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How to Find and Process Wild Lettuce for Pain Relief

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If this is the first time that you will be reading or hearing about “wild lettuce”, don’t worry, you’re not alone. There are probably millions of people around the world who haven’t encountered this herbaceous plant yet.

When we talk about wild lettuce, three questions will immediately pop into mind. The first question is, “what on earth is a wild lettuce?” Second, “how do I find it?” And third, “what is it used for?”.

As you delve further and do a more in-depth research and try to understand more about this miracle plant, more questions will arise. Questions like “is it legal?”, “how is it applied?”, “how is it processed?”, and “how is it grown?”

The main goal of this article is to answer all of these questions. So, if you want to know and learn more about the benefits of the plant and its uses, then, I urge you to keep on reading.

What Is Wild Lettuce?

The scientific name for this plant is Lactuca virosa but people also call it bitter lettuce and opium lettuce. It is a tall, leafy herb with small yellow buds that’s been used as a medicinal plant for more than two thousand years. While it is sad that knowledge about wild lettuce as a medicinal plant and great pain killer has been lost over the years, it is now making a comeback. Thanks to people who are giving traditional medicine a second look.

Bitter lettuce can grow up to 6 feet tall. It has spiny leaves and its flowers are colored yellow when it blooms. Its leaves, sap and seeds are used to make medicine. The milky substance that oozes out of the plant when it is cut contains “lactucin” and “lacttucopicrin” – substances that have great pain-killing properties. When processed into a medicine, wild lettuce can be used to calm restlessness and anxiety and can help ease these following conditions:

  • Cough
  • Asthma
  • Urinary Track Problems
  • Insomnia (Trouble sleeping)
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Muscular arthritis
  • Nymphomania (Excessive sex drive in women)
  • Priapism (Swollen genitals in men)
  • Joint Pains
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Hardening of the arteries
  • Skin allergies
  • Headaches and migraines

Where Does Wild Lettuce Grow and How Does One Identify It?

Lactuca virosa is indigenous to India, particularly to the Himalayan regions. It can also be found growing in the Central and Southern parts of Europe. In England, you can find wild lettuce in its Eastern and Southern regions. In the United States, Wild Lettuces can be found in the State of Washington.

Since wild lettuce has a very close resemblance to dandelions, identifying it can be a little bit hard and tricky. So, how do you spot the difference between bitter lettuce and dandelions? Here’s how.

  • Lactuca virosa can grow up to 6 feet tall while dandelions can only reach a maximum height of 1.5 feet.
  • Lactuca virosa produce multiple flowers while dandelions have just one flower.
  • The flowers of wild lettuce are smaller compared to the flowers of dandelions.
  • As it grows, the stalk of the wild lettuce will develop and become almost woody, while dandelion stalk is not thick at all.

How is Wild Lettuce Used & Processed?

There are different ways to process bitter lettuce for use. Here are the more common and safer ways:

  1. Making Wild Lettuce into Tea

This is the easiest way to use and get the benefits of this plant.


  • The first thing you need to do is to gather the leaves.
  • Dry the leaves by natural method or by using a dehydrator.
  • After drying the leaves, grind them.
  • Mix 2 teaspoon of dried ground leaves with 1 cup of water. Let steep for about 5minutes.
  • Strain and drink. You can add a little bit of honey to sweeten the taste.
  • Drink 3 times a day.
  2. Making Wild Lettuce Extract

You can make wild lettuce extract to keep in your medicine cabinet ready for use whenever you need it.


  • Gather the plant leaves and blend it for just a few seconds.
  • Pour the ground wild lettuce leaves into a clean pot, add just enough water to cover the leaves and put it on the stove at low heat for 30 minutes. Stir it often. DO NOT LET IT TO BOIL.
  • When the water of your mixture have a very dark green color, strain it using a fine mesh to collect just the liquid.
  • Put the collected liquid into a separate clean pot, put it over the stove and again heat on low.
  • Stir frequently to make sure that your mixture doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
  • When all of the water has evaporated, what’s left behind is a paste which is your extract concentrate.
  • Transfer to a clean bottle and store in your medicine cabinet.

Watch this quick video on how to make Lactuca virosa extract.

  1. Making Wild Lettuce Tincture

Tinctures are easier to make and can last much longer compared extracts. The only disadvantage is that tinctures require alcohol. This means, tinctures are not suitable to be used for children. Tinctures also needsto have a “stripper” for the active compounds to dissolve into.


  • Chop the entire wild lettuce plant into smaller pieces and put it into a blender. Then add the stripper.
  • Let it sit for about 3-5 minutes. (If you have the time and patience, letting it sit for 1 week will yield you a better result).
  • After letting it sit for about 5 minutes, blend it thoroughly and strain the mixture through a fine mesh. Collect the liquid.
  • Using a coffee filter, strain your mixture again and collect the liquid.
  • Use dark bottles to store your tincture liquid.  
  2. Smoking Wild Lettuce

One of the fastest ways of getting the effects of bitter lettuce is by smoking it. Just take some of the dried  leaves and roll them into a cigarette and then light it up. Fast and easy!

This method is only recommended if you are not suffering from cough or asthma.

Is Wild Lettuce Legal?

The fact that it is also called opium lettuce might be of concern to you. Don’t worry though, the reason people started calling it “opium lettuce” was because it was used during the 19th century when opium became scarce. Wild lettuce is not at all addictive and does not have the side effects of opiates.

In the United Sates, using it is 100 percent legal. The FDA branded it as an unscheduled substance. This means you can use the herb as much as you want!


Dosing for this plant depends on three things.

  • Your tolerance level
  • Your age
  • How big you are

While it is true that wild lettuce is a safe drug, you must remember that it is still a drug. And like any drugs out there, when taken inappropriately or in large dosages, it can lead to some potential side effects like:

  • Enhanced colors
  • Loss of balance
  • Distorted vision
  • Lethargy
  • Vivid dreams

Special Precautions and Warnings:

  • For pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, avoid use.
  • If you have enlarged prostate, avoid taking wild lettuce. This herb has chemical properties that can affect people who have difficulty urinating.
  • If you have allergies, consult your doctor first before using.
  • Don’t use it if you have glaucoma. It can make your condition worse.
  • Don’t use it for at least two weeks if you’re scheduled for a surgery or just came out of a surgery.

Grow Your Own Wild Lettuce

Growing Lactuca virosa is easy. You can buy your seeds from your favorite seed depot stores or buy it online. You can also harvest wild lettuce seeds if you find some in the wild. The choice is yours.

After obtaining your wild lettuce seeds, the best time to sow it is during spring or fall. You can either sow them on your flower beds or in planters. Make sure your soil is moist until the seeds germinate. Seed germination usually takes about 15-20 days.

When your seeds have sprouted, transplant them into separate pots. If you prefer to use flower beds, make sure to space them out 6 inches apart. Water once every 3 days and in due time, you will have full grown bitter lettuce stalks to harvest.

Final Word

Before you decide to use wild lettuce, it is still best to consult and ask guidance from your doctor. While it is true that it can be a good substitute as a pain reliever for different body aches as well as help bring relief to other anxiety related conditions, it is still recommended that you ask your doctor’s help and advice for the right and recommended dosages when using wild lettuce. Remember, self medicating without the proper guidance from experts can sometimes lead to more harm than good. 



The post How To Find and Process Wild Lettuce For Pain Relief appeared first on Survival, Prepping, Homesteading Skills For Everyday Folk.


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