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opium seeds

The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Opium seeds

The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum)

Images Of This Fascinating Plant

T he milky latex sap of opium poppies contains isoquinoline alkaloids. This class of alkaloid contains a double carbon ring with one nitrogen atom (N). It is classified as a narcotic and is commonly found in certain members of the poppy family (Papaveraceae), such as the opium poppy ( Papaver somniferum ). Narcotic refers to the pain-relieving and sleep-inducing properties of these highly-addictive alkaloids, including morphine, codeine and thebaine. Morphine is named after Morpheus the god of sleep, while the specific epithet of the opium poppy ( somniferum ) means “to sleep” in Latin. These potent alkaloids are obtained from the milky latex sap of the mature seed capsule of the opium poppy. The raw opium sap drips from fresh cuts into the pericarp of the capsules, and upon oxidation and solidification in the air it turns black. Morphine is acetylated to produce diacetylmorphine–better known as heroin. The poppy seeds used on bagels and rolls also come from opium poppies, and although they don’t cause any narcotic effects on hungry people after their coffee breaks, they can trigger a positive reaction in very sensitive urine tests for drugs. In addition to Papaver , naturally-occurring opiate alkaloids also occur in the related genera Argemone and Dicentra . The opium poppy has undoubtedly caused untold suffering by people addicted to its alkaloids, but has also brought immeasurable relief from pain for countless people throughout the ages. Although there are some potent synthetic opiates such as Demerol�, natural morphine is still one of the world’s best pain relievers.

I n the commercial (legal) product of opium, large fields of poppies are carefully grown in undisclosed locations. The raw opium is harvested using the “poppy straw” method. When the flowers gave gone to seed, combines cut the dried seed stalks containing alkaloid-rich, seed-bearing capsules. The seeds are removed for the culinary market. Raw opium is chemically extracted from the ground up capsules.

Poppy seed might help prevent some types of cancer from developing.


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Overview Information

Poppy seed is the seed from the poppy plant.

People take poppy seed by mouth for asthma, constipation, cough, diarrhea caused by infection, difficulty sleeping, and to diagnose a condition called vesicoenteric fistula.

In foods, poppy seed is used to make cakes, pastries, filling, glaze, or porridge.

In manufacturing, poppy seed oil is used to make soap, paint, and varnish.

How does it work?

Poppy seed might help prevent some types of cancer from developing.

Uses & Effectiveness ?

Likely Effective for

  • Diagnosing an abnormal connection between the bowel and the bladder. Vesicoenteric fistula is a condition in which the bowel and bladder are connected. Research shows that a poppy seed test can be used to diagnose this condition. For this test, people who might have vesicoenteric fistula eat 35-250 grams of poppy seed mixed in a yogurt or beverage. The person’s urine is monitored for 48 hours afterwards. If poppy seed is seen in the urine, the person is diagnosed with vesicoenteric fistula.

Ineffective for

  • Asthma.
  • Constipation.
  • Cough.
  • Diarrhea caused by infection.
  • Difficulty sleeping.
  • Other conditions.

More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of poppy seed for these uses.

Side Effects & Safety

Poppy seed is LIKELY SAFE for most adults when taken by mouth in amounts commonly found in food. In some people, eating poppy seed can cause allergies, but this is uncommon.

Poppy seed is POSSIBLY SAFE when taken by mouth in amounts used for medical purposes. A single beverage or yogurt containing 35-250 grams of poppy seed has been used safely.

Drinking poppy seed tea is POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Poppy seed tea is made my soaking poppy seeds in water. The outer surface of poppy seed can contain morphine. When poppy seed is soaked in water to make the tea, the morphine can seep into the water. Drinking this water can cause side effects or death due to the morphine content.

Eating very large amounts of poppy seeds is also POSSIBLY UNSAFE. Eating very large amounts of poppy seed can block the bowels. But this is very uncommon.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Poppy seed is LIKELY SAFE for pregnant and breast-feeding women in food amounts. But larger medicinal amounts should be avoided until more is known.

Allergy to other plants: People who are allergic to poppy seed might also be allergic to hazelnut, rye grain, kiwi, sesame, or buckwheat. If you are allergic to poppy seed, be sure to check with your healthcare provider before taking these other foods or supplements.

Interactions ?

We currently have no information for POPPY SEED Interactions.


The following doses have been studied in scientific research:

For diagnosing vesicoenteric fistula: 35-250 grams of poppy seed are mixed with a drink or yogurt and taken by mouth. Urine is monitored for 48 hours thereafter.

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