From time immemorial, people have been using natural alternatives, such as herbal plants to treat a variety of ailments and symptoms. Herbal plants have never gone wrong as they have fewer to no side effects. They also contain antioxidants that promote health.

Wild lettuce is one of these herbal plants that has been long used to relieve pain. Some people have also used it to manage sleep problems by inducing sleep. Wild lettuce is particularly used by people seeking to replace conventional medications with herbal remedies. While it may have all the health benefits, ingesting wild lettuce can cause serious side effects, and you may need to know them before using it. This article explores how using wild lettuce can benefit your health and the potential side effects.

What Is Wild Lettuce

Wild lettuce, scientifically known as Lactucavirosa, is a herbal plant that grows naturally in many parts of the world, such as Austria, Germany, France, Scotland, and Iran. The herb usually grows up to 1.8 m or 6 feet in height, especially in sunny places like roadside or along the banks of rivers. The stems of wild lettuce have purple spots, and the leaves are bright green. When severed, a milky white substance is secreted by the plant. The substance is called lactucarium. When the leaves are dried, lactucarium mimics the properties of opium, which is also a compound extracted from opium poppy seedpods and is often used to relieve pain. Traditionally and towards the 19th century, many people used opium for pain relief and sedation. In fact, some people have dubbed wild lettuce “opium lettuce” because of its effects of relieving pain. While it may have similar properties as opium, lactucarium has a few side effects.From time to time, health professionals have used wild lettuce to alleviate pain and manage other health conditions, such as asthma and whooping cough. In the contemporary system, wild lettuce extracts from its leaves, milky sap, and seeds are used in various products, including oils, tinctures, pills, and powders. They can be used to treat several medical conditions like sleep disorders, anxiety, depression, respiratory issues, and joint pain. It is sometimes eaten raw by foragers who collect and consume wild plants. Lastly, wild lettuce possesses psychoactive qualities.

Wild Lettuce and Pain Relief

The active compound in lettuce, lactucarium, has been used for a long time to relieve pain. This compound contains two bitter substances, lactucin and lactucopicrin, which can relieve pain and produce sedative effects by interacting with the central nervous system. Lactucin and lactucopicrin are usually considered sesquiterpene lactones, which is a group of substances found in abundance in plants of the Asteraceae family. Plants in this family include chicory, calendula, and lettuce. Wild lettuce is commonly advertised by homeopathic websites and other companies as a perfect remedy for pain relief. However, there is no scientific evidence to support such claims. Study results from animal studies have indicated that it may help relieve pain. One mice study claims that the strength of 30 mg per kg of combined lactucin and lactucopicrin can be similar to that of 30 mg of ibuprofen. These results are not firm enough to make a conclusion on the effects of wild lettuce for pain relief in humans. More human studies are needed in this area.

Other Possible Health Benefits of Wild Lettuce

Apart from relieving pain, wild lettuce can be used to manage other conditions of health concern, such as certain types of cancer, lack of sleep, anxiety, respiratory problems, cardiovascular conditions, urinary infections, restlessness, arthritis, and painful menstruation. It is also thought to deliver antibacterial effects when applied topically. Many websites marketing medicinal products will always give a longer list of conditions that can be managed by wild lettuce. But you need to keep in mind that so far, there is no scientific research to back the treatment of the conditions named here using wild lettuce.

According to the National Institutes of Health, some plants from the Asteraceae family containing sesquiterpene lactones, may be used to reduce inflammation. For that reason, they can be used to treat arthritis and other inflammatory conditions. In addition, sesquiterpene lactones also possesses anticancer, antibacterial, and antioxidant properties. Chamomile, which is a member of the Asteraceae family contains a sesquiterpene called chamazulene that has strong antioxidant properties. Another example is feverfew, also from the Asteraceae family. It contains high amounts of parthenolide, which can inhibit the growth of leukemia cells.

Side Effect and Potential Dangers of Using Wild Lettuce

Studies have not established a proper relationship between wild lettuce and the treatment of claimed conditions. However, a few studies have successfully related the use of this herb to some side effects. According to these studies, using or ingesting this herb can harm your health. The potential side effects related to wild lettuce include anxiety, dizziness, confusion, photophobia or extreme sensitivity to light,blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, urine retention, increased sweating, headache, and auditory, tactile, and visual hallucination.

Supplements made with lettuce extracts have not been studied, and so far, related side effects to their use are unknown. Additionally, it is also not known how wild lettuce may interact with some medications. However, since it has been shown that wild lettuce extracts have sedative effects, taking wild lettuce supplements along with sedatives should be avoided. Ingestion of wild lettuce may also lead to hallucinations. It will help to consult your doctor first before using wild lettuce.

Safe Alternatives

If you are looking for natural remedies to pain and inflammation, it is will help to use alternatives that have been researched. A good example is cannabidiol oil, popularly known as CBD oil which is extracted from the cannabis plant. Several studies indicate that CBD oil may help reduce inflammation, reduce anxiety, relieve chronic pain, and promote sleep. You can also use omega-3 fish oil supplements and turmeric to relieve pain and inflammation.


Wild lettuce is a natural remedy to pain and inflammation. Those looking for alternatives to conventional medications can use it. However, there is no human study to support these claims. Wild lettuce may also cause hallucinations and anxiety. It will help to replace it with safer alternatives like CBD oil and turmeric.


We would like to thank the below contributors who have helped us to write this article:

EMN Europe team

Charlotte Cremers

MS, University of Tartu Sleep specialist Using the acquired academic and professional experience, I advise patients with various complaints about mental health - depressed mood, nervousness, lack of energy and interest, sleep disorders, panic attacks, obsessive thoughts and anxieties, difficulty concentrating, and stress. In my free time, I love to paint and go on long walks on the beach. One of my latest obsessions is sudoku – a wonderful activity to calm an unease mind.