How to extract and use Wild Lettuce latexAug 20, 2020
So you’ve probably seen my recent posts, playing around with Wild Lettuce extracts... I've had a fair crop of it growing by the end of my house this year, and everyone has been under strict instructions NOT to mow it down! I gotta say, the looks I've been getting have been hilarious- but have given me even more reason to make sure I produce a remedy that works!
I have to say, this plant (notorious weed to some), ticks all the boxes for me as a Wild Medicine - It grows just about ANYWHERE, prolifically! It's simple to harvest and process (only requires water to extract what you need), and it's helping the local environment by harvesting a somewhat competitive plant. Ticks all around if you ask me!
I know there is a lot of hype around this plant at the moment, thanks to Codeine being taken off the retail market in Australia. People are looking for alternatives.
The active constituents in any of the Lettuce families most definitely have anti-inflammatory and painkilling properties- even your common variety garden lettuces do! However, these are nowhere near as potent as their Wild cousins, and its for this reason the weedy Lactuca virosa is most commonly used for medicine making.
These properties are found in the Latex (milky, white sap) of the plant, so essentially you want to try and harvest when the sap is at its highest, which is traditionally when it is in bloom (and sending all its goodness upward into the stalks and flowers).
If you are unsure, simply snap a small branchlet off the main stem. You will soon know if the plant is ripe for the picking! (your hands will end up covered in white, sticky latex).
(On this note, I will also add that there are two other species of ‘Wild Lettuce’ which are used for extracts, however, the L. virosa is by far the most potent. This is also the species I have growing rampantly, so this is the one I have used).
How to use Wild Lettuce
There are a number of ways you can use Wild Lettuce as a remedy, and really what it will come down to is the how's and why's of what you need it for, and whether or not you need to store it.
The active constituents in Wild Lettuce are called sesquiterpene lactones, and these are water-soluble. So water is pretty much the only thing that is required to extract the medicinals out of this plant, however, I would also suggest the addition of HEAT in order to speed up the process.
Wild Lettuce Infusion
Absolutely the simplest way to prepare any herb, an infusion can be made from either the fresh or dried leaf of the Wild Lettuce plant.
This was the first WL remedy I tried myself, and I have to say I was quite impressed with its relaxing and gentle sedative properties. One cup before bed, whilst its' taste is far from pleasant (think bitter), is a small price to pay for a marked improvement in sleep quality.
This simple remedy could also be helpful for anxiety or stress-related headaches throughout the day. Being a relaxant, you might also be able to employ it for things like period pain, or a dry/spasmodic cough or tension such as that asthma-like wheeze (which is often stress-induced too).
Traditional directions of use:
- Steep 1 tablespoon per cup of hot water and strain after a few minutes.
- Honey could be added for children, etc.
Wild Lettuce Extract (Decoction/ Reduction method)
If you're chasing something a little more concentrated (more potent), or would like to store your Lettuce extract for later use, I would suggest you try this reduced extract.
This type of extract is what I suggest you try if you are experiencing any sort of pain you want to try it for, or if you had a dependence on Codeine-based drugs and are looking for a substitute.
It takes quite a bit more time and attention to prepare, but the strength of your extract will be far superior.
How to prepare a concentrated extract using the decoction/ reduction method:
- Harvest the aerial parts of the plant
- Chop or break up the herb into smaller, more even-sized parts. (This is not entirely necessary, but it will enable you to extract more of the actives). I like to use my Vitamix for this - it's fast and easy.
- Place the chopped-up herb into a larger boiler pot. Ideally, this would NOT be a metal/stainless pot. Whilst the constituents in the Wild Lettuce would not encourage leaching of the metals into the remedy, the actives in some other herbs most definitely could and will. So for future-proofing your remedy making I suggest you invest in an enamel-based pot, or you can use a pyrex dish inside a pot of boiling water (double boiler method).
- Pour enough water into the pot to just cover the herb mixture, and bring to a simmer. *I do not like boiling herbs at all, as it can destroy some of the actives.
- I like to keep it simmering for at least 20minutes (with the lid on at this stage). The Lettuce decoction needs to turn a nice dark brown. (Think strong tea-colored)
- Once you have reached this color, you need to filter out all of the excess plant matter. I am in the market for a small herb press at the moment, but an easy and inexpensive way to do this is by using a clean pillowcase. Place the pillowcase into a large bowl or pot, and pour the herb material into it. You can then strain out all of the impurities, and return the liquid back to the pot for further reduction.
Now you should have a lettuce infusion (liquid only) back in your pot, and this needs to be brought to a simmer and reduced down until almost all of the water has been evaporated.
This decoction liquid can be used as a 'strong tea' or preserved with around 40% alcohol by weight, for longer shelf life.
It's at this point you can add more herb and liquid and repeat the process if you wish to increase the strength of the extract by 2x.
NOTE: There is one YouTube video that shows a whole pot full of thick, brown syrupy liquid being poured into a jar. PLEASE do not expect your end product to look like this! I wholeheartedly believe they have tweaked this video, and in order to obtain that much final extract they would have required bucket loads of raw material (not the blender- full they show). LOL.
However, don't be disheartened by how little extract you scrape off the bottom of your pot- this stuff is strong! (The above pictures are a far more accurate representation of what to expect from reducing your Wild Lettuce extract down).
DOSAGE: The dosage on this reduced extract is roughly 0.3gm, every 3hrs or as required.