Wild lettuce was widely used in the nineteenth century as an alternative to opium.
A tall, leafy plant with small bright yellow flowers, Wild Lettuce is known for having mild sedative and pain relieving properties, due to a milky substance called lactucarium which is found in the leaves and stem of the plant. The effects of lactucarium are considered to be similar to opium, though the substance contains no actual opiates.1 These effects earned wild lettuce the common name of opium lettuce.
When smoked or sipped, the relaxed euphoric feeling given by the herb makes falling asleep much easier. Wild Lettuce has a mild sedative effect which makes it great for anxiety and has long been used to treat insomnia.
The herb is analgesic and spasmolytic, and is said to act as a tranquilizer. It contacts sesquiterpene lactones lactucin and lactupicrin (lactucopicrin); b-amyrin, germanicol, and lactucone. All which studies have shown to help with asthma, cough, insomnia, headaches, pain, sore muscles and menstrual problems.2
The Egyptian fertility god “Min” was the god of magic plants, he is always pictured with stalks of wild lettuce behind him and had an entire festival in his honour. Emperor Augustus of Rome was said to have been cured of a serious ailment by an infusion of wild lettuce. Wild lettuce can be found in ancient medicine, as well as an ingredient in magical potions and magical rituals the world over. In the mid 19th century, the industrial trade of Lactucarium flourished as it was a common medicine for headaches and as a cough suppressant.3