Lydia asked: Can people use poppies that grow in their flower gardens as sedatives?
My answer is first of all a disclaimer: for anyone who reads this, please note that I am NOT telling you to go out and smoke your garden. Opium, which is really a combination of morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine and several others, is an addictive substance. Not to mention it’s illegal in the United States. Lydia is a physician (who by the way has a wonderful feature on her blog called Medical Mondays where you can ask medical questions for writing helps) is just curious, as am I.
So there’s my disclaimer. It’s illegal in many places to use opium.
However, yes it is possible to extract opium from common garden poppy seeds! IF you have the right species. The species, Papaver somniferum L. is an annual native to southeastern Europe and western Asia. It’s cultivated in Iran, Turkey, Holland, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, India, Canada, and many Asian and Central and South American countries.
Opium comes from four varieties:
The white“Hen and Chicken”
The purple “Persian”
And the “Danish flag” poppy.
The differences are their hardiness, color, harvest schedule, and the size of the seed pod produced. Other species of poppy are Papaver rhoeus L., known as corn or field poppy, is an annual herb native to Europe and Asia. Extracts of the plant are used in medicine and beverages. The alkaloids rhoeadine, morphine, and papaverine have been reported in this species. Papaver orientale L., formerly Papaver bracteatum Lindl., is a morphine-free alkaloid source used for medicinal purposes. Mexican or prickly poppy, Argemone mexicana L., has been reported to have toxicological properties but no substantial medicinal uses have been recorded. The California poppy (Eschscholzia spp.) is not in the same genus and does not have any sedative properties.
Historically, dry opium (extracted from the brown waxy substance in the seeds) was used as an astringent, antispasmodic, aphrodisiac, diaphoretic, expectorant, hypnotic, narcotic, and sedative. It has been used for toothaches, calming fussy children, hypnosis, coughs, diarrhea, seizures, and as an anti-inflammatory. I even knew a kid from Albania who swore his mother would buy it at the local drug store to give him and his siblings on long trips so they’d sleep!
So, for you writers, could you give your characters a poppy? Yes. As long as it’s the right species and you’ve dried the seeds. Be careful, though, if they grow too large of a plot, they might get addicted and you wouldn’t want that. (Or would you? I’m looking at you, evil writers who like to do mean things to characters.)
Have a Wild Wednesday! Don’t forget to check out Lydia’s Medical Mondays!