This article was written and researched by Dr. Albert Stezin (MBBS, Ph.D – clinician and neuroscientist) to ensure maximum factual accuracy and unique content.
Many social media influencers claim that lettuce tea and lettuce water can help you sleep better.
But is there any scientific evidence to support these claims?
There is currently no scientific evidence to support the claims that lettuce tea or lettuce water can help improve sleep or combat insomnia in humans. There is some scientific research that weakly correlates lettuce and its effective sedative action in mice.
In the rest of this article, I have explored the weak potential of lettuce as a sleep aid using my professional experience as a medical doctor and access to scientific literature.
I also made various types of lettuce tea and lettuce water to see if they helped me sleep any better – I didn’t notice any significant improvement.
Always remember to consult with your own doctor before taking any supplements to improve your sleep – especially if you are taking medication and/or have an underlying condition.
3 Ways Lettuce May Help With Sleep
Lettuce, especially romaine lettuce, seems to be a good source of sleep-promoting components and antioxidant polyphenols in the context of mice-based investigations.
However, since these experiments were performed on mice, their validity in humans is presently not yet established, and cannot be directly extrapolated to human beings.
Further studies are necessary to establish the sleep-promoting effects and mechanism of sleep induction by romaine lettuce extracts, before they are used as dietary supplements for sleep in humans.
Here are three ways that lettuce may positively impact sleep:
1: Lettuce May Have a Sedative Action
Lettuce has long been thought to have sedative and hypnotic properties.
The sedative action refers to the ability to decrease activity and excitement, creating a sense of calm.
Hypnotic action refers to the ability to induce a state of drowsiness, and facilitate a state that closely resembles natural sleep.
The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks believed that consuming lettuce leaves after a meal could induce sleep, and improve virility in men.
It is the horticultural experiments of these civilizations that led to the development of the much-loved modern-day lettuce.
Famous authors, physicians, and naturalists, like Pliny the Elder and Celsus, have extolled the sleep-promoting benefits of lettuce in their treatises.
It is believed that Galen, regarded as the father of modern medicine, used and prescribed lettuce to promote sleep.
Fast-forward to the modern-day, when scientists have actually identified the chemicals in lettuce that cause these medical benefits, namely lactucopicrin and lactucin.
Studies have shown that these chemicals, in specific quantities, decrease the spontaneous movements in mice; a sign of sedative action.
A few research works indicate that it is lactucin that has sedative properties, and that lactucopicrin doesn’t have any sedative or hypnotic effects.
2: Lettuce May Have an Analgesic Action
Analgesic action refers to the pain-relieving properties of a substance.
A few studies have claimed that lactucopicrin and lactucin have analgesic abilities.
Their administration raised the pain threshold in mice, alluding to their analgesic properties.
In experiments, the administration of lactucin and its ester, 11β,13-dihydro-lactucin, was found to produce analgesia in amounts equal to or greater than ibuprofen (a pain killer used for humans) in mice.
The pain killer effect was present for up to 90 minutes, but the maximal effect was seen 30 minutes after administration of the molecule.
Research on wild lettuce, a lettuce variety that is closely related to the common lettuce, showed that there was a decrease in the enkephalinase enzyme activity, without any activity on opioid receptors, when using lettuce extract.
The inhibition of this enzyme is linked to analgesic action.
Again, it was the lactucin, lactucarium, and 11β,13-dihydro-lactucin components of lettuce which were responsible for the analgesic effect.
3: Lettuce May Have Antioxidant Properties
It is currently understood that sleep helps with the control of the free radicals formed during the sleep-wake cycle.
When there is sleep deprivation, oxidative stress in the brain increases, especially in critical brain regions, like the hippocampus (related to memory and learning) and cortex.
This is due to a decrease in the activity of the superoxide dismutase enzyme, and the resultant increase in malondialdehyde and nitric oxide levels.
Lettuce can decrease the oxidative stress induced by sleep deprivation, since it contains antioxidants, such as vitamin C and polyphenols.
The levels of the antioxidants are significantly higher in romaine lettuce than in others.
In short, lettuce also has a neuroprotective role.
3 Indirect Ways Lettuce Can Influence Sleep
Lettuce has other health benefits which indirectly improve sleep, which are as follows:
1: Contains Vitamin K
Lettuce contains high levels of vitamin K, which improves bone health and blood clotting.
In a study, it was discovered that people who slept less than seven hours a day had lower levels of vitamin K.
Lettuce can help to bridge this gap.
Furthermore, raw lettuce is predominantly composed of water (95%).
Having a few leaves of lettuce can help maintain adequate hydration.
2: Higher Lactucin Content in Green Romaine Lettuce
Depending on the genetic makeup of different types of lettuce, the amounts of the active components also vary.
For example, green romaine lettuce has higher levels of lactucin than red lettuce.
