Wild Lettuce Benefits and Uses

Wild Lettuce: Wild lettuce is a plant. The leaves, sap (latex), and seed are used to make medicine.
Wild lettuce is used for whooping cough, asthma, urinary tract problems, cough, trouble sleeping (insomnia), restlessness, excitability in children, painful menstrual periods, excessive sex drive in women (nymphomania), muscular or joint pains, poor circulation, swollen genitals in men (priapism), and as an opium substitute in cough preparations.
The seed oil is used for “hardening of the arteries” (atherosclerosis) and as a substitute for wheat germ oil. Some people apply wild lettuce latex directly to the skin to kill germs. Some people inhale wild lettuce for a recreational “high” or hallucinogenic effect.

Wild Lettuce Benefits, Uses


Wild Lettuce Seeds

This information is meant to supplement, not replace advice from your doctor or healthcare provider and is not meant to cover all possible uses, precautions, interactions or adverse effects. This information may not fit your specific health circumstances. Never delay or disregard seeking professional medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider because of something you have read on WebMD. You should always speak with your doctor or health care professional before you start, stop, or change any prescribed part of your health care plan or treatment and to determine what course of therapy is right for you.

This copyrighted material is provided by the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Consumer Version. Information from this source is evidence-based and objective and without commercial influence. For professional medical information on natural medicines, see Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database Professional Version.
© Therapeutic Research Faculty 2018.

Wild Lettuce Extract

Wild Lettuce Extract

Natural remedies, such as medicinal plants, have been used since ancient times to treat a variety of symptoms, including pain.

Wild lettuce is a plant known for its pain-relieving properties. It is utilized by people interested in alternatives to conventional medications.

Though wild lettuce may have several health benefits, many people are unaware of the adverse side effects that can occur from ingesting this plant.

This article discusses the health benefits and potential dangers of wild lettuce.

What Is Wild Lettuce?

Wild lettuce (Lactuca virosa) is native to many areas of the world, including North America, Europe and the Middle East.

This herb thrives in sunny locations, such as along riverbanks and roadsides, and can grow up to six feet (1.8 meters) in height.

Wild lettuce has bright green leaves that sprout from a green stem that is occasionally spotted purple.

When scratched, the plant secretes a milky, white substance known as lactucarium.

When dried, this compound resembles opium, a pain-relieving agent extracted from unripe seedpods of the opium poppy. Opium was commonly used as a pain reliever and sedative from ancient times into the 19th century.

Lactucarium may deliver similar effects as opium — but with fewer side effects.

In fact, wild lettuce is often referred to as “opium lettuce” due to its purported pain-relieving qualities.

Historically, doctors used wild lettuce as a pain reliever and a treatment for conditions such as whooping cough, with research studies on its use dating as far back as 1815.

Today, there are many different wild lettuce products available, containing extracts of the plant’s seeds, leaves and milky sap.

These tinctures, powders, oils, and pills are marketed to treat a range of conditions, including anxiety, breathing issues, poor sleep and joint pain.

What’s more, raw wild lettuce is sometimes consumed by foragers who collect and eat wild plants.

In addition, wild lettuce has psychoactive properties and is sometimes used recreationally by people looking for a natural buzz.

Wild Lettuce High

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 1970s as a painkiller and for its supposed recreational 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 lactupicrinlactucin, and lactucopicrin. These compounds have been found to possess analgesic activity, along with the 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 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 makes 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.

Identifying Wild Lettuce

Lactucarium contains lactucin and lactucopicrin, bitter substances that act on the central nervous system to produce pain-relieving and sedative effects.

These compounds are considered sesquiterpene lactones, a group of beneficial substances most concentrated in plants belonging to the Asteraceae family — such as lettuce, calendula, and chicory.

In fact, sesquiterpene lactones make up a large part of the milky substance lactucarium secreted by wild lettuce.

While many natural healthcare companies and homeopathic websites promote wild lettuce as a pain treatment, scientific evidence is lacking.

Few human studies have examined wild lettuce and pain relief.

However, some animal studies suggest that the compounds in wild lettuce extract may have impressive pain-relieving properties.

For example, a study in mice demonstrated that at doses of 7 and 13.5 mg per pound (15 and 30 mg per kg) of body weight, lactucin and lactucopicrin, combined, had comparable pain-relieving effects as 30 mg of ibuprofen.

However, animal studies on the pain-relieving properties of wild lettuce are limited.

SUMMARYThough wild lettuce has been used since ancient times to treat pain, very little evidence supports its use in humans.

