Lactuca virosa Linn

Family ► Compositae; Asteraceae.

Habitat ► Native to Europe. Imported into India.

English ► Bitter Lettuce, Wild Lettuce.

Unani ► Kaahuu Sahrai (var.), Kaahuu Barri (var.).

Action ► Mild sedative, hypnotic, (once used as a substitute for opium), anodyne, expectorant.

Key application ► Assedative. (The British Herbal Pharmacopoeia.)

Used in insomnia, nervous excitability, anxiety, restlessness, hyperactivity in children, nymphomania, smoker's cough, irritable cough and bronchitis.

Aerial parts contain sesquiterpene glycosides.

The leaves and dried juice contain lacticin, lactucopicrin (sesquiterpene lactones); flavonoids (mainly based on quercetin); coumarins (cichoriin and aesculin); N-methyl-beta-phenethy-lamine; triterpenes include taraxas-terol and beta-amyrin. The sesquiterpene lactones have a sedative effect.

The Wild Lettuce also contains hyos-cyamine, while the dried sap is devoid of it. Morphine content has been found in low concentrations, too low to have pharmacological effect. (Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, 2007.)

The oil of seeds is used for arteriosclerosis.

Synonym ► L. vulgaris Ser. L. leucanth Rusby. Cucurbita siceraria Mol.

Family ► Cucurbitaceae.

Habitat ► Throughout India.

English ► Bitter Bottle-Gourd.

Ayurvedic ► Katu-tumbi, Tumbini, Ikshavaaku. Tiktaalaavu, Pindapha-laa.

Siddha/Tamil ► Suraikai.

Action ► Pulp—purgative, emetic. Leaf—used in jaundice.

Cucurbita lagenaria Linn. is equated with Lauki or Sweet Bottle-Guard, used all over India as a vegetable.

Cucurbita siceraria Mol. is equated with Titalauki or the Bitter Bottle-Gourd. Bitter fruits yield 0.013% of a solid foam containing cucurbitacin B,D,G and H, mainly cucurbitacin B. These bitter principles are present in the fruit as aglycones. Leaves contain cucurbitacin B, and roots cucurbitacins B, D and traces of E. The fruit juice contains beta-glycosidase (elaterase).

Plants which yield non-bitter fruits contain no bitter principles or elat-erase; their roots are not bitter.

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