POPPY –Papaver Somniferum, Escholtzia Californica, Papaver Rhoeas, Papaver Orientale, etc.
Also known as: Opium poppy, Corn poppy, Breadseed, California poppy, Shirley poppy, Khuskhus, Flander’s poppy, Gasalu, Papi, Kaskash, etc.
Parts used: seeds, latex, flowers
Systems/organs affected: liver, heart, brain, nerves
Properties: analgesic, anodyne, astringent, emollient, sedative, expectorant, aphrodisiac, carminative, demulcent, anti-neuralgic, hypnotic, antispasmodic, febrifuge, nervine
POPPY is a member of the Papaver family of which there are between 70-100 varieties. They range in height from 8 inches to almost four feet and will have an assortment of colored flowers. Perhaps the most well-known is the bright red to orange colored flowers with tall stems and hairy, oblong shaped leaves that are deeply divided. Some varieties have leaves that resemble that of a carrot. At the base of each petal is usually found a dark splotch of color although not always. The flower is followed by a round pod that contains the seeds. Opium poppies are native to the Mediterranean while corn poppies are native to Asia, Europe and North Africa. All poppies can now be found globally. The opium poppy contains a latex in the skin of the pod that contains several narcotic components such as codeine, heroin and morphine.
Poppies have been part of several cultures for millennia. It was grown as an ornamental in Mesopotamia around 5000 BC. It was often associated with the Greek goddess Demeter who was the goddess of Agriculture and Fertility. The Greeks believed if poppies grew in their crops that they would have a good year. They have also been paired with the gods Nyx (night), Hypnos (sleep) and Thanatos (death) depending on what said cultures happened to believe. It was found in many Egyptian tombs so there may be something to that. In some ancient records it was indicated that people used the plant for euthanasia and to hasten death in old age. Hippocrates and Dioscorides were both familiar with it and its many uses, including its use as a culinary agent. They even distinguished between different varieties. Pliny spoke of the medical uses of corn poppies and stated the leaves and pods were boiled in water to make a juice. This was then pressed and rubbed (dried) to create tablets. The latex was also dried and was the first actual use of opium. It was used to ease respiratory conditions, promote sleep and to relieve indigestion. Corn poppies symbolized blood and new life to the Egyptians. Opium poppies found in tombs of the Egyptians were found to still have their potency after 1000 years. (Which tells you the ability of this plant as an analgesic or anodyne).
Poppies are worn on Armistice Day in Britain in remembrance of those fallen in battle which became customary after Colonel John McRae penned the poem, “In Flander’s Fields”, describing the battlefields of WWI being covered with this flower where the earth had been disturbed to bury the dead.
Galen said that this is the strongest known plant for dulling one’s senses as well as inducing sleep. (Anyone who has been subject to the prescription forms of opium knows this to be true). He stated it was used to treat a number of conditions including lung issues and eye complaints. It was well known even then to be a strong pain reliever. Aside from the above listed, it has also been employed for alopecia and other hair issues, skin problems, digestion issues, cognitive function, red blood cell formation, bone health, nerve disorders, energy production, blood pressure, cardiac and cholesterol problems, immune support and as a possible agent for use against cancer.
Despite its many positive abilities, it has been employed by the pharmaceutical industry for quite some time for a vast array of things. For instance, poppy seed oil is used as a carrier oil for iodine in pediatric medicine. It is used as a contrast medium for HSG (hysterosalpingography), an X-Ray that is used to evaluate fertility in women. The latex from the pod of the poppy is dried and used to produce the ever popular pain medications codeine and morphine. It is also a chronic problem by drugs users worldwide using heroin.
Contrary to popular belief, the seeds do not contain vast amounts of narcotics. Rather those come from the pod which holds the seeds. However, the seeds can still mess up a drug test if a person ingests them-as well as a breath analyzer. So just beware of that if your company requires mandatory random drug testing. (Ha!) Each gram of seed contains 14 mcg of codeine and 33 mcg of morphine. While all poppy seeds are not the same, they will all help with a number of things the opium poppy is used for-not to mention they are loaded with nutrients. They contain B Complex vitamins, vitamins C and E as well as iodine, calcium, magnesium, copper, iron, manganese, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, linoleic and oleic fatty acids, etc.
For every teaspoon of poppy seeds a person gets 4% of their daily allowance of phosphorus and calcium. Both are required for bone maintenance. Calcium is necessary for nerve impulse function, muscle contraction and a host of other things whilst phosphorus is needed by the body for DNA formation and energy production. Iron and copper are both needed by the blood for the formation of red blood cells and oxygen transport. The immune system needs iron to function optimally and it is used by the body for building proteins and neurotransmitters. The fatty acids have been known to decrease bad cholesterol and the linoleic acid in particular helps to maintain the liver and heart and keep them in working order. Poppy also contains fiber-something desperately needed by the digestive system for proper motility and bowel health. The list goes on and on. Poppy seed paste is said to be a great moisturizer for the skin. Iodized poppy seed oil has been used for iodine deficiencies and to deliver chemotherapeutic substances to tumor locations. A poppy seed poultice was employed for arthritis and rheumatic conditions and other inflamed areas.
There are different colors of poppy seeds as well-some are black, some are white or light grey and some are midnight blue, etc. They are often roasted, toasted and/or baked with a number of pastries and dishes around the globe. They can be found in muffins, breads, salad dressings, curries, chutneys, etc.
As poppy seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats they are susceptible to oxidation. They should be kept in dark bottles in a cool place where they can remain fresh for up to 6 months. Poppy seeds are considered safe when used for culinary purposes (even for pregnant women it said). One medical site said that 1 tsp per 7 pounds of body weight is considered safe (so someone weighing 150 pounds shouldn’t eat more than 7 tablespoons of seeds at a time). They also state that cooking the seeds lessens the narcotic content and soaking the seeds for 5 minutes before adding them to recipes is also believed to lessen their narcotic value.
There is no doubt that poppies have a place in our lives as both a food and a medicine. One can still grow poppies but if choosing to grow opium poppies in particular you must obtain a permit from the Department of Narcotics in DC (due to the Poppy Control Act of 1942 which basically says that you have to have a permit to grow anything from which opium can be extracted-wonder if big pharma has a permit…). It is considered illegal to grow opium poppies for the intent of medical use apparently. You can grow other poppies for personal use and given the current state of things they may become a good investment. As always, consult a physician before ever starting an herbal product or regimen.
As is customary with my posts I have included some links below for your perusal. Use them as you see fit to. Stay strong and healthy!