“It is said that the effect of eating too much lettuce is “soporific.” I have never felt sleepy after eating lettuces; but then I am not a rabbit. They certainly had a very soporific effect upon the Flopsy Bunnies!”
So starts Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of the Flopsy Bunnies first published in 1909.
The story goes on to relate how the Flopsy Bunnies discovered some bolted lettuces on the compost heap and “simply stuffed” them. “By degrees, one after another, they were overcome with slumber, and lay down in the mown grass.” I won’t spoil the plot but you can read the full story on Project Gutenberg.
So does lettuce help humans sleep? The Romans certainly thought so, identifying a milky substance called lactucarium or ‘lettuce opium’ that sedates the nervous system and induces sleep.
I imagine it would only be effective though if you cut a lettuce (or several lettuces) straight from the garden. A few manky lettuce leaves that have been languishing in the bottom of the fridge for several days aren’t going to help much, I suspect.
It doesn’t seem to matter though if you have them raw or cooked. The French habit of serving a green salad after the main course could be a good one to adopt or a late night lettuce sandwich though I suspect you would have to pack the lettuce in to have much effect.
The website thirdage.com advises infusing 3-4 leaves in a mugful of hot water for 15 mins or you could juice it with celery as juicing-for-health.com suggests – a little mint or lemon juice may counteract the bitterness.
Culpeper, the 17th century English herbalist recommends mixing lettuce juice with oil of roses and dabbing it on the forehead and temples to aid sleep and ease headaches. And babies were at one time bathed in lettuce water to ease teething pains and help them get off to sleep. Could be worth a try . . .
Have any of you found lettuce a good sleep remedy?
The advice in this article is not endorsed by the author, merely passed on.
There’s an enjoyable article on lettuce on the Guardian website by the now Sunday Times writer Oliver Thring which touches on its sleep-inducing benefits.
photo © sommai – Fotolia.com