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Get to Know Wild Lettuce and its Health Benefits

Get to Know Wild Lettuce and its Health Benefits

Posted by FreshBros Team on Oct 31st 2021

GET TO KNOW WILD LETTUCE AND ITS HEALTH BENEFITS

The practice of using botanicals or plants to treat disease and maintain health dates back hundreds of years. Some studies have shown the efficacy of certain herbs as a treatment for many diseases. One of the much known herbal medicines is wild lettuce.

Wild lettuce herbs are historically used as sedatives, painkillers, and diuretics (water pills) for different kidney conditions. The herb leaves are relatively good sources of vitamin C, Beta carotene, calcium, and sodium and fairly good sources of iron, magnesium, and potassium. In this article, let’s go over the uses, benefits, and risks of wild lettuce.

What is Wild Lettuce?

Wild lettuce or Lactuca virosa is a biennial herb that is frequently used to treat chronic pain. It can be described through its green or sometimes purple-spotted stem and bright green leaves with small yellow buds. The leaves, seeds, and sap of this plant are used to make medicine. This plant is often used as a natural remedy to relieve stress and chronic pain.

Wild lettuce is also commonly called Acrid Lettuce, Bitter Lettuce, German Lactucarium, Green Endive, Lettuce Opium, Poison Lettuce or Strong-Scented Lettuce.

This herb is small to medium size (6 feet height) that grows on riverbanks, sidewalks and can be planted in backyards. It can be found in various areas such as countries in Europe, Australia, and some northern regions in Asia.

The Health Benefits of Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce is known for its various health benefits. It is commonly used for pain relief and to induce sleep or as a sedative. If the leaf of the stem is scraped, it ejects a milky liquid substance that has a bitter taste and a noxious odor. The liquid from the herb contains compounds known as lactucic acid, lactucopicrin, and lactucerin, which are sometimes used to treat bronchitis, asthma, and urinary infections.

The herb is also used to stimulate circulation. When applied directly to the skin, oil extracted from the seeds of wild lettuce is thought to offer sanitizing benefits. According to practitioners of alternative medicine, Wild lettuce is an herbal remedy for the following health conditions:

  • Asthma
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Cough
  • Insomnia
  • Gut Inflammation
  • Menstrual Pain
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Skin inflammation and sunburns (as an ointment)
  • Urinary Infections

Wild Lettuce in Respiratory Health

Wild lettuce is often used as an alternative medicine for coughs and asthma. The herb helps reduce irritation of bronchial tubes and lungs. It has the ability to loosen mucus and relieve difficulty in breathing associated with asthma.

A compound from the daisy (Asteraceae) family wild lettuce belongs to, sesquiterpene lactones which are also studied by scientists. The research reveals sesquiterpene lactones may lower inflammation than can help with asthma and arthritis. Nevertheless, it can be an effective treatment for bronchitis and prevention for pertussis or whooping cough.

Wild Lettuce as Natural Pain Reliever

The extracts from the sap of wild lettuce actually have pain-relieving properties, though it’s relatively mild. A study in the Journal of Phytotherapy found that a compound in wild lettuce known as lactucin has sedative effects in mice at low doses (2mg/kg). In larger doses (15mg/kg), lactucin begins to have significant pain-relieving effects.

In another study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology in 2006 has confirmed these findings, researchers have given lab mice either lactucin, lactucopicrin, or ibuprofen in oral form. These are to evaluate for analgesic and sedative properties in mice. The compounds showed analgesic effects at doses of 15 and 30 mg/kg in the hot plate test were comparable to that of ibuprofen. The analgesic activities of the compounds at a dose of 30 mg/kg in the tail-flick test were similar to that of ibuprofen given at a dose of 60mg/kg. Lactucin and lactucopicrin also appeared to have a sedating effect as evidenced by the dulling of animals’ reflex activity.

These studies conducted are done on extracted herbal compounds, and it’s possible that the whole herb has a synergistic effect with multiple compounds, but hasn’t been specifically studied.