Other Possible Benefits

Aside from pain, wild lettuce is promoted as a natural treatment for a variety of conditions, such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Respiratory conditions
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Arthritis
  • Cancer
  • Insomnia
  • Poor circulation
  • Restlessness
  • Urinary infections

It is also thought to have antibacterial properties when applied to the skin.

Though you can find information on the alleged healing qualities of wild lettuce on many alternative medicine websites, there is currently no scientific research to support its use to treat any of the above conditions.

Studies do show that other types of sesquiterpene lactones from the Asteraceae family are effective in reducing inflammation, which may aid certain conditions, such as asthma and arthritis.

Additionally, some sesquiterpenes offer antioxidant, antibacterial and anti-tumor properties.

For example, chamomile, a member of the Asteraceae family, contains chamazulene, a sesquiterpene that demonstrates strong antioxidant qualities.

Feverfew, also in the Asteraceae group, is rich in parthenolide, which inhibited the growth of leukemia cells in a test-tube study.

However, there are few studies on the specific compounds found in wild lettuce.

Until more research is completed on the health effects of wild lettuce, the claims aired by certain websites and supplement companies can’t be substantiated.

Wild Lettuce Tea

Wild lettuce seems safe for most people in small amounts. Large amounts, however, can slow breathing and might cause death.

Applying wild lettuce directly to the skin can cause irritation. Large amounts can cause sweating, fast heartbeat, pupil dilation, dizziness, ringing in the ears, vision changes, sedation, breathing difficulty, and death.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Not enough is known about the use of wild lettuce during pregnancy and breast-feeding. Stay on the safe side and avoid use.

Enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia, BPH): Don’t use wild lettuce if you have this condition. It contains a chemical that can harm people who have trouble urinating.

Allergy to ragweed and related plants: Wild may cause an allergic reaction in people who are sensitive to the Asteraceae/Compositae family. Members of this family include ragweed, chrysanthemums, marigolds, daisies, and many others. If you have allergies, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking wild lettuce.

Narrow-angle glaucoma: Don’t use wild if you have this eye condition. It contains a chemical that might make glaucoma worse.

Surgery: Wild can affect the central nervous system. There is a concern that it might cause too much sleepiness if it is taken along with anesthesia and other nerve-numbing medications used during and after surgery. Stop using wild lettuce at least 2 weeks before a scheduled surgery.


Sedative medications (CNS depressants)Interaction Rating: Moderate Be cautious with this combination. Talk to your health provider.

Wild might cause sleepiness and drowsiness. Medications that cause sleepiness are called sedatives. Taking wild along with sedative medications might cause too much sleepiness.

Some sedative medications include clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), zolpidem (Ambien), and others.


The appropriate dose of wild depends on several factors such as the user’s age, health, and several other conditions. At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses for wild lettuce. Keep in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Be sure to follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or physician or other healthcare professional before using.

Wild Lettuce For Pain

As the opioid epidemic worsens, people are desperate for natural pain relief options.  Wild has been used for millennia as a natural herbal pain reliever, and now survivalists are touting it as a form of morphine that grows in your backyard.  I’ve seen that catchy, click-bait headline a dozen times at least.  “Wild Works Like Opium!”  Come on, can that possibly be true?

Trust me, I’d be all for a natural herbal pain reliever without nasty side effects or addiction.  None the less, I’m skeptical.  How does wild stand up to modern scientific testing?  Time for a little research, and then I’ll try it out myself…for science.


Let’s start with the basics.  What are the supposed medicinal benefits of wild lettuce?

Wild (Lactuca virosa) is used most commonly as a pain reliever, but it’s also purported to have impacts on specific conditions.  It’s said to relax respiratory conditions such as whooping cough and asthma.  Wild has sedative effects that have been used to treat all manner of issues ranging from generalized anxiety and hyperactivity to nymphomania.

It is also sometimes used topically to treat skin conditions and as a wound disinfectant.

Is Prickly lettuce the same as wild lettuce?

Prickly Wild Lettuce is also known as opium lettucewild lettucewild opium, horse thistle, China lettuce and prickly lettuce. Its medicinal properties are similar to Lactuca virosa, which is also known as wild lettuce.

What is wild lettuce called in Australia?

Lactuca virosa, commonly called wild lettuce or opium lettuce, is a plant with psychoactive effects. Wild lettuce can be found growing freely in various regions of the world including Australia, America, Southern Europe and India.

Is milkweed the same as wild lettuce?

Swamp milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)

Unlike common milkweed, the central stem may branch. Leaves can be up to 15cm in length (but are often shorter), are much narrower (1-4cm width) than common milkweed, and taper to a sharper point. Stems and leaves release a milky-white sap when broken.