The lettuce, initially cultivated by the Ancient Egyptians for its oil, is now a staple in a salad. It’s boring. Innocuous. Well, think again!
Lettuce is a powerhouse of essential nutrients for our body’s health and vitality. The oil, cold pressed from the lettuce seeds, retains all of these nutrients. Lettuce seed oil was considered a precious remedy for numerous diseases by the Ancient Egyptians, and the lettuce seeds were so revered that they have been discovered in pharaonic tombs.
Vitamins and minerals found in lettuce seed oil include calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, sodium, and zinc, plus vitamins such as A, B6, C, E, K, folate, niacin, riboflavin, thiamin, in addition to carbohydrates, protein and omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. This combination brings a plethora of health benefits. Here’s just twenty to keep you going:
Lettuce seed oil is best known for its sleep inducing abilities. The effects have been compared to those of a well known commonly prescribed medication for anxiety and sleep. A 2013 research isolated a depressant chemical that demonstrated significant sedative effects, blocking the excitatory signal processes of neural and muscular tissues, and decreasing heart rate and ventricular contractions. Two further substances, lactucarium and lactucin also help to promote sleep, sedating the nervous system and inducing relaxation. Best of all, it’s non-toxic and even suitable for children!
During Ancient times lettuce seed oil was widely used to reduce anxiety. Detailed research has confirmed its anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) properties, which in animal tests were indicated to be quite prolific. Research isolated a depressant chemical that blocks the excitatory signal processes of muscular and neural tissues. Its effect has been compared to a well known and commonly prescribed medication to treat anxiety and sleep problems. Another substance called lactucarium also helps in calming the nervous system, promoting relaxation.
Rich in vitamins A and C, lettuce seed oil can help to boost the immune system and help protect the body against infection.
Antioxidants act as barriers to free radicals which are produced during cellular metabolism, counteracting and neutralising them, and thus preventing the free radicals from attacking cells, healthy tissues, and DNA, thereby reducing the risk of many diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. A study published in the journal Ancient Science of Life Journal indicated that lettuce possesses antioxidants with significant free radical-scavenging capabilities.
Being a powerhouse of nutrients, in particular iron, magnesium, potassium and B-complex vitamins, lettuce seed oil enhances and increases the metabolism system.
The plethora of minerals in lettuce seed oil allow it to eliminate toxins from the body and skin, in addition to balancing acid.
Regular consumption of natural lettuce seed oil helps improve metabolism and fat metabolism, thus aiding weight loss. As a powerhouse of nutrients it also provides the body with all its nutritional requirements during dieting.
Lettuce seed oil contains biochemicals called cardenolides and terpenes, which have antimicrobial properties and can help to protect the body by deforming yeasts including as candida albicans (thrush).
In folk medicine, lettuce seed oil was known to reduce osteodynia (pain in the bones) and inflammation. A study in Iran confirmed this folklaw. Further research has proven that it contains proteins such as lipoxygenase and carrageenan, which can help to control inflammation in the body such as arthritis and tissue damage.
Boosts Heart Health
Lettuce seed oil boosts heart health in several ways: It reduces LDL (bad cholesterol levels) and increases HDL (good cholesterol levels), as demonstrated in animal studies, in addition to increasing cholesterol metabolism as per another study. Being high in folate (which converts homocysteine into methionine), lettuce seed oil further protects the heart by reducing the amount of unconverted homocysteine, known to damage the blood vessels and help in the accumulation of plaque. Vitamin C also strengthens the arteries and reduces arterial stiffness, and together with beta carotene helps to protect against the formation of plaque on the artery walls, as affirmed in studies. Furthermore, lettuce seed oil is a good source of potassium that can help to lower blood pressure.
Lettuce seed oil is high in iron, increasing the body’s capacity to produce more red blood cells and increasing hemoglobin levels, thus preventing/treating iron-deficiency anemia.
Reduces Diabetes Risk
Studies have indicated that the intake of greens, such as lettuce, can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. Lettuce oil also contains an anti-diabetic carotenoid called Lactuca xanthin which lowers blood glucose levels and has the potential to be utilised as a treatment for diabetes.
Prevents growth of cancer
Lettuce is generally regarded as one of the top 10 vegetables for fighting cancer, in addition to helping to protect against it. Several studies on human cancer studies have upheld the belief that lettuce seed oil can help to control certain types of cancers, and there have been promising results against leukaemia cells and breast cancer cells in particular. A compound called lutein contained in lettuce has been shown to kill cancer cells and reduce the growth of tumours.
Promotes Brain Health
Rich amounts of vitamin K, folate, beta-carotene, potassium, and lutein help to increase blood flow to the brain, stimulate the brain cells, provide increased cognition, concentration, response time, and neural activity, and help to reduce the decline of cognitive abilities and protecting against dementia. Furthermore, nitrate in the lettuce is converted to nitric oxide, a cellular signaling molecule, promoting endothelial function and further slowing cognitive decline and neurological disorders. Research has suggested that lettuce has neuroprotector potential as a remedy for neurodegenerative diseases. This followed a study to evaluate its capability in protecting neurons against glucose/serum deprivation (GSD)-induced cell injury which confirmed that it was able to control neuron cell death. The death of neurons can lead to memory loss, dementia, and severe neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.
Promotes Eye Health
Lettuce seed oil contains vitamin A and carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin which help to promote better eye health, nourishing the cells of the eye, sharpening vision, preventing UV rays from damaging the retina, and protecting against macular degeneration, eye disease, and cataract formation.
Enhances Bone Health
Vitamins A, C & K in addition to calcium are essential for good bone health, and all can be found in lettuce seed oil. They are vital for collagen production which is the first step of bone formation. Vitamin A helps in the development of new bones, and vitamin C protects against bone depletion, whilst vitamin K helps to strengthen the bones, protects against fractures, and improves bone mineral density. Together they reduce the risk of osteopenia (reduced bone mass).
- Improves Skin Health
Lettuce seed oil is rich in vitamins A, C & E which help to repair, rejuvenate and rehydrate the skin, whilst protecting against UV damage, pollution, and skin ageing. This oil is a savior for inflammatory skin reactions and can help to soothe skin lesions, and also assists in reducing hyperpigmentation and balancing the skin colour.
Improves Hair Health
Containing a multitude of nutrients essential for hair health, lettuce seed oil helps to enrich the follicles, enhancing the hair structure and strength, and restores damaged hair, prevents hair loss and stimulates hair growth. Hair will be effectively moisturised with shine, softness and vitality.
Good For Pregnancy
Lettuce seed oil contains folate, and vitamins C & K which are essential vitamins during pregnancy. Folate, a group B vitamin, protects against neural tube defects such as spina bifida, and is also needed for growth and development, Vitamin C is required for both mother and baby, for tissue repair and wound healing, and for the development of the baby’s bones, and vitamin K is involved in the making of various proteins necessary for blood clotting and the building of strong bones.
Improves Muscle Strength
Being rich in potassium and nitrates, lettuce seed oil will enhance muscle strength and reduce cramps during a workout or bodybuilding session. The nitrates contained in the oil also reduce muscle fatigue and may improve exercise tolerance.
Impressive eh? So next time you hear someone dismiss lettuce as “rabbit food’ in a derogatory manner, you can tell them better!