Wild lettuce relates to traditional lettuce and is one of the several varieties of certain species of the Lactuca genus. Wild lettuce leaves are consumed as a vegetable salad and possess mild analgesic properties. Before the advancement of medical science, it was common for physicians to use wild lettuce leaves as an effective painkiller( Thanks to compounds like lactucopicrin and lactucin in wild lettuce), and as an opium alternative.
Wild lettuce is known by some other names such as opium lettuce, great lettuce, butter lettuce, and tall lettuce. Being a biennial plant, it completes its biological cycle in two years. Wild lettuce was originated in Europe and Asia, but later got introduced to America and other regions of the world. At present, wild lettuce grows extensively in coastal regions of Great Britain, Central and Southern Asia, some regions of south-east and east of England, wild regions of Australia, and in regions of Punjab in India and Pakistan. Being an excellent source of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fibers, etc, wild lettuce provides many health and beauty benefits.
How To Identify Wild Lettuce and How Wild Lettuce Is Different From Dandelions
Wild lettuce resembles dandelions and thistles, but they are different from them. Some of the ways you can differentiate between lettuce and dandelions are as follows.
- Wild lettuce is biennial and takes two years to complete its biological cycle. Dandelion is perennial and takes more than two years to complete its biological cycle. Dandelions leaves grow on an annual basis, but their roots grow on a perennial basis.
- Wild lettuce can grow up to 80 inches in length, but dandelions mostly grow up to a height of 8 to 12 inches.
- Wild lettuce leaves are broad, oval-shaped, and jagged-edged. But, Dandelion leaves are long, narrow, and irregularly lobed and lanced.
- The wild lettuce stem is smooth and leafy. It is light green or reddish-green, and sometimes have purple streaks to it. On the other hand, the dandelion stem is primarily hollow and leafless.
- Wild lettuce flowers in North America between July and September. It sprouts round yellow-colored flowers that look like dandelions ( and hence the confusion), whereas dandelions flowers from May to October, and more profusely during May and June.
- Wild lettuce flowers are about half the size of dandelion flowers.
How to Use Wild Lettuce
Some of the ways to use wild lettuce are as follows.
(1)Wild Lettuce Tea
Drinking tea made from wild lettuce leaves is one of the best methods to reap wild lettuce benefits. It has a nice taste which can further be enhanced by combining wild lettuce concentrate with other herbs such as chamomile or green tea.
(2) Wild Lettuce Tinctures
The tincture made from wild lettuce extract can be applied to the affected area of the skin to relieve pain because of the pain-relieving compounds like lactucopicrin and lactucin in it. It can also be administered on the gums and tongue.
(3) Smoking Wild Lettuce
This method involves burning dried wild lettuce leaves and inhaling the smoke. This method is unhealthy as the wild lettuce smoke can damage our lungs. If you are using wild lettuce for treating cough, go with wild lettuce tea or wild lettuce tincture.
Wild Lettuce Nutrition Facts
Active ingredients responsible for the amazing benefits of wild lettuce are lactucarium, lactucopicrin, caoutchouc, mannitol, lactucin, fiber, and coumarins. They also contain nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium, potassium, and magnesium.
Health Benefits of Wild Lettuce
Following are the major health benefits of wild lettuce leaves
(1) Improves Respiratory Health
Wild lettuce leaves improve our respiratory health as their antitussive properties reduce irritation in the lungs and bronchial tubes. This provides relief from whooping cough and asthma.
Eating wild lettuce leaves as salad combats against the symptoms of bronchial asthma and allergy.
Vitamin C in wild lettuce is a powerful antioxidant that protects our respiratory system from free radical damage.
Vitamin A in wild lettuce reduces lung inflammation and relieves bronchial asthma.
However, smoking dried wild lettuce leaves are bad for our respiratory health and should be avoided.
(2) Relieves Migraine And Headache
The sedative properties of wild lettuce help in providing relief from migraine (constant and recurring headaches that usually affects the half region of the head)
To get relief from migraine, enjoy a cup of freshly brewed wild lettuce tea before bedtime.
Magnesium and B vitamins in wild lettuce relax our nerves, reduces stress, and help with the migraine.
(3) Wild Lettuce For Pain Relief
Wild lettuce is a natural pain killer because of the presence of pain-relieving chemical compounds like lactucopicrin and lactucin. Wild lettuce soothes our nervous system and effects similar to that of morphine. It is beneficial for joint pain, colic, arthritis, muscle pain, and uterine cramps.
Vitamin C in wild lettuce is an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound that protects from free radical damage and also provides relief from pain and inflammation. It is beneficial against inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, gouts, rheumatism, and rheumatoid, etc.
(4) Improves Physiological Health
Unmanaged stress can hurt our physical, mental, and emotional health. It can increase the risk of health problems such as asthma, obesity, depression, diabetes, headache, depression, gastrointestinal problems, and neurodegenerative diseases.
Wild lettuce provides relief from stress and anxiety because of its mild sedative properties.
It calms our nervous system and makes us feel better.
Magnesium and B vitamins in wild lettuce relax our nerves and help in managing stress.
(5) Provides Relief From Urinary Tract Infections
Drinking wild lettuce tea or enjoying wild lettuce leaves as salad provides relief from urinary tract infection because of its diuretic properties.
It increases the frequency and flow of urination and encourages our body to flush out toxins and other unwanted substances from our body.
Vitamin C protects the urinary tract from free radical damage, and also reduces urinary tract inflammation.
(6) Aids In Cholesterol Management
Wild lettuce aids in managing cholesterol as the dietary fibers in them reduce LDL cholesterol and reduces the risk of atherosclerosis.