Wild Lettuce a Potential Cure for Alzheimer’s disease

The lactucopicrin in wild lettuce appears to be a strong acetylcholinesterase inhibitor. Among its benefits, a 2018 study within the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that lactucopicrin increased neuritogenesis in brain cells extracted from lab rats.

Neuritogenesis is a phenomenon during which nerve cells sprout projections, called neurites, that connect one nerve cell to another. The more neurites there are, the stronger the transmission of nerve signals. This means, but does not prove, that wild lettuce may help preserve brain function in people with Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson's disease. However, further research is also required.

Wild Lettuce as a Possible Treatment of Malaria

There has been a 2004 study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology conducted to learn more about wild lettuce’s applications in treating malaria. It is suggested that lactucin and lactucopicrin isolated from the common chicory plant are the same compounds that seem to provide antimalarial properties.

By contrast, sweet wormwood (Artemisia annua), another plant rich in lactucin and lactucopicrin, contains a highly active antimalarial agent called artemisinin. Unlike sweet wormwood, wild lettuce does not contain any artemisinin. More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of wild lettuce for these uses.

How to Use Wild Lettuce?

Wild lettuce has calming, relaxing, and pain-relieving effects. Among its various benefits, this herb is recommended to be used with proper caution. The appropriate range of doses of wild lettuce depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health history, and several other conditions. Wild lettuce is most commonly sold in the United States as a dietary supplement, usually in capsule form. It can also be consumed as a solution, extracts, powders, and dried herbs or used as ointments.

There are no guidelines for the appropriate use of wild lettuce, but manufacturers of capsule formulations typically recommend 400 to 500 milligrams (mg) per day. Dosages of tinctures and extract vary based on the concentration of the solution. Dried herbal and powdered formulations can be used to make tea by steeping 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dried herb or 1 to 2 teaspoons of the powder into a cup of boiling water. When working with dried Lactuca virosa, exercise caution as one is unable to control the dose and may inhale more than one realizes. Moreover, to also thoroughly check the herb to know if the dried herbs have been tainted with pesticides, chemical fertilizers, or other harmful substances.

By contrast, wild lettuce capsules offer more consistent dosing, particularly if they have been certified by an independent certifying body like U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), Consumer Lab, or NSF International. There are brands certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), reducing your risk of toxic exposure.

If one has managed to find and identify wild lettuce, it can be difficult to prepare as a tincture for pain relief. The main challenges that one may encounter are:

  • Wild lettuce has to be harvested at the right time. Once collected, extracting sap takes patience and knowledge. Main compounds are concentrated in the sap, thus blending the whole plant may not be as effective.
  • Harvesting the fresh herb or ingesting it before its usual season may be toxic rather than helpful.
  • The active components are unlikely to have a pain-relieving effect as these are only slightly soluble in water.
  • There is lacking data on the best preparation method.

Due to potential risks, wild lettuce is not recommended for pregnant, breastfeeding individuals and children. However, if this is consumed in a reasonable amount, wild lettuce is generally safe.

Does Wild Lettuce Work?

Historically, wild lettuce is used by people looking for alternatives from conventional treatments. It is a highly recommended remedy for severe migraines and people who suffer acute pain in their bodies. However, there is limited solid clinical research conducted thus its effects are not yet specifically determined.

The effect of the herb may vary from different people depending on how they prepare the plant, the dosage, and also depends on the user's age and health condition. Always check with your physician before using any herbal preparation, the sedative effects of the herb may interact with prescription sedatives.

Final Words on the Benefits of Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce is known to be used as natural alternative medicine in different countries. It has its various benefits and risks. The compounds found in the herb work in the way analgesics do, directly impacting the central nervous system, blunting its ability to feel pain. In addition, they might soothe cramps, relax muscles, and combat oxidative stress.

However, it is important to note that extra precaution should be observed in consuming wild lettuce as its effects depend on its preparation, dosage, and user’s health condition. 

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