Wild Lettuce

Biological Name:

Lactuca spp. (Wild-Lettuce)

Natural Habitat:

Wild-Lettuce is a herb that is native to Europe, Asia, and North Africa. It can grow in meadows, forests, and along the edges of fields.


Wild-Lettuce is a herbaceous annual plant that is native to North America. It has large lobed leaves and small yellow or white flowers that bloom in the summer. It is often found in dry open areas and is used in traditional medicine.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: Does wild lettuce help with anxiety?
A: The milky sap contains lactucarium, which has been used as medicine since antiquity for its digestive, diuretic, narcotic and sedative properties. Lactucarium is known as ‘poor man’s opium’ and can be taken internally as an infusion for the treatment of anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, coughs, rheumatic pain and more.

Q: Is wild lettuce like an opiate?
A: Opium was commonly used as a pain reliever and sedative from ancient times into the 19th century ( 1 ). Lactucarium may deliver similar effects as opium — but with fewer side effects. In fact, wild lettuce is often referred to as “opium lettuce” due to its purported pain-relieving qualities ( 2 ).

Q: How do you prepare wild lettuce to eat?
A: ”

Q: How much wild lettuce can I take a day?
A: There is no recommended dose for wild lettuce. Capsule supplements may be safer than tinctures, powders, or dried herbs as you can control the dose.

Q: Can you make tea out of wild lettuce?
A: If you’d like to try wild lettuce as a tea, the dried leaves can be purchased here. If you’d like to try making wild lettuce tea from backyard plants, harvest some of the leaves and then dry them to preserve them for tea.

Q: Is wild lettuce a diuretic?
A: Lactucarium is a diuretic, laxative and sedative agent which relieves dyspnoea, and decreases gastrointestinal inflammation and uterus contractions.

Q: Is wild lettuce the same as milk thistle?
A: What is Wild Lettuce? Wild lettuce weeds are native to the Mediterranean and are also referred to as prickly lettuce, China lettuce, horse or milk thistle, wild opium and compass plant in relation to the north-south vertical placement of its leaves – perpendicular to direct sunlight.

Q: How did Native Americans use wild lettuce?
A: Before the Victorian period, wild lettuce was well known as a painkiller and sedative. In the 19th century, wild lettuce, especially the desiccated lactescent juice lactucarium, was used as a sedative and analgesic.

Q: What does wild lettuce taste like?
A: Description/Taste Wild lettuce also produces orange blossoms that resemble that of a dandelion, with multiple flowers occurring on each plant. Wild lettuce is tender with a mild, earthy flavor.

Q: Can you eat milk thistle raw?
A: The leaves, with spines removed, can be eaten raw or cooked like spinach. Milk Thistle seeds can be roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute. They are also quite sweet to chew as a snack.

Q: What is the common name for wild lettuce?
A: Lactuca virosa is a plant in the Lactuca (lettuce) genus, often ingested for its mild analgesic and sedative effects. It is related to common lettuce (L. sativa), and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, laitue vireuse, opium lettuce, poisonous lettuce, tall lettuce, great lettuce or rakutu-karyumu-so.

About the author

Samuel is a gardening professional and enthusiast who has spent over 20 years advising homeowners and farm owners on weed identification, prevention and removal. He has an undergraduate degree in plant and soil science from Michigan State University.