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Opium Poppy: Papaver somniferum

Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

Opium Poppy
Papaver somniferum [ Plantae: Magnoliophyta: Magnoliopsida: Ranunculales: Papaveraceae: Papaver: Papaver somniferum ]

Common Names: poppy tears, lachryma papaveris.

Grown ornamenatlly throughout Europe, North America, South America, and Asia.

There are many varieties of Poppy that varie from species to species, most notable through shape of the petals, numbers of flowers, fruits, seeds, colors, and production of opium.

The Opium Poppy, is a world class illegal drug that is derived from Papaver somniferum.

To cultivate the Opium Poppy in the UK does not require a license, but does require one if you plant to extract opium for medicinal purposes. It is illegal to extract opium or any of the alkaloids in Italy and in the United States its a Schedule 2 controlled substance even prohibiting opium poppy and poppy straw. It is not enforced for poppies that is grown or sold as ornamentals or for food even though opium tea with high morphine content can be abstracted from poppies found at flower shops.

Common Uses:
It is a real popular plant for ornamental purposes, especially as the “common garden poppy”. Used as gifts or ornamentals in flower shops and gardens. Poppy seed oil is used for the manufacture of paints, varnishes, and soaps.

Culinary Uses:
Poppy seeds are an important food item and is the source for poppyseed oil. The oil is used widely for cooking oil. The seeds are very common to be found on muffins, breads, pies, and bagels. If someone consumes four poppy seed bagels, they could test positive for narcotics. Poppy seed paste (made from oil and seeds) is used in a nut roll called Polish makowiec. Poppy seeds are commonly used in North and South Indian Cuisine and are called “gasagasa”, “khuskhus”, “gasagasalu”, and “posto dana”. They are also commonly used in curries.

Medicinal Uses:
Opium is the source of many opiates in drug culture and pharmaceutical medicine such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine. It is a astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic, and sedative. Opium was used throughout history for treating asthma, stomach sickness, and bad eyesight. Opium is the dried latex that comes from the opium poppy. This substance contains upwards of 12% morphine, an alkaloid used to produce heroine. Opium, morphine, and heroine are used as pain relievers, tranquilizers, and sleep aids. Poppy was also used for toothaches and coughs.

Magical Uses:

Folklore and History:

The latin name means “sleep bringing poppy” which describes the sedative properties of the plant. Images of poppies are found on Sumerian artifacts over 4,000 years old. It was known to the Ancient Greeks who manufactured opium from it and found archaeologically at Kalapodi and Kastanas. In the 1830’s, Britain and China had wars over the sale of Opium called “The Opium Wars”. Late 1800’s to early 1900’s narcotic alkaloids morphine and codeine were available in over the counter drugs such as cough syrup and teething medications.

Opium Poppy
The Poison Garden, Blarney Castle, Ireland

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