Can Lettuce Water Really Help You Sleep?

By: Jesslyn Shields  | 

Lettuce water
Lettuce water is just lettuce steeped in hot water, but is there something about it that can help to cure insomnia? Teresa Crowder/HowStuffWorks

If you've ever experienced bouts of insomnia, you know there are few things as aggravating as not being able to sleep. People try almost anything to catch a couple good hours of sleep, from popping a melatonin or Benadryl to prescription drugs, earplugs, white noise machines and weighted blankets. But what if dozing off was as simple as steeping a few leaves of iceberg lettuce in hot water? According to some TikTok users, it is.

The good news here is that you could drink gallons of lettuce water, all day, every day — have at it! The bad news is, the hype is probably mostly baseless.

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As is true for most viral social media-based health fads, nobody knows exactly where this one originated, but no scientific studies have shown lettuce leaf tea to be an effective sleep aid. However, some wild lettuce species contain a milky substance called lactucarium, which can act as a sedative.

Conventional lettuces — iceberg or romaine, for instance — don't contain lactucarium in very high concentrations, but folk remedies in Europe have used lactucarium for centuries, and 19th-century doctors often used it in sedative medicines (although generally mixed with other ingredients like opium, known to knock you right out).

A few of the TikTok videos refer to a 2017 study on the sedative effects of lettuce leaf and lettuce seed extract mixed with the sedative pentobarbital on mice. According to the study, the mice given the pentobarbital mixed with green romaine lettuce extract fell asleep faster and slept as much as 20 minutes longer than the mice given straight pentobarbital.

Although there are a few other studies that look at the effect of lettuce seed extract on humans and other animals, the fact remains that pouring hot water over several lettuce leaves probably doesn't produce a tea strong enough to send you to dreamland. But, honestly, it can't hurt to try it!

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