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Scientific Name:Lactuca serriola
Common Name(s): Prickly Lettuce
Parts Used: fruit, leaf
oneraindog 31 May, 2009
Biennial plant to as much as 6 ft. exuding a white milk if broken, with a large taproot. the leaves almost spiny, especially the lower leaves. leaves alternate up the stem, lower leaves like dandelion leaves with prickly toothed margins, pointed at the tips to 12 inches long, 4 inches wide becoming smaller up the stem all grayish to bluish green.
Flowers yellow, almost stalkless and scattered about the tips of upper branches. Stalks shorter than the flowers.
A collection of minute dark seeds bearing a silvery plume, parachute-like as in the Dandelion and Salsify but much smaller.
Found around fence rows, old fields and pastures, roadsides. Starting to flowering in June and continuing to flower and fruit until winter frost.
The milky white substance in the plant has been likened in appearance and sedative activity to opium. Taken both as an infusion and tincture wild lettuce is used as a tranquilizer and may be given to adults and children alike to ensure a sound nights sleep. It is also useful in calming anxiety and strong emotions. Combined with other herbs like licorice wild lettuce is used to cure coughs. The plant is generally very bitter and tough but in very young stages the leaves can be used like lettuce in salads, sandwiches, soups or steamed. the seeds are a source or Egyptian lettuce seed oil, a pleasant flavored, culinary oil. Folklore has long held that that the plant can stimulate and enhance the production of breast milk in lactating humans. herbal practitioners have recommended the use of Prickly Lettuce as a diuretic and also a lotion to treat chapped skin.