Atherosclerosis is a condition that leads to the hardening and narrowing of arteries due to the accumulation of plaque and fat deposits within n the arterial walls. It can give rise to cardiovascular problems like heart attack, heart stroke, and coronary artery disease.
Vitamin C in wild lettuce protects our cardiovascular system from free radical damage.
(7) For Treating Insomnia
Sleep is a basic human need but factors such as poor lifestyle, stress, unhealthy diet, and blue light emission, etc have caused havoc on our sleeping pattern. This has given rise to insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Wild lettuce helps in treating insomnia and allows us to enjoy quality sleep because of its mild sedative properties.
It calms our nervous system and makes us feel better.
Magnesium and B vitamins in wild lettuce also help.
To enjoy quality sleep, enjoy a cup of wild lettuce tea.
(8) Maintain Skin Health
Wild lettuce is good for our skin health as it contains vitamin C and another antioxidant that protects our skin cells from free radical damage.
It reduces fine lines, wrinkles, age spots, dark spots, and other signs of premature aging.
Vitamin C encourages the production of collagen, an essential amino acid that maintains skin elasticity and prevents wrinkles, and skin sagging.
Because of its antimicrobial properties, wild lettuce protects our skin from bacterial, viral, and fungal infections.
(9) Relieves Symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS)
Drinking wild lettuce tea provides relief from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome because of its pain-relieving, anti-inflammatory, and mild sedative properties.
Some common PMS symptoms are uneasiness, pain, and anxiety.
(10) Promotes Weight Loss
Wild lettuce is a powerhouse of essential nutrients and promotes weight loss.
Vitamins and minerals in wild lettuce improve our metabolism and increase the rate at which our body burns calories.
Dietary fibers in wild lettuce provide stomach satiety and control overeating, a major cause of obesity.
For weight loss, add wild lettuce leaves to your salad bowl or enjoy in the smoothie.
Side Effects of Wild Lettuce
Some common side effects of wild lettuce are as follows
(1) Wild Lettuce And Skin Irritation
The milky latex of the wild lettuce provides many benefits. However, people who are sensitive to this milk latex should avoid applying it on the skin as it may develop skin irritation and skin rashes, etc.
(2) Eating Wild Lettuce During Pregnancy And Nursing
Both pregnancy and the nursing period play an important role in a woman’s life as what she consumes determines not only her health but also the health and wellness of the fetus and the infant.
Potassium, magnesium, and B vitamins in wild lettuce helps in maintaining healthy pregnancy as they regulate blood pressure, relax our nerves, and improve cognitive functions.
However, wild lettuce is a mild sedative and contains many active chemical compounds.
The effect of these chemical compounds during pregnancy and nursing periods is not well documented.
For the safe side, it is better to avoid wild lettuce during pregnancy and the nursing period until and unless you get a nod from your doctor.
(3) May Cause Allergies
Avoid wild lettuce if you are allergic to them as they may cause problems like excessive sweating, fast heartbeat, pupil dilation, ringing in the ear, sedation, and breathing difficulties.
If you are allergic to Compositae family plants such as ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums, and marigold, etc, you are likely to be allergic to wild lettuce.
(4) Eating Wild Lettuce During Surgery
Avoid wild lettuce two weeks before and after surgery as the sedative properties of wild lettuce may interfere with the anesthesia and other sedative medicines used during surgery.
(5) May Worsen Prostatic Hyperplasia And Narrow-Angle Glaucoma
Avoid Wild lettuce if you suffer from prostatic hyperplasia and narrow-angle glaucoma as wild lettuce may interfere with acetylcholinesterase inhibitors, and worsen these conditions.
(6) Interfere With Antidepressant
The sedative properties of wild lettuce calm our nervous system and provide relief from stress and depression.
Magnesium and B vitamins in wild lettuce also help in managing stress levels.
However, avoid wild lettuce if you take CNS antidepressants as the wild lettuce may interfere with the functioning of these antidepressants.
(7) Wild Lettuce And Blood Pressure
Wild lettuce contains potassium.
Potassium is well known for relaxing our blood vessels, improving blood circulation, and providing relief from hypertension or high blood pressure.
However, other components of wild lettuce may negatively affect the blood pressure level.
At present, there are not many extensive studies on the effect of wild lettuce on blood pressure levels.
If you take blood pressure medication, consume wild lettuce only after consulting with your doctor to ensure there’s no food-drug intolerance risk.
(8) Wild Lettuce And Diabetes
With a low glycemic index of 15, wild lettuce reduces the rate at which sugar is released into the bloodstream and helps in managing diabetes.
Dietary fibers in wild lettuce slow down sugar absorption by the bloodstream and regulate blood sugar levels.
However, if you take diabetic medication, consume wild lettuce only after consulting with your doctor to ensure there is no food-drug interference risk.
(9) Wild Lettuce Toxicity
Overconsuming wild lettuce or consuming them in an unhealthy way ( like smoking dried wild lettuce leaves) may lead to wild lettuce toxicity, and give rise to problems like decreased bowel movement, dizziness, anxiety, sympathetic overactivity, and mydriasis.
The information contained in the post is for general purpose only and shouldn’t be considered as medical advice or as an alternative to medical advice. Although I’ve tried my best to keep the information contained in this post as accurate and updated as possible, I make no guarantee of the accurateness of the same.
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Bharat Sharma is a Delhi-based writer who loves reading and writing research-based topics revolving around health, fitness, and nutrition. His love for writing started during his teenage and continues till date. After his graduation, he worked for GE Money, and IBM, but later found his true love i.e. blogging.