Herb: Indian Lettuce


Latin name: Lactuca indica


Synonyms: Lactuca amurensis, Lactuca saligna, Pterocypsela indica


Family: Compositae



Medicinal use of Indian Lettuce:

The plant is digestive and tonic. Although we have seen no specific reports for this species, most if not all members of the genus have a milky sap that contains the substance "lactucarium" and can probably be used as the report below details. 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:
Perennial


Height:
120 cm
(4 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Grassy places in lowland all over Japan. This report refers to the sub-species L. indica laciniata. (O.Kuntze.)Hard.

Edible parts of Indian Lettuce:

Leaves - raw or cooked. Added to salads or soups. The leaves contain about 1.5% protein, 0.4% fat, 2.2% carbohydrate, 0.7% ash. Stem - cooked. It contains 0.6% protein, 0.1% fat, 2.1% carbohydrate, 0.5% ash.

Propagation of the herb:

Seed - sow early spring in a warm greenhouse, only just covering the seed. Germination is usually rapid, prick out the seedlings when large enough to handle and plant them out after the last expected frosts. Division in spring. Make sure each piece of root has a leaf bud. Root cuttings in late winter.

Cultivation of Indian Lettuce:

Grassy places in lowland all over Japan. This report refers to the sub-species L. indica laciniata. (O.Kuntze.)Hard.

Known hazards of Lactuca indica:

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.