I have recently discovered that my Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola) Tincture is being well sought after for pain relief. It is a natural alternative for opioids and many customers who have tried it are letting me know how well it is working for them, which is always wonderful to hear as an herbalist. It’s one thing to make products and feel that they are working, personally, for myself, but to get continuous feedback from others that the product is working, especially those suffering from chronic pain and conditions like Ehlers-Danlos syndrome (EDS), is beyond amazing. There is also a woman who purchases it because she swears by its ability, better than anything else, to help relieve & clear up her daughter’s acne. Nothing gives me more joy and a feeling of accomplishment than knowing things like this!
Recently I had a woman reach out to me, after leaving feedback, because she was unaware that the fresh plant could be used, chopped up, and covered with alcohol, to make an effective plant medicine. Through her review she also shared with me her process of crafting resin from this powerful plant. I am not one for lengthier undertakings, usually, but this is something that caught my interest! If I can make a product that is even more well-rounded, or could be of greater strength, for customers using it as a pain reliever, then it is well-worth the longer task. Something I also like to do is always include a sample or small herbal gift with each of my orders, and this seems like a wonderful extra for those who order the tincture or vinegar/tincture.
Before I explain, in detail, the procedure for using the fresh plant to create a powerful resin for pain relief, I want to give an overview of the benefits and effects of Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola):
- Anodyne (lessens pain through reducing sensitivity to the brain or nervous system)
- Antispasmodic (Lowers the incidence of muscle spasms, especially of the smooth muscle)
- Digestive (Promotes the digestion of food)
- Diuretic (Increases the amount of water and salt expelled from the body causing urination)
- Hypnotic (Induces drowsiness & a natural sound sleep)
- Sedative (Decreases activity, calms & reduces excitement for inducing sleep)
- Used for its ability to not cause addiction or digestive upset like opium and also helps with insomnia, neuroses, hyperactivity, dry coughs, anxiety, rheumatic pain & whooping cough.
- The sap contains Lactucarium (white sap that turns brown when exposed to the air) and this is what is the beneficial substance that has the affects listed above.
- The active constituents in Prickly Lettuce are: Germanicol, Lactucerin, Lactucerols, Lactucic Acid, Lactucin & Lactupicrin.
The process for creating a resin out of the fresh plant material, also called the herb, starts by collecting about 8-10 plants and washing/drying thoroughly. The plants are pretty large and I find rinsing them outdoors with a hose is easiest. About a quarter of these plants should be whole plants, root to tops of plant. These can be harvested anytime before the flowers start to open. I used a combination of smaller plants & some where the flower buds were formed but not opening yet. I sprayed them with a hose, outside, to get dirt and debris off before bringing them in and drying with a towel. Once prepared, the cutting/blending begins.
I choose to chop with a scissors by hand because I feel that then the sap gets in the pot and on the scissors and little is lost. I also found that the processer was not any more effective in breaking it down more than cutting, but it’s probably because a root got stuck on the blade🙃. If you do choose to chop/puree in a blender/food processor, I would recommend rinsing it out with water (I prefer spring water for my extracts) and then dumping it into the pot. This will help reduce the loss of any of that super beneficial sap that is so vital to the final product. Once all the chopped plant material is in the pot about half full, or about 8-10 cups, make sure it is fully covered by spring/filtered/distilled water and heat on medium to low heat, not boiling but a low simmer, and cover. While it is heating, for about an hour or two, gently stir and mash every 20-30 minutes or so. Keep covered and heated until the water turns a deep brownish color. Then it is time to strain and start the next step of the process.
Once it is ready to strain get a small holed mesh strainer/a large piece of cheesecloth and a large pan/bowl to strain the marc (plant material) from the liquid. As you strain the material, squeeze or press any remaining liquid out of it as well. Make sure it has cooled enough so, if you are squeezing by hand, you do not hurt yourself! The marc can then be composted, tossed or reused to craft a tincture with some fresh plant material added. The strained liquid should then be transferred back into the pot for further cooking.
The Prickly Lettuce infusion should now be gently simmered on medium/low heat, not boiling, uncovered until it cooks way down to a fairly thick and shiny resin. This takes a few hours, depending on how much liquid there is, so be prepared for this process, so you can watch and stir as the water reduces. At first I thought this simmering was going to take quite a long time, so I let it cook down for a few hours while I was gone and when I returned, about 2 hours later, it had reduced to just the resin. I was able to work with it by adding Everclear and scraping the pan with a spatula, but if I’d watched it more carefully there would have been a way to avoid the scraping. The second time I made it I was around to continuously stir it and as it got down to about an inch left in the pan, the liquid started to thicken a bit and when it was almost completely cooked down it was much easier to remove from the pan and put in a jar. Then I added about a quarter cup of Everclear mixed with Organic Vodka. This creates a very strong resin tincture that lasts for years and can be added to some water, or water with regular tincture, to create a much more immediate pain reliever/sleep inducer. I have tried it when having some lower back pain and was very amazed with how quickly it was able to relieve much of the aching and discomfort!
Overall, this process is initially more timely than harvesting some fresh plant material, chopping and covering with Everclear, Organic Vodka and some spring water, like my usual tincturing process. Yet there is the elimination of then having to wait a month before straining it and having it available to use. This resin extract can be crafted in a day. I am now on my third batch, because I have so much Prickly & Wild Lettuce in the garden this year, and I want to utilize it since its such an effective herbal extract that is helping so many of my customers!
Below you will see the websites I utilized for some of the information I’ve provided, above, about the benefits and uses of Prickly Lettuce. I hope that information, as well as my explanation of how to craft this extract through my descriptions and pictures, helps you if this is something you’re interested in trying your hand at.
Have a wonderful day and thanks so much for reading and visiting my blog😍🌿💞💞=)!! If you are interested in any of my herbal products they can be found in my online Etsy shop at: https://www.etsy.com/shop/AnnesBackyardHerbal
Websites referenced for information about Prickly Lettuce (Lactuca serriola): http://www.naturalmedicinalherbs.net/herbs/l/lactuca-serriola=prickly-lettuce.php