The opium poppy, Papaver somniferum, is the type of poppy from which opium and many refined opiates such as morphine, thebaine, codeine, papaverine, and noscapine are extracted. The binomial name means, loosely, the "sleep-bringing poppy", referring to its narcotic properties. The seeds are important food items, and contain healthy oils used in salads worldwide. The plant itself is valuable for ornamental purposes.
Papaver somniferum Paeoniflorum Group (