A study found that the lactucin content in red lettuce was 361.50 micrograms per gram of leaf extract, whereas green lettuce contained 1071.67 micrograms of lactucin per gram of leaf extract.
Similarly, the lactucopicrin content was 1448.08 micrograms in green lettuce, compared to 1321.18 micrograms per gram of red lettuce extract.
The sedative, hypnotic, analgesic, and antioxidant actions of lettuce are dependent on the amounts of these compounds.
Hence, the type of lettuce you consume matters.
For sleep benefits, green romaine lettuce is superior to others.
3: Lettuce Seed Extract May Have a More Potent Effect
Depending on the part of the lettuce used, the amounts of the active components vary.
For example, the extracts made from lettuce seeds have higher polyphenol levels in comparison to the extracts made from leaves.
Conversely, leaf extracts have higher levels of flavonoids than seed extracts.
The lactucin content is higher in seeds than in leaves.
Seed extract has a higher quantity of chlorogenic and caftaric acids, whereas the leaf extract has higher levels of chicoric acid.
These acids are polyphenol-based chemicals that have high anti-oxidant action.
Based on this, the seeds are a better source of antioxidants, and a better protective agent against oxidative damage, when compared to the leaves.
The downside of choosing seeds over leaves is that the seeds have a lower extraction yield than the leaves.
This means that without the right means of extraction, seeds are likely to yield less of these sleep-promoting components than leaves.
In experiments, oral administration of the seed extracts increased the duration of sleep in mice that were sedated with pentobarbital (a drug that also induces sleep).
However, the concentration of seed extract required for this effect was much higher than for non-sedated mice.
Furthermore, mice given the seed extract of romaine lettuce had lower sleep latency than other mice.
In other experiments, sleep and anxiety scores improved with the use of lettuce seed oil, without any corresponding increase in side effects.
The sleep-related effects were more beneficial when green and red variants of romaine lettuce were used, in comparison to other varieties.
4 Ways to Use Lettuce to Sleep Better
While there is no strong proof of the sleep benefits of lettuce in humans, there are many lettuce preparations and formulations which have claimed to improve sleep.
These have been in use for many years, and you may want to try one, and see whether it works for you.
The following are the preparations and formulations of lettuce, which I have compiled from the available literature, that might help you sleep.
My recommendations as a sleep expert are also provided.
1: See if Lettuce Water Works for You
Lettuce water is trending on social media platforms as a cure for insomnia.
This concoction is prepared by boiling a few leaves of green or romaine lettuce in water until the lettuce wilts.
Purportedly, this causes the active components of the lettuce to leach into the water.
You can drink the unpleasant-looking green mush, or filter it, and drink the “lettuce water”.
Many influencers have sworn that it works for them, and that it is backed up by science.
Unfortunately, this is more of a pseudoscience than real science.
Firstly, boiling something in water doesn’t ensure that the nutritive values will transfer into the water.
The experiments conducted in mice clearly explain that the extract used was processed chemically, and concentrated artificially, to make it potent enough to have significant effects.
It is unlikely that boiling would cause the compounds to concentrate into the water.
Since lettuce water has not been tested for the presence of the sleep-promoting compounds, this bold claim is nothing but hogwash.
Secondly, whether these compounds (if they are present) would retain their sleep-promoting properties after being boiled also remains to be investigated.
In my opinion, sleep promotion by lettuce water is most likely due to the placebo effect.
However, since lettuce water is apparently non-toxic to consume, you may try it and see for yourself.
Whether you sleep well due to a medicinal action or a placebo effect, you are likely to be grateful for the rest.
If nothing else, you will, at least, be well hydrated.
2: Try Modified Lettuce Tea
Lettuce tea is different from lettuce water, in that there is one extra step, and an added ingredient.
To make lettuce tea, you should boil and filter the lettuce water first, and then add a teabag.
The addition of the tea really does nothing other than making the lettuce water more palatable.
However, if you are interested in giving lettuce tea a go, I recommend making a few minor modifications to improve its sleep-inducing properties.
Magnolia is a natural sleep aid.
It contains honokiol and magnolol, which are known to promote sleep in humans.
The dried bark, buds, and stems can be added to your lettuce water to make Magnolia-lettuce tea.
These polyphenolic components will improve your sleep whether lettuce water has any action or not.
Chamomile has a delicate flavor, and has been used as a sleep aid for many years.
It is my favorite go-to sleep potion.
Adding chamomile to lettuce water serves two purposes.
Firstly, it will mask the salad-y flavor of the lettuce water.
Secondly, chamomile may complement the action of lettuce, or it will bring on sleep and relaxation by itself.
It’s a win-win situation.
Lavender-lettuce tea is made by adding a few buds of lavender into prepared lettuce water.
This creates a violet-purple brew with a flavor and aroma very distinct from either parent component.
Lavender is known and proven to induce relaxation and sleep.
Furthermore, it is also known to help with fatigue, depression, and anxiety, as seen in several studies.
However, do not consume lavender essential oil, as it is highly toxic.
Valerian root can be brewed with lettuce water to make a powerful sleep draft.
It increases the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in the brain, which helps you sleep.
Since it alters the neurochemical balance in the brain, you should be careful when you take valerian-lettuce tea along with other medicines which have actions on the same neurotransmitter.
Brewing a tea with passionflower and lettuce may create a sleep-inducing combination.
Interestingly, passionflower can also be incorporated into other formulations, such as tinctures and oils, which are known to induce sleep.
3: Take Lettuce Seed Oil Supplements
Lettuce seed oil has been used as a sleep aid since ancient times.
It is prepared from dried seeds of lettuce, and is available commercially as L. Sativa Seed Oil (Sedan®) in soft gelatin capsules.
Each capsule contains 1000 mg of purified oil.
Studies show that this oil mainly contains oleic acid, stearic acid, palmitic acid, myristic acid, cispalmitoleic acid, behenic acid, lignoceric acid, B-sitosterol, and B-amryn.
While it is not mentioned explicitly, studies have shown that lettuce seeds contain lactucin, which gives the oil its sleep-promoting effects.
As previously discussed, the seeds contain more lactucin than the leaves, and seed oil is therefore more likely to confer sleep benefits than plain lettuce water or lettuce tea.
Another way of consuming lettuce seed oil is to use it as salad oil.
Its distinct flavor means that lettuce seed oil can be whipped into herb butter, and used as a seasoning for fish, meats, and vegetables.
Lettuce seed oil also has a beneficial effect on pain and inflammation.
When used as a massage oil, it moisturizes the skin and soothes aches and pains, due to its analgesic properties.
The nutty aroma has an aromatherapeutic effect, helping to lift the mood.
Lettuce oil is often added to moisturizers, soaps, and lotions to achieve “health benefits”, but whether it has any practical benefits is yet to be conclusively determined.
4: Eat Lettuce Salad
A lettuce salad is probably the safest way to get some lettuce into your system without any hassles or safety concerns.
Furthermore, it will help you reach your daily water and fiber intakes, along with the possible sleep-related benefits.
While lettuce may offer some sleep benefits, lettuce water or tea, without any other additives, is very unlikely to be of any clinical benefit.
I recommend that you use lettuce tea in conjunction with other sleep-promoting substances to ensure that you get adequate sleep.
1: K Chung-Soo, H Jin-Yi, K Seunghwan, H Jin Tae, O Ki-Wan. ‘Herbs for the Treatment of Insomnia’ – retrieved on 29th Dec 2021.
2: M Yakoot, S Helmy, K Fawal. Pilot study of the efficacy and safety of lettuce seed oil in patients with sleep disorders. Int J Gen Med. 2011; 4: 451–456.
3: Hae Dun Kim, Ki-Bae Hong, Dong Ouk Noh, Hyung Joo Suh. Sleep-inducing effect of lettuce (Lactuca sativa) varieties on pentobarbital-induced sleep. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017; 26(3): 807–814.
4: H Ismail, E Dilshad, MT Waheed, M Sajid, WK Kayani, B Mirza. Transformation of Lactuca sativa L. with rolC gene results in increased antioxidant potential and enhanced analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antidepressant activities in vivo. 3 Biotech. 2016 Dec; 6(2): 215.
5: L Liu, C Liu, Y Wang, P Wang, Y Li, B Li. Herbal Medicine for Anxiety, Depression and Insomnia. Curr Neuropharmacol. 2015 Jul; 13(4): 481–493.
No part of this website offers medical advice – always consult with your own doctor for the best guidance.
Image Attribution and Licensing
Main image: ‘Closeup of fresh lettuce’ by twenty20photos (used with permission and commercially licensed through Envato Elements).
Dan is the founder and head content creator at Bedroom Style Reviews.
He has been working as a professional online product reviewer since 2015 and was inspired to start this website when he ended up sleeping on a memory foam mattress that was too soft and gave him backache.
Through in-depth research and analysis, Dan’s goal with this website is to help others avoid such pitfalls by creating the best online resource for helping you find your ideal mattress, bedding, and bedroom furniture.
Dan is a qualified NVQ Level 2 Fitness Instructor with 6 years’ experience helping clients improve their health through diet, exercise, and proper sleep hygiene.
He also holds several college and university-level qualifications in health sciences, psychology, mathematics, art, and digital media creation – which helps him to publish well researched and informative product reviews as well as articles on sleep, health, wellbeing, and home decor.
Dan also has direct personal experience with insomnia, anxiety, misophonia (hypersensitivity to sounds), and pain from both acute and long-standing sporting injuries – he enjoys writing insightful articles around these subjects to help fellow sufferers of such conditions.
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