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Lactuca virosa - L.

Common Name Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce
Family Asteraceae or Compositae
USDA hardiness 5-9
Known Hazards Poisonous[7, 19]. Cases of poisoning caused by this plant have only been recorded very rarely[65].
Habitats Grassy places by roads, canals etc and on banks near the sea[17], usually on calcareous soils[7].
Range Europe, including Britain, from Belgium south and west to N. Africa, Central Russia and W. Asia.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential No
Medicinal Rating    (3 of 5)
Care
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Lactuca virosa Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce


http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:194_Lactuca_virosa_L.jpg
Lactuca virosa Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Luis_nunes_alberto

 

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Summary


Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of flower
Lactuca virosa is a ANNUAL/BIENNIAL growing to 1.8 m (6ft).
It is hardy to zone (UK) 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from July to September, and the seeds ripen from August to September. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs) and is pollinated by Insects.
Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map

Synonyms

Habitats

 Cultivated Beds;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Leaves  Oil
Edible Uses: Oil

Leaves - raw or cooked[52]. Very tender[5]. Caution is advised, see the notes above on toxicity. A mild flavoured oil, used in cooking, is obtained from the seeds[4].

Medicinal Uses

Plants For A Future can not take any responsibility for any adverse effects from the use of plants. Always seek advice from a professional before using a plant medicinally.
Anodyne  Antispasmodic  Digestive  Homeopathy  Hypnotic  Narcotic  Sedative  Tonic


The whole plant is rich in a milky sap that flows freely from any wounds. This hardens and dries when in contact with the air[4]. The sap contains 'lactucarium', which is used in medicine for its anodyne, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties[9, 21, 46, 165, 192, 213, 238]. Lactucarium has the effects of a feeble opium, but without its tendency to cause digestive upsets[4], nor is it addictive[7]. It is taken internally in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, neuroses, hyperactivity in children, dry coughs, whooping cough, rheumatic pain etc[238]. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower[238]. It is collected commercially by cutting the heads of the plants and scraping the juice into china vessels several times a day until the plant is exhausted[4]. This species is probably the richest supply of lactucarium[4]. The plant also contains 'hyoscyamine', a powerful depressant of the parasympathetic nervous system[213]. An infusion of the fresh or dried flowering plant can also be used[9]. The plant should be used with caution, and never without the supervision of a skilled practitioner. Even normal doses can cause drowsiness whilst excess causes restlessness[238] and overdoses can cause death through cardiac paralysis[7, 9]. Some physicians believe that any effects of this medicine are caused by the mind of the patient rather than by the medicine[213]. The sap has also been applied externally in the treatment of warts[222]. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant[9]. It is used in the treatment of chronic catarrh, coughs, swollen liver, flatulence and ailments of the urinary tract[9].

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Other Uses

Oil

None known

Special Uses

Cultivation details

Prefers a light sandy loam and a sunny position[1]. The wild lettuce is cultivated as a medicinal plant in many areas of Europe[4, 46, 61].

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Propagation

Seed - sow spring or autumn in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually fairly quick.

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther
Lactuca biennisTall Blue Lettuce 0.0 -  LMHSNM01 
Lactuca canadensisCanada LettuceBiennial3.0 -  LMSNM23 
Lactuca capensis Perennial0.5 -  LMSNM12 
Lactuca debilis Perennial0.0 -  LMSNM32 
Lactuca formosana  0.0 -  LMSNM12 
Lactuca indicaIndian LettucePerennial1.2 -  LMSNM32 
Lactuca indica dracoglossa Annual/Biennial1.0 -  LMSNM22 
Lactuca indica laciniata Perennial1.2 -  LMSNM32 
Lactuca ludovicianaWestern Wild Lettuce, Biannual lettuceBiennial1.2 0-0  LMSNM22 
Lactuca perennisPerennial LettucePerennial0.6 5-9  LMNDM32 
Lactuca pulchellaBlue LettucePerennial1.0 -  LMSNM22 
Lactuca quercinaWild LettuceAnnual/Biennial1.0 -  LMSNM23 
Lactuca raddeana Annual/Biennial0.6 -  LMSNM22 
Lactuca sativaLettuce, Garden lettuceAnnual/Biennial0.9 5-9  LMSNM33 
Lactuca sativa angustanaCeltuceAnnual/Biennial0.6 5-9  LMSNM33 
Lactuca sativa capitataCabbage LettuceAnnual/Biennial0.9 5-9  LMSNM33 
Lactuca sativa crispaCutting LettuceAnnual/Biennial0.9 5-9  LMSNM33 
Lactuca sativa longifoliaCos LettuceAnnual/Biennial0.9 5-9  LMSNM33 
Lactuca serriolaPrickly LettuceBiennial1.5 6-9  LMNM230
Lactuca sibiricaPrickly lettucePerennial1.0 0-0  LMSNM22 
Lactuca triangulata Biennial/Perennial1.0 -  LMSNM12 

 

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Expert comment

Author

L.

Botanical References

17

Links / References

For a list of references used on this page please go here

Readers comment

Faruk   Fri Apr 25 22:06:42 2003

If you want a variety of Lactuca Virosa products, be shure to check out wildlettuce.com! This site is the only shop in the world completely and exclusively devoted to L. Virosa. Check it out! - Faruk

Link: www.wildlettuce.com

Marcus   Mon Aug 23 16:56:04 2004

Link: forgottenseeds Our webshop could prove you with such rare seeds and sometimes even plants. Not just lactuca virosa but many more! Come in and find out.

ALFREDO   Mon Oct 9 2006

COMSUMÍ UNAS TRES GOTAS DE LACTUCA ORALMENTE, TENGO TRES DIAS CON DOLOR DE CADEZA Y NO SE ME QUITA HE TOMADO ANALGESICOS Y EL DOLOR NO CEDE, ESTOY ARREPENTIDO DE HABERLA CONSUMIDO ¿COMO SE QUITA EL DOLOR? Y ¿CUANDO SE ME QUITARÁ?

Opium L.   Wed Dec 24 2008

don't burn the lactucarium!!! the medicinal factors will be shot! making a tea, or vaporizing the lactucarium is the only way to get a full effect.

Fatimah Abdul-Basir   Thu Jul 16 2009

You state that an overdose of lactucarium is toxic (cardiac arrest caused) but nothing is said to define what an "overdose" is. What amount is considered accessive and an "overdose"

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