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Lactuca virosa

Wild Lettuce, a relative of our common garden lettuce, once played an interesting role in ritual and medicine in ancient Egypt and Greece. In Egypt it was associated with the God Min, a fertility deity who has sometimes been compared with lusty Pan. During his festival a statue of the God was placed in a small patch of wild lettuce and carried around as part of the procession. The Egyptians used Wild Lettuce as an aphrodisiac, but warned that excessive use would dull the brain. The Greeks on the other hand used it as an anaphrodisiac and it was part of the staple diet for priests, presumably to cool their carnal appetites. Wild Lettuce was brought to the US early on and in 1792 a doctor from Philadelphia first wrote about the opium-like qualities of dried lettuce latex. At the time opium was still commonly used as medicine and henceforth dried lettuce juice has often been used to adulterate opium and opium containing medicines. More recently the herb has become popular as 'not-pot', a legal Marihuana substitute.

Today, Wild Lettuce is rarely used in herbal medicine, but in ancient times it was commonly employed as a relaxant sedative. It was said to be useful for insomnia, nervousness and anxiety. It is sometimes used to calm overexcited and restless children. It soothes a spasmodic cough and acts as a mild pain reliever. In ancient Greece it was regarded as an anaphrodisiac, while in Egypt it was used as an aphrodisiac. It was also used to treat sexual problems such as premature ejaculation and to prevent nocturnal emissions.

Wild Lettuce may be used in fertility rituals to honour the ancient Egyptian God Min or added to love potions. It may also be used as a meditation aid to help calm and centre the mind and to assist the practitioner on astral journeys and pathworkings.

Not all herbs are suitable in pregnancy, breastfeeding or for young children, or if you are unwell, or taking any medication. If in doubt, please ask a medical herbalist or healthcare practitioner.