Herb: Canada Lettuce


Latin name: Lactuca canadensis


Family: Compositae



Medicinal use of Canada Lettuce:

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. The sap contains "lactucarium", which is used in medicine for its anodyne, antispasmodic, digestive, diuretic, hypnotic, narcotic and sedative properties. Lactucarium has the effects of a feeble opium, but without its tendency to cause digestive upsets, nor is it addictive. It is taken internally in the treatment of insomnia, anxiety, neuroses, hyperactivity in children, dry coughs, whooping cough, rheumatic pain etc. Concentrations of lactucarium are low in young plants and most concentrated when the plant comes into flower. 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. An infusion of the fresh or dried flowering plant can also be used. 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 and overdoses can cause death through cardiac paralysis. Some physicians believe that any effects of this medicine are caused by the mind of the patient rather than by the medicine. The sap has also been applied externally in the treatment of warts.

Description of the plant:



Plant:
Biennial


Height:
3 m
(9 3/4 foot)

Flovering:
July to
September

Habitat of the herb:

Thickets, woodland borders and clearings. Moist open places. Usually found in sandy soils.

Edible parts of Canada Lettuce:

Young leaves and stems - raw or cooked. Cooked and eaten as greens.

Propagation of the herb:

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

Cultivation of Canada Lettuce:

Thickets, woodland borders and clearings. Moist open places. Usually found in sandy soils.

Known hazards of Lactuca canadensis:

Although no specific mention of toxicity has been seen for this species, many plants in this genus contain a narcotic principle, this is at its most concentrated when the plant begins to flower. This principle has been almost bred out of the cultivated forms of lettuce but is produced when the plant starts to go to seed.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.