insomnia), the body will acclimate, and larger and larger doses will be needed to achieve the same effect.
GROW YOUR OWN
It’s easy to find wild lettuce seeds online. Many varieties of wild lettuce seeds can be found on Amazon.
Sow your seeds in spring or fall, either in pots or directly into flower beds. The plant prefers sandy and loamy soils that drain well. It is hardy to zone 4 and cannot grow in the shade. Place the seeds in a shallow depression and cover lightly with soil. Tamp gently down to secure the seeds in place.
Keep the soil moist until your seeds germinate. Germination normally takes between 10 and 20 days. If the soil gets too warm it will retard germination, so if seeding in the Spring, make sure it’s well ahead of the heat of summer.
They need water, sun, and time to grow. They take two years to fully mature, and potency is greatest just as the plant goes to seed.
WILD LETTUCE PAINKILLER MEDICINE READY FOR PURCHASE
If you don’t want to wait two years on your harvest, and can’t find any growing wild in your neck of the woods, TerraVita sells wild lettuce leaf in softgels. You can take them with meals just like any other vitamin or supplement. The suggested dose is one with every meal (three times a day) to help with sleep, anxiety, and to reduce pain. For $16 including shipping for 100 softgels, what are you waiting for?
Link to Tera Vita Wild Lettuce Softgels: https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Lettuce-Leaf-capsules-514665/dp/B008X8JP5C/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1513217565&sr=1-5&keywords=wild+lettuce&th=1&th=1&linkCode=sl1&tag=ss-wildlettuce-20&linkId=69af022735cb1d3dd4a51597408e7266
For arthritis, Bianca Rosa sells a cream that you can apply topically which allows you to focus relief at the specific joints that are hurting. Once your skin absorbs it, you’ll experience the pain-relieving qualities of wild lettuce.
Link to Bianca Rosa Wild Lettuce Cream: https://www.amazon.com/Wild-Lettuce-Leaf-Cream-ZIN/dp/B008X8JURK/ref=as_li_ss_tl?s=hpc&ie=UTF8&qid=1513457670&sr=1-1&keywords=wild+lettuce+cream&th=1&th=1&linkCode=sl1&tag=ss-wildlettuce-20&linkId=5e76ddda0c66999bfced3c301a9e9527
HOW DOES IT WORK?
Wild lettuce contains two compounds, known at lactucin and lactucopicrin, that act on the central nervous system. Wild lettuce has the highest concentration of lactucopicrin of all plants, although dandelion root and chicory root are also good sources.
In addition to its sedative and analgesic effects, lactucopicrin is believed to act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor, meaning that it blocks cholinesterase enzymes that slow communications between brain cells. Wild lettuce is also said to exhibit potent antimicrobial activity.
Wild lettuce can cause toxic effects when eaten. In 2008 the Golestan University of Medical Sciences in Iran (native home of wild lettuce) admitted eight patients suffering from symptoms of wild lettuce toxicity, and while no one died, one patient spent 48 hours in ICU. No chronic complications were reported.
Ingesting large amounts of wild lettuce can slow breathing, cause sweating, fast heartbeat, pupil dilation, dizziness, ringing in the ears, and vision changes. If you feel the beginning of any of these symptoms, stop using it and drink water to help flush the system. If you have any conditions that may require surgery, stop taking wild lettuce at least 2 weeks before the scheduled surgery. Do not ingest wild lettuce if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have the eye condition narrow-angle glaucoma, or have allergies to related plants such as ragweed.
Statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or health condition.