Country of Origin: United States
Lactuca Virosa is a plant in the Lactuca (lettuce) genus, ingested often for its mild psychotropic (specifically hypnotic or sedative) effects. It is related to common lettuce (L. Sativa), and is often called wild lettuce, bitter lettuce, Laitue Vireuse, tall lettuce, great lettuce or Rakutu-Karyumu-So.
Wild Lettuce is widespread across much of central and southern Europe. It can be found locally in the south-east and east of England. In the rest of Great Britain it is very rare, and in Ireland it is absent. It is also found in the Punjab Region of Pakistan India and Australia where it grows in the wild. In North America, it has been documented as introduced in California, Alabama, Iowa, and Washington, DC, and grows wild in other parts of the continent.
It was used in the 19th century by physicians when opium could not be obtained. It was studied extensively by the Council of the Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain in 1911. They discovered two chemicals responsible for the properties of L. Virosa; Lactucopicrin and lactucin. In the United States, the plant experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1970s.
Lactuca Virosa is biennial, similar to prickly lettuce Lactuca serriola but taller – it can grow to 200 cm (80 inches or almost 7 feet). It is also stouter, the stem and leaves are more purple-flushed, the leaves are less divided but more spreading. The achene is purple-black, without bristles at the tip. The pappus is the same as Lactuca serriola. In the northern hemisphere, it flowers from July until September.
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