Dr. Oz Recommends Lettuce Opium Sleep Aid Rather Than Ambien
In light of celebrity deaths due to prescription drug abuse and recent news about a study that claims that prescription sleep aids like Ambien are as dangerous as cigarettes, people are asking what sleep aids are actually safe to take. While there are a number of herbal teas and the like that have proven to be safe as sleep aids, Dr. Oz went on air this week and recommends to his viewers an extract from the stem of a wild lettuce plant known as lettuce opium that he says has calming sedative effects and can be used as a sleep aid.
Lettuce Opium info
Lettuce opium—also known as lactucrium—is a milky sap that is secreted by the lettuce plant species Lactura vitrosa as well as potentially a number of other lettuce species. It got its moniker as “lettuce opium” due to the sap’s physical opium-like appearance and its reported sedative and analgesic properties that have been described as causing mild sensations of euphoria similar to that experienced with opium.
Reportedly, lettuce opium was used as far back as ancient Egyptian times and has met with moderate to low success over the past century as a medicinal plant. Claims toward the effectiveness of lettuce opium is attributed to treating numerous maladies including urinary tract infections, whooping cough, insomnia, painful cramps during menstruation, swollen male genitals, joint pain and nymphomania.
Early interest in lettuce opium was the belief that it might serve as a mild and safe substitute for the much stronger and highly addictive opium derived from the poppy plant. However, very few credible studies have produced results that demonstrate that the lettuce opium is as effective as previously believed. In one study involving pain detection in mice, lettuce opium is reported to have an analgesic effect equal to ibuprofen. It is hypothesized that part of the trouble with showing any demonstrable efficacy may be due to that the active ingredient(s) of the extract are unstable and cannot be preserved in a commercial product for use.
According to The British Pharmaceutical Codex, lettuce opium has been used throughout Europe in cough lozenges and cough syrups with some success in doses of 30 milligrams and is noted for its slight analgesic properties. In the U.S., it appears that lettuce opium has thus far evaded any need for regulation as a controlled substance, even in spite of fringe user communities that claim the lettuce opium qualifies as a “legal narcotic substitute.”
Lettuce opium hazards
However, this is not to say that taking lettuce opium is totally safe. A search of risks, hazards and contraindications related to lettuce opium include:
• Large doses may impair breathing and cause death in otherwise healthy individuals.
• Topical application may cause irritation, profuse sweating, rapid heart rate, pupil dilation, vision problems, ringing in ears, dizziness and sedation.
• Allergic reactions in people with allergies to ragweed and related plants.
• Individuals with an enlarged prostate gland and difficulty urinating may be adversely affected by a chemical in the lettuce opium.
• May worsen glaucoma in individuals with narrow-angle glaucoma.
• Should not be used at least two weeks prior to surgery because it may interfere with an individual’s response to anesthesia or other nerve-numbing medications.
• Should not be taken along with other sedatives such as clonazepam (Klonopin), lorazepam (Ativan), phenobarbital (Donnatal), and zolpidem (Ambien).
• Should not be taken if pregnant or breastfeeding.
Fears that too many people are abusing sleep aids and that recommended normal use of some sleep aids categorized as hypnotic sleeping pills (such as Ambien) may increase the risk of death, will make it increasingly difficult for people with insomnia to get prescription help and may result in self-experimentation with alternative methods such as taking lettuce opium.
While lettuce opium appears to be relatively safe in the accepted dose of 30 milligrams recommended by Dr. Oz, it is still important that people speak to their physician first before trying anything to induce sleep. Other contraindications and/or exceptions for particular individuals may apply and thereby need the expert opinion of someone who knows your medical history.
Image Source: Courtesy of Wikipedia
“Lettuce, lactuca sp., as a medicinal plant in polish publications of the 19th century” Kwart. Hist. Nauki. Tech. 2005; 50(3-4):123-34; Trojanowska, A.