Herbs & Plants

Lactuca virosa

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Botanical Name : Lactuca virosa
Family: Asteraceae
Tribe: Cichorieae
Genus: Lactuca
Species: L. virosa
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales

Common Names:Wild Lettuce, Bitter lettuce, Laitue vireuse, Opium Lettuce, Poisonous Lettuce, or Rakutu-Karyumu-So.

Habitat : Lactuca virosa is found in  Europe, including Britain, from Belgium south and west to N. Africa, Central Russia and W. Asia.It is also found in the Punjab Region of Pakistan India and Australia where it grows in the wild.

Lactuca virosa is an  annual  or biennial  plant and is   similar to prickly lettuce Lactuca serriola but taller – it can grow to 200 cm. It is also stouter, the stem and leaves are more purple flushed,[disputed – discuss] the leaves are less divided, but more spreading.

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It is hardy to zone 6 and is not frost tender. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.
The achene is purple black, without bristles at the tip. The pappus is the same as Lactuca serriola.

Cultivation :   
Prefers a light sandy loam and a sunny position. The wild lettuce is cultivated as a medicinal plant in many areas of Europe.

Propagation :    
Seed – sow spring or autumn in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually fairly quick.

Edible Uses:      
Leaves are eaten  raw or cooked. Very tender. A mild flavoured oil, used in cooking, is obtained from the seeds.

A latex which is called lactucarium can be derived from the extract of the stem secretions of Lactuca virosa. Oils and extracts can also be produced from L. virosa. These oils and extracts have sedative properties in rodents. They may be added to tea to help induce sleep. While its use as a galactagogue (a substance that increases breast milk) has been reported, the sedative effects on the baby would strongly argue against its use for this purpose. Many add the greens to salads, though the leaves of L. virosa are more bitter than other salad greens. Smoking involves either dried leaves or a sticky precipitate extracted from the leaves. Beverages can be prepared by soaking the leaves in alcohol.

The plant contains flavonoids, coumarins, and N-methyl-?-phenethylamine.[unreliable source?] A variety of other chemical compounds have been isolated from L. virosa. One of the compounds, lactucin, is an adenosine receptor agonist in vitro, while another, lactucopicrin, has been shown to act as an acetylcholinesterase inhibitor in vitro

Medicinal Uses:.

Anodyne;  Antispasmodic;  Digestive;  Homeopathy;  Hypnotic;  Narcotic;  Sedative;  Tonic.

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. This species is probably the richest supply of lactucarium. The plant also contains ‘hyoscyamine’, a powerful depressant of the parasympathetic nervous system. 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. A homeopathic remedy is made from the plant. It is used in the treatment of chronic catarrh, coughs, swollen liver, flatulence and ailments of the urinary tract.

Wild lettuce is a valuable remedy for insomnia and muscular arthritis. The common name “lettuce opium“, as it was known in the earlier official pharmacopoeias, refers to the potent milky latex produced by the stems and leaves. There has been a recent internet driven surge of popularity of wild lettuce as a recreational herb, however wild lettuce will disappoint those only looking for a legal high similar to opium. The powers that be have outlawed all the truly narcotic herbs, leaving only the less potent ones available to use without fear of running afoul of the law. That said, this relaxing and sedative herb can be a ally for those needing help to induce sleep, and calm restlessness.

Known Hazards:
Poisonous. Cases of poisoning caused by this plant have only been recorded very rarely.

The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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Herbs & Plants

White Snakeroot

Botanical Name : Ageratina altissima
Family: Asteraceae
Genus: Ageratina
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Asterales
Tribe: Eupatorieae
Species: A. altissima
Synonyms: Eupatorium ageratoides – L.f., Eupatorium rugosum – Houtt., Eupatorium urticifolium – Reichard.
Other Names: White Sanicle or Tall Boneset.

Habitat: Eastern N. America. Low woods in river valleys in Texas

It is a poisonous perennial herb in the family Asteraceae, native to eastern North America. An older binomial name for this species was Eupatorium rugosum, but the genus Eupatorium has undergone taxonomic revision by botanists and a number of the species once included there have been moved to other genera.

This  perennial plant is about 1½–3′ tall, branching occasionally. The light green to tan stems are round and largely hairless. The opposite leaves are up to 6″ long and 3½” across, becoming smaller as they ascend the stems. The lower leaves are cordate to cordate-ovate, while the upper leaves are broadly lanceolate to lanceolate. All of the leaves are largely hairless and strongly serrated along the margins. There are 3 prominent veins on the upper surface of each leaf (particularly the lower ones), while the lower surface has an elevated network of veins. The rather long petioles are ½–2½” in length.

The upper stems terminate in compound corymbs of flowerheads that span several inches across. Each flowerhead is about ½” across and contains 10-30 disk florets that are brilliant white. There are no ray florets. Each disk floret is about 1/5″ across when fully open; it consists of a small tubular corolla with 5 lobes that are spreading and pointed, and it has a divided style that is strongly exerted from the corolla. At the base of each flowerhead, there is a single series of linear floral bracts that are green and non-overlapping. The blooming period occurs from late summer through the fall and lasts about 2 months. This is one of the last wildflowers to bloom during the fall. The flowers are often fragrant. Each disk floret is replaced by a dark linear achene with a small tuft of white hairs. These achenes are distributed by the wind. The root system consists of spreading rhizomes and shallow fibrous roots. This plant can spread vegetatively by means of its rhizome, or it can reseed itself into new areas.
They are found in woods and brush thickets where they bloom mid to late summer or fall. The flowers are a clean white color and after blooming small seeds with fluffy white tails are released to blow in the wind. This species is adaptive to different growing conditions and can be found in open shady areas with open bare ground; it can be weedy in shady landscapes and in hedgerows. There are two different varieties Ageratina altissima var. angustata and Ageratina altissima var. roanensis (Appalachian white snakeroot); they differ in the length of the flower phyllaries and shape of the apices

It is hardy to zone 6. It is in flower from August to September. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects. The plant is self-fertile.

The plant prefers light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and requires well-drained soil. The plant prefers acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It requires moist soil.

Succeeds in an ordinary well-drained but moisture retentive garden soil in sun or part shade. There is some difference of opinion over the correct name for this species with some authorities using Eupatorium rugosum.

Seed – sow spring in a cold frame, only just covering the seed. When large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring.

Medicinal  Actions & Uses
Diaphoretic; Diuretic; Febrifuge; Odontalgic; Stimulant; Tonic.

The root is diaphoretic, diuretic, febrifuge, stimulant and tonic. It has been used in the treatment of diarrhoea, gravel and urinary diseases. It has also been used in herbal sweat baths to encourage sweating. A decoction or infusion of the root has been taken to treat a fallen or inflamed womb. The root has been chewed and held in the mouth as a treatment for toothache.

Known Hazards : .
White Snakeroot contains the toxin tremetol; when the plants are consumed by cattle, the meat and milk become contaminated with the toxin. When milk or meat containing the toxin is consumed, the poison is passed onto humans, and if consumed in large enough quantities can cause tremetol poisoning in humans. The poisoning is also called milk sickness, as humans often ingested the toxin by drinking the milk of cows who had eaten snakeroot. During the early 19th century, when large numbers of Europeans (who were unfamiliar with snakeroot) began settling in the plant’s habitat of the Midwest and Upper South, many thousands were killed by milk sickness, and it was several decades before the cause was traced to snakeroot. Notably, it was the cause of death of Nancy Hanks, mother of Abraham Lincoln. The plants are also poisonous to horses, goats, and sheep. Signs of poisoning in these animals include depression and lethargy, hind feet placed close together (horses, goats, cattle) or held far apart (sheep), nasal discharge, excessive salivation, arched body posture, and rapid or difficult breathing.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.


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