Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wild Wednesday: The Nature of the Poppy

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 pink“Giganteum”

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!


  1. Very interesting Jackee, what a great feature. I read it very carefully because I have yellow poppies (I believe they're California poppies?) in my wildflower garden. I always have this idea that someday we may not be able to get medicine & it's good to know the natural uses of common herbs and flowers. I grow sage, and the leaves made into a tea stop vomiting like instantly.

  2. What a fascinating piece! I learned so much about Poppy's today and had no idea there was something TO learn!

    You had me laughing at the whole "I am NOT telling you to go out and smoke your own garden" I'm still smiling!

  3. Wow, that's fascinating. I love this new feature. When writing dystopian novels, some of this information could be really useful.

  4. I just heard the Wicked Witch's voice in my head, "Poppies, poppies. Poppies will make them sleeeep. Sleeeeeep."

    And now I must sleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep. :P

  5. WOW!!! How fascinating! I love poppies - I think they are so delicate and beautiful and fragile - but by golly used this way and they are something else altogether! Amazing!

    Thank you so much for this very interesting info!

    Take care

  6. hi miss jackee! i been missing you lots. nope im not using any of that opium stuff in my stories. the poppy flowers are real pretty. im doing miss jens blog fest for guess the character. if you got a minute go look on my blog and make a guess. im real happy to see you. :)
    ...hugs from lenny

  7. I ordered some Breadbox Poppy seeds (the kind you bake in breads, ect.) a couple of years ago and was surprised when they were a variety of colors. The flowers were beautiful, but we didn't eat any of the seeds. I reused them to grow more poppies because I wasn't sure they were safe.

    Thanks for a fascinating post, Jackee!

  8. Great information:) Since I know virtually nothing about nature and flowers!

    This is definitely a post to bookmark.

  9. Gosh ~ who knew? Perhaps that is why the rabbits go a little wacky in my back yard some evenings ~ ha!

    I received my lovely gingerbread soaps yesterday Jackee ~ heavenly! Thank you so much again! I will showing them off on my blog early next week. :)

    Hope you are having a terrific week!
    xo Catherine

  10. Your Wednesday posts are very interesting=you're always teaching me something!...Hope you are happy and well, Jackee.

  11. Wow. I feel smarter!

    Cool post, Jackee.


  12. Fascinating! (I like the "evil writers" line at the end, hehe!)

  13. That was super! I'm done growing tomatoes though...I'm growing napping flowers (LOL).

  14. Fascinating! I didn't know poppies came in so many different colours although now that I think about it it's obvious that they would.

    So many interesting things to think about and learn...


  15. Not sure how you know so much about the variation of poppy seeds and opium, but this was fascinating. I'm not sure poppies grow well in South Florida, so I'll stick to my Kahlua & Cream :-)

  16. I love this feature, Jackee - so interesting and informative! Makes me think of Wizard of Oz.

  17. Wow, those flowers are amazing. They relaxed me just looking at them. I didn't even need the opium! ;)


  18. Fascinating info. I wanted to include poppies in a possible wip many years ago. The story never happened, but now this has my mind going again.

  19. Very interesting, indeed.

    Yeah, this could be useful for dystopian/post apocalyptic stories. Hmmmm.
    *gears turning*

    Thanks for a great post. :)

  20. Soo interesting! Thanks for posting my answer, and putting that huge disclaimer on there! I need the question for a fictional character of mine.

    I agree. Don't go out and smoke your garden!

  21. Very interesting. And don't worry, I'm not planning to smoke my garden. LOL

  22. hahaha. Do we need to be wary of pets around our gardens? Not that I'll ever have poppies. I only grow Dandelions!

  23. And a field of poppies looks so benign. Look at Monet's lovely painting. If I ever have property for a garden, I'll have to think twice about planting any!