This age-old natural painkiller grows in your backyard, and you probably never knew you had it! It looks like a cross between dandelion and a thistle, and has been used as a painkiller and sedative for centuries.
Wild lettuce (or opium lettuce), which literally grows right in your backyard, was once called “poor man’s opium” in the 1800s, as it was considered a cheap substitute for opium. Even in present day France, wild lettuce is used to provide mild sedative effects.
You can buy wild lettuce as a tea, tincture or supplement, but harvesting from your own backyard is free. Just be sure to identify the plant properly before using.
Health Benefits And Uses Of Wild Lettuce
Although this plant doesn’t literally contain opium, it possesses characteristics very similar to it. Below are the highlighted health benefits of this plant:
The pain relieving effects of wild lettuce are what it’s most known for. During the 19th century, doctors used wild lettuce in place of opium when supplies were low. The Polish also studied wild lettuce during this time, and discovered that the lettuce had no side effects, and didn’t make users dependent on it (unlike opium which is highly addictive). The results of their research were published in several 19th-century Polish journals.
2. Anxiety and Stress
As its name suggests, opium lettuce is a great way to “sedate” the body. It helps calm restlessness and anxiety, and can reduce an elevated response to stressful situations. It has even been said to help with restless legs syndrome.
3. Sleep and Insomnia
Because of its relaxing effects, opium lettuce can be used for individuals who have trouble sleeping. It’s powerful sedative properties can help ease an individual out of a bout of insomnia.
4. Migraines and Headaches
When taken in tincture form, wild lettuce can help reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches. This is likely due to the sedative effects, which relax blood vessels and ease inflammation.
5. Lung Support
Wild lettuce has been used for whooping cough and asthma. It contains expectorant properties that help ease bronchitis and asthma by helping break up phlegm from the respiratory tract.
6. Mild Diuretic
Wild lettuce can also help with increasing urine output to help treat urinary tract infections, and edema, where fluid builds up in body tissues and causes excessive swelling.
7. Mild Euphoric
With opiate-like effects, wild lettuce can create feelings of euphoria, even though it contains no actual opiates. Of course, this isn’t for everyone, but the effects come along with all the other health benefits outlined above.
How To Use Wild Lettuce
Have you ever picked leafy greens outside or dandelion greens or flowers and notice that at the bottom of the stem, there is a white milky substance? That same substance bleeds out of wild lettuce, when the plant is broken or cut.
This milky sap can be made into an alcohol tincture (lactucarium), or the fresh leaves and flowering tops can be eaten in salad (minimally – a few leaves is plenty!), or dried to make it into tea, smoked, or taken in capsule form. The sap is alleged to have a sweet taste (although the greens may be slightly bitter).
Eating large doses of opium lettuce can cause nausea, vomiting, anxiety and dizziness, so do not use large quantities.
As A Tea
To make opium lettuce tea, take 1-2 teaspoons of dried wild lettuce, and let steep in boiling water for 10-15 minutes.
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