Herb: Celtuce

Latin name: Lactuca sativa angustana

Synonyms: Lactuca sativa asparagina

Family: Compositae

Medicinal use of Celtuce:

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. The cultivated lettuce does not contain as much lactucarium as the wild species, most being produced when the plant is in flower. 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. The seed is anodyne and galactogogue. Lettuce has acquired a folk reputation as an anaphrodisiac, anodyne, carminative, diuretic, emollient, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, hypnotic, narcotic, parasiticide and sedative.

Description of the plant:


60 cm
(2 feet)

Habitat of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Edible parts of Celtuce:

Leaves - raw or cooked. A mild, slightly sweet flavour, they are rather more coarse than ordinary lettuce, though they make an acceptable ingredient in mixed salads. Old leaves become coarser and bitter. Stem - raw or cooked. Thick, tender, crisp and juicy, its flavour is variously described as being like lettuce, celery, artichoke, squash, asparagus or chard. It is usually peeled before being used. The stems can be harvested just before the plants flower without them turning bitter, though they might become hollow at this stage.

Other uses of the herb:

Parasiticide. No further details are given, but it is probably the sap of flowering plants that is used. The seed is said to be used to make hair grow on scar tissue.

Propagation of Celtuce:

Seed - sow March to June in situ. Seedlings can be transplanted. Seed becomes dormant at temperatures above 27C.

Cultivation of the herb:

Not known in the wild.

Known hazards of Lactuca sativa angustana:

The mature plant is mildly toxic.

Plant information taken from the Plants For A Future.