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Lactuca virosa 2011Lactuca virosa
Wild Lettuce
This European native magic herb was referred to as "Titan's Blood" in ancient Greek manuscripts and many consider it, like regular lettuce, to be a Moon plant on account of its generally watery nature and white (bitter) sap. If you have encountered this plant, you know that it does not have the wateriness of its domesticated cousin, and its chemical relationship to other strongly Saturn plants like henbane indicates a Saturn association, especially when you consider the insignificant flowers. It also is often found growing wild in such Saturn-beloved places as roadsides (Saturn loves edges) and "waste places." This plant provides an incense aid for divination, especially when working with darker deities. For spellwork, it is an anti-aphrodisiac and hypnotic. Gather leaves when the plant is in flower and preferably at full Moon and dry for later use.

This herb contains the tropane hyoscyamine, much as the nightshades do, but Lactucarium, an Eclectic preparation made from the latex harvest from this herb when it is flowering, is a sedating bitter that contains no hyoscyamine. Its dried latex looks, tastes, and smells similar to opium (more Moon here) and so has been used to adulterate opium in the past, which probably partially accounts for one of its common names, lettuce opium. In British herbalism, it is often combined with passionflower and hops in equal parts and made into a tea for insomnia. 1/2-1 teaspoon of the herb mixture per cup is infused 15 minutes and 1/2 cup of the infusion drunk for chronic sleeplessness. Although the very young leaves are edible, it is better to grow regular cultivated lettuce for table use. Be careful with this plant, as it is toxic in large quantities; 'virosa' means poisonous, as in 'virulent.' It can cause stupor and has even caused death, but it is generally less dangerous than various other baneful plants. This plant is also known as strong-scented lettuce, laitue vireuse, and acrid lettuce. This is not the same as Lactuca scariola or prickly lettuce, which is often sold in its place. Note that the leaves of L. virosa are not lobed like those of L. scariola (see pic of L. virosa plants I grew in my own garden and from which I harvested these seeds).

How to grow wild lettuce: Do not cover seeds - just press them into moist soil and water to germinate in 7-14 days at 70F. I actually threw out a pack of old seeds of this plant onto a mulched area and two plants came up, but I don't suggest this as a planting method. Transplant seedlings to rich, moist soil and full sun, spacing 2-3ft/60-90cm apart. This is a biennial, which means in the first year it will make a rosette of leaves, and in the second year the flower stalk(s) will shoot up in early to mid summer to 3-6ft/.9-1.8m and produce seeds in late summer/early fall. If you're lucky, it will make seeds the first year, but in my experience, this is a two-year plant. It's hardy to zone 6 (-10F/-23C). This plant likes rich, moist soil and reseeds so readily that it is considered a weed in many areas. General growing info

Lactuca virosa
Organic witch-grown wild lettuce seeds
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Uses in Witchcraft & Magick:

Moon & Saturn Herb

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