Wild lettuce extract, also known as "lettuce opium" became popularized Friday after Dr. Oz recommended the extract to help people sleep.
Wild lettuce extracts come from the leaves, sap and seeds of Lactuca virosa, a wild leafy plant.
People self-prescribe wild lettuce extracts as a medical aid for everything from asthma, coughs, joint pain and, importantly, insomnia, according to WebMD.
The extract of wild lettuce has not been proven by the Food and Drug Administration, but that didn't stop popular daytime-TV host Dr. Oz from recommending the extract during his show for sleeplessness.
In a segment about heart health, Dr. Oz recommended that people who couldn't get two hours of continuous sleep at night had a 30 percent increased risk for heart attack. The reason is that decreased sleep causes people to produce excess cortisol, a hormone that raises blood pressure, Dr. Oz said.
In a 2006 study, scientists found the active ingredient, lactucin, acted as a sedative in mice.
The effects of "lettuce opium" have been known for centuries as a potential remedy, published in a book and highlighted in a historical overview.
The "lettuce opium" that has similar properties to opium, but is unrelated to the illegal drug is still being touted as a sleep aid.
"As an easy fix, Dr. Oz recommends you try taking 30 mg of wild lettuce extract before bedtime," the doctor wrote on his website. "Also known as "lettuce opium," the extract comes from the stems of the wild lettuce plant and has been shown in an animal study to have calming and sedative effects."
Dr. Oz warned that certain people should not take wild lettuce extract if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, have the eye condition narrow-angle glaucoma, have allergies to related herbs such as ragweed, have surgery scheduled in the next two weeks or have an enlarged prostate.
Those interested in pursuing wild lettuce extract, without a doctor's consent, can find the supplement sold at the following sites:
Wild lettuce extract is just one of several natural sleep aids that people use.
Bestnaturalsleepaids.com showcases several sleeping aids, including the following five:
Chamomile - Recommended for use for minor sleeping issues with few side-effects.
Valerian - Meant as a short-term solution for sleeping problems on the ocassional night when you just can't get to sleep.
Lemon Balm - Easily used as a treatment for long-term sleep problems.
Melatonin - similar to valerian in that the site recommends people use it for minor sleeping problems
Ginseng - Among its many properties, this ancient herb can also be used as a sleep aid, according to the web site.
For more information on alternative, natural, non-FDA-approved sleep aids, visit Bestnaturalsleepaids.com.
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