Lactuca virosa, commonly called wild lettuce or opium lettuce, is a plant with psychoactive effects. Wild lettuce can be found growing freely in various regions of the world including Australia, America, Southern Europe and India.
Lactuca virosa has yellow flowers and can grow to be 2 meters tall. The name of the plant stems from its “milk-juice” (lactuca) and from the word poisonous (virosa). The milky sap is bitter, and has a narcotic smell.
This sap, lactucarium is present in all species of lettuce (hence the name lactuca), but wild lettuce has the most of this juice while garden lettuce (Lactuca sative) contains the least.
Wild lettuce has been used in medicine for hundreds of years for its various healing properties. As the name opium lettuce suggests, the plant has opium-like qualities, and has been used as a substituent for opium.
Effects of the wild lettuce:
Though the effects of wild lettuce are similar to those of opium, they are decidedly milder. Opium lettuce is a sedative, said to induce a “hypnotic state marked by strange dreams”.*
The leaves of Lactuca virosa may be boiled in water to make a tea that has slightly sedative effects. However, it is the plant’s “milk-juice” that contains the largest concentration of active compounds.
Wild lettuce may be prepared and consumed in several ways.
Consumption of the substance causes the user to feel more relaxed, often euphoric and, at higher amounts, highly intoxicated.
Lactuca virosa provides a milder version of the effects opium does without many of its side effects such as nausea. Still, opium lettuce can have negative effects, and overdose can result in death, so caution should always be exercised.