Historically, herbal medicines were the only thing at our disposal when we suffered from injuries and illness. The emergence of modern medicine has drugged us into forgetting how accessible many of these herbs are. For example, Lactuca virosa or wild lettuce is a natural remedy that grows throughout North America and England, making it an accessible painkiller to substitute the chemicals often advertised.
What is Wild Lettuce
Wild lettuce is an herbal remedy with some evidence of being a sedative and painkiller, and adding it to your garden provides a series of benefits.[i]
Wild Lettuce has been associated with fighting insomnia and relaxing the body from anxiety and spasms. The herb is known to calm the nervous system, relaxing muscles to help with several different issues such as: [ii]
- Stress-induced indigestion
- Coughs (by relaxing the respiratory system)
- Spasms and cramps
Adding wild lettuce to your daily routine by drinking it as a tea can help limit these problems for you.
Wild Lettuce has also been associated with lessening pain from menstrual cramps, muscle pains, and other tissues that have been irritated. There’s a reason it has earned the name opium lettuce, as it has numbing effects like opiates with the advantage of not being as addictive or dangerous. Therefore, consuming the properties of these leaves can safely give you pain reducing benefits. [iii]
It can also be a useful antiseptic.[iv]
How to Use Wild Lettuce
When using wild lettuce, you should use dried leaves to get the medicinal benefits. These leaves should be plucked in July and August when they are at their best for harvesting. You can also find supplements and dried versions of the herb if you can’t find it in your backyard. [xiii]
Wild lettuce is a biennial plant and will look differently, depending on the season. It may have a yellow flower or may only have mature leaves (see images). Wild lettuce can grow incredibly tall- up to almost 7 feet if left untended.
While not enough research has been done on the plant to definitively determine a safe dose, about a 2-4ml tincture about three times a day, or 1-2 teaspoons of the dried leaves steeped in boiling water for 10-15 minutes to infuse the nutrients in the water. Drink this about three times a day. [v]
There can be an irritation if you apply it directly to your skin, so be careful when using it as a topical remedy. Always do a small patch test before using.[vi] In addition, don’t use wild lettuce if you:[vii]
- Are pregnant
- Have an enlarged prostate
- Are allergic to ragweed and similar plants,
- Have glaucoma
- Are going into surgery.
Natural Remedies Vs. Painkillers
Natural remedies are a good way to enhance the natural healing processes of your body [viii], where painkillers generally treat symptoms instead of the underlying issues. Taking a natural remedy instead of a pain killer can have enormous benefits.
Fight Your Problem Naturally
The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine celebrates the body’s ability to heal itself, and how it is a complicated system that requires all organs and tissues to work together. Herbs are supposed to support this system by addressing underlying issues and avoiding side effects which could cause unintended damage. [ix]
Using natural remedies like wild lettuce is a good way to treat pain and illnesses holistically rather than ingesting chemicals which might help the problem but creates several others.
Killing More Than Just The Pain
It is no surprise that pain killers have side effects. You just have to listen to one drug commercial to recognize this fact. Opioids, the drug wild lettuce is named after as “opium lettuce”, can reduce pain by changing the way the brain works. Over time we become used to these medicines which mean larger doses, risking an overdose. Addiction is also a huge problem; people become so reliant on these drugs that they go through withdrawal if they stop. This dependency, as well as the drug’s ability to give users a recreational high, makes it a vice even after the pain is gone.[x]
Also, many drugs, including opioids, are associated with memory loss because it damages the brain to reduce the effects of pain. Taking natural remedies instead of drugs which inadvertently cause damage is one way to avoid long-term harm. [xi]
If you need another reason to try herbal remedies, painkillers taken over a long period of time quadruple your chances of ulcers, offering new pain for your old one. Therefore, it is best to limit adverse side effects by avoiding them in the first place. [xii]
One of the best reasons to use wild lettuce is because it improves your life by numbing your pain and by not introducing new complications to the equation. The side benefit is that it probably grows in your yard, taking space in nature rather than your medicine cabinet.
[i] Hoffman D. Holistic Herbal. 1st ed. London: Thorsons; 2002.
[iv] WILD LETTUCE: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. Webmdcom. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-342-wild%20lettuce.aspx?activeingredientid=342&activeingredientname=wild%20lettuce. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[v] Hoffman D. Holistic Herbal. 1st ed. London: Thorsons; 2002.
[vi] WILD LETTUCE: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. Webmdcom. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-342-wild%20lettuce.aspx?activeingredientid=342&activeingredientname=wild%20lettuce. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[vii] Lettuce Opium Uses, Benefits & Dosage – Drugs.com Herbal Database. Drugscom. Available at: https://www.drugs.com/npp/lettuce-opium.html. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[viii] Murray M. The Encyclopedia Of Natural Medicine Third Edition. 1st ed. New York: Atria Books; 2012.
[x] Wynne Armand M. The problem with prescription painkillers – Harvard Health Blog. Harvard Health Blog. 2015. Available at: http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-problem-with-prescription-painkillers-2-201510268492. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[xi] Neel Jr. D. Drugs That May Cause Memory Loss Side Effect – AARP. AARP. 2015. Available at: http://www.aarp.org/health/brain-health/info-05-2013/drugs-that-may-cause-memory-loss.html#quest1. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[xii] For Those Who Take Painkillers Regularly, A Heartburn Pill A Day May Keep Ulcers Away. ScienceDaily. 2003. Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2003/10/031015025859.htm. Accessed April 24, 2017.
[xiii] WILD LETTUCE: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions and Warnings – WebMD. Webmdcom. Available at: http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-342-wild%20lettuce.aspx?activeingredientid=342&activeingredientname=wild%20lettuce. Accessed April 24, 2017.
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