Sometimes referred to as ‘opium lettuce’, this lesser known relative of our favourite salad leaf is said to calm the nervous system and treat restlessness.
Many people are surprised to learn that certain species of wild lettuce have mildly sedative properties. The name ‘opium lettuce’ refers more to the traditional method of tapping its milky sap than its effects, so it is not going to send you into an opiate oblivion. Its effects are subtle, and it is often combined with other grounding herbs such as skullcap and valerian.
This biennial species of lettuce is native to Europe and said to be found on the coast of the south east and east of England, but rarely found elsewhere in Britain. It is a sun loving plant that grows best in (but not limited to) well-drained sandy soils. If you sow seed in the spring it will spend its first year looking somewhat like a typical salad lettuce, but in its second year it will grow like Jack’s beanstalk, reaching heights of over 2m – and spread its seed everywhere too. Take heed.