Herbs & Plants (Spices)

Lactuca canadensis

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

*Cicerbita canadensis (L.) Wallr.
*Cicerbita elongata (Willd.) Wallr.
*Galathenium elongatum (Muhl. ex Willd.) Nutt.
*Galathenium salicifolium Nutt.
*Lactuca sagittifolia Elliott
*Lactuca steelei Britton
*Mulgedium canadense (L.) Farw.
*Mulgedium integrifolium Cass.
*Wiestia canadensis (L.) Sch.Bip.
*Wiestia elongata (Willd.) Sch.Bip.

Common Names: Canada lettuce, Canada wild lettuce, tall lettuce, and Florida blue lettuce.

Habitat: Lactuca canadensis is native to Eastern N. America – Nova Scotia to British Columbia, south to Georgia and Colorado. It grows in thickets, woodland borders and clearings. Moist open places. Usually found in sandy soils.

Lactuca canadensis is a bienneial growing to 3 m (9ft 10in). The leaves are deeply lobed and occasionally toothed. The top of the stem bears an inflorescence with many flower heads, each up to 1 cm (0.5 in) wide when open. It is in flower from Jul to September, and the seeds ripen from Aug to October. The heads have many pale yellow ray florets but no disc florets. The fruit is a dark-colored achene about half a centimeter (0.2 inches) long with a white pappus.

The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) and are pollinated by Insects.Suitable for: light (sandy) and medium (loamy) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It can grow in semi-shade (light woodland) or no shade. It prefers moist soil.
Prefers a light sandy loam. Hybridizes in the wild with L. ludoviciana and the two species can sometimes be difficult to separate.

Propagation :
Seed – sow spring in situ and only just cover the seed. Germination is usually fairly quick.
Edible Uses: Young leaves and stems – raw or cooked. Cooked and eaten as greens.

Medicinal Uses :
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[4]. 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.

Known Hazards : 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.

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