Opium Poppy

Opium Poppy

There are 70 species of annuals and perennials in this genus, which occur in a wide range of habitats in S and C Europe, and temperate Asia, with a few species in South Africa, Australia, and western N America. Papaver rhoeas is the Flanders poppy, which appeared in vast numbers on the battlefields around Ypres and the Somme following World War I, and the origin of the poppies worn on Rememberance Day (November 11) in the UK. Coincidentally, it has been a symbol of blood and new life since ancient Egyptian times. In horticultural terms, P. rhoeas is renowned as the parent of the ornamental Shirley poppies, raised in Shirley, Warwickshire, in the 19th century by the Rev. William Wilks, who found a pale-centered specimen in his garden in the summer of 1879 or 1880. All poppies contain bitter latex and have showy, short-lived, four-petaled flowers, followed by pepperpot capsules, which at every stage make attractive annuals for borders and wildflower gardens. Cultivars of the opium poppy (P. somniferum) are popular ornamentals, too, though it is illegal to grow this species in some countries. Medicinal uses of opium were first described on clay tablets by the Sumerians, who dominated SW Asia int he 4th millenium BCE. Papaver somniferum is now cultivated on a large scale as the source of major analgesics and the illicit drug heroin (diamorphine). It contains 26 alkaloids, the most important being morphine and codeine. Morphine is an extremely potent painkiller but is addictive and therefore normally reserved for patients with severly painful, terminal illnesses. Alkaloids are separated for specific uses or given as a total extract, known as "papaveretum", which is widely used as an pre-operative analgesic and relaxant. The two main kinds of opium poppy are grown commercially; subsp. somniferum and subsp. hortense, for opium production and for seeds for culinary use, respectively. The seeds of both P. rhoeas and P. somniferum are alkaloid-free and safe for all culinary purposes. They are used in Ayurvedic medicine, mainly for digestive problems. Papaver rhoeas contains different, less potent alkaloids and a red pigment. The Mexican poppy, Argemone mexicana, contains alkaloids similar to those in P. somniferum and a milky latex that is used in parts of S America to treat warts, cold sores, and cataracts.

Otherwise known as the opium poppy, the pods of the Papaver somiferum produce a milky substance that contains opium and the alkaloids morphine, codeine, noscapine, papaverine, and thebaine. Although the plant is illegal in the United States, the seeds (which contain no drugs) are available. The seeds are 44 to 50 percent oil and are a good source of linoleic and oleic acids. In China, poppy seeds are used to treat nausea and vomiting.

Robust annual with gray-green, waxy, deeply toothed leaves, to 25cm (10in) long. Lilac or white flowers, 8-18cm (3-7in) across, with blue anthers, appear in summer, followed by capsules, 3-9cm (1¼-3½in) long, containing numerous gray, black, or white seeds.

Common Name:
Opium Poppy
Other Names:
Garden Poppy, Mawseed, Poppy, Poppy-Seed, Thebaine Poppy
Botanical Name:
Papaver somniferum
Native Location:
W and C Mediterranean; widely naturalized.
Well-drained soil in sun. Leaves may be damaged by downy mildew. Papaver somniferum is subject to statuatory control as an illicit plant or weed in some countries, notably in the USA and parts of Australia.
By seed sown in autumn or spring. Papaver rhoeas, P. somniferum, and their cultivars self-sow freely, but cultivars tend to revert. Poppies resent disturbance and rarely transplant successfully.
Petals are collected as flowers open, and dried for use whole, or in infusions and syrups (P. rhoeas). Seeds are harvested from ripe capsules and dried for use whole, ground, or infusions. Oil is pressed from ripe seeds (mostly from P. somniferum). Latex (raw opium) and various alkaloids are extracted from green capsules after petal fall. (P. somniferum).
30cm-1.5m (1-5ft)
23-45cm (9-18in)
syn. Danish Flag

is a 19th-century cultivar with bright red, often fringed petals, which have large, white basal blotches.
Height: 75cm (30in)
Width: 30cm (12in)
Hen and Chickens
Has pale pink flowers and very large pods, surrounded by a cluster of smaller pods.
Peony-Flowered Mixed
Has large double flowers, in shades of lilac, pink, purple, red, maroon, and white.
Parts Used:
Fruits, seeds, latex, oil, Extract taken from the seed
A bitter, narcotic, sedative herb that relieves pain, relaxes spasms, controls coughing and diarrhea, and increases perspiration.
Medicinal Uses:
Internally, in commercial formulas, for painful conditions, coughs, and diarrhea. In homeopathy for shock, torpor, apathy, alcohol poisoning, and breathing difficulties.
To treat pain, gallstones, dysentery, cough, and diarrhea; as a sedative.
Typical Dose:
A typical daily dose of extract of poppy seed has not been established.
Possible Side Effects:
Poppy's side effects include constipation, headache, rashes, weakness, and trembling.
Drug Interactions:
Taking poppy with these drugs may increase the risk of excessive sedation and mental depression and impairment:
Acetaminophen and Codeine, (Capital and Codeine, Tylenol with Codeine)
Alfentanil, (Alfenta)
Alprazolam, (Apo-Alpraz, Xanax)
Amobarbital, (Amytal)
Amobarbital and Secobarbital, (Tuinal)
Aspirin and Codeine, (Coryphen Codeine)
Belladonna and Opium, (B&O Supprettes)
Bromazepam, (Apo-Bromazepam, Gen-Bromazepam)
Brotizolam, (Lendorm, Sintonal)
Buprenorphine, (Buprenex, Subutex)
Buprenorphine and Naloxone, (Suboxone)
Butabarbital, (Butisol Sodium)
Butalbital, Acetaminophen, and Caffeine, (Esgic, Fioricet)
Butorphanol, (Apo-Butorphanol, Stadol)
Chloral Hydrate, (Aquachloral Supprettes, Somnote)
Chlordiazepoxide, (Apo-Chlordiazepoxide, Librium)
Clobazam, (Alti-Clobazam, Frisium)
Clonazepam, (Klonopin, Rivotril)
Clorazepate, (Tranxene, T-Tab)
Codeine, (Codeine Contin)
Dexmedetomidine, (Precedex)
Diazepam, (Apo-Diazepam, Valium)
Dihydrocodeine, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Synalgos-DC)
Diphenhydramine, (Benadryl Allergy, Ny-Tol)
Estazolam, (ProSom)
Fentanyl, (Actiq, Duragesic)
Flurazepam, (Apo-Flurazepam, Dalmane)
Glutethimide, (Glutethimide)
Haloperidol, (Haldol, Novo-Peridol)
Hydrocodone and Acetaminophen, (Vicodin, Zydone)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Hydromorphone, (Dilaudis, PMS-Hydromorphone)
Hydroxyzine, (Atarax, Vistaril)
Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride, (Levomethadyl Acetate Hydrochloride)
Levorphanol, (LevoDromoran)
Loprazolam, (Dormonoct, Havlane)
Lorazepam, (Ativan, Nu-Loraz)
Meperidine, (Demerol, Meperitab)
Meperidine and Promethazine, (Meperidine and Promethazine)
Mephobarbital, (Mebaral)
Methadone, (Dolophine, Methadose)
Methohexital, (Brevital, Brevital Sodium)
Midazolam, (Apo-Midazolam, Versed)
Morphine Sulfate, (Kadian, MS Contin)
Nalbuphine, (Nubain)
Opium Tincture, (Opium Tincture)
Oxycodone, (OxyContin, Roxicodone)
Oxycodone and Acetaminophen, (Endocet, Percocet)
Oxycodone and Aspirin, (Endodan, Percodan)
Oxymorphone, (Numorphan)
Paregoric, (Paregoric)
Pentazocine, (Talwin)
Pentobarbital, (Nembutal)
Phenobarbital, (Luminal Sodium, PMS-Phenobarbital)
Phenoperidine, (Phenoperidine)
Prazepam, (Prazepam)
Primidone, (Apo-Primidone, Mysoline)
Promethazine, (Phenergan)
Propofol, (Diprivan)
Propoxyphene, (Darvon, Darvon-N)
Propoxyphene and Acetaminophen, (Darvocet-N 50, Darvocet-N 100)
Propoxyphene, Aspirin, and Caffeine, (Darvon Compound)
Quazepam, (Doral)
Remifentanil, (Ultiva)
Secobarbital, (Seconal)
Sodium Oxybate, (Xyrem)
Sufentanil, (Sufenta)
S-Zopiclone, (Lunesta)
Temazepam, (Novo-Temazepam, Restoril)
Tetrazepam, (Mobiforton, Musapam)
Thiopental, (Pentothal)
Triazolam, (Apo-Triazo, Halcion)
Zaleplon, (Sonata, Stamoc)
Zolpidem, (Ambien)
Zopiclone, (Alti-Zopiclone, Gen-Zopiclone)
Lab Test Alterations:
May cause a false positive reading on urine tests for heroin and morphine.
Culinary Uses:
Seeds, sometimes known as "maw seed", are used whole, or ground and sweetened as a filling, in breads, cookies, pastries; also in spiced meat dishes, curries, salad dressings, and as a garnish. Cold-pressed, almond-flavored oil (huile d'oeillette or olivette) is used for salad dressings.
Economic Uses:
Lower grades of oil are used in paints, soaps, and ointments.
All parts of Papaver species, except the seeds, are toxic if eaten. Cultivation of P. somniferum is subject to legal restrictions in some countries.
This herb, especially in the form of opium and its alkaloids, is subject to legal restrictions in most countries.
Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Brown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Limited Pp 301-302
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp 375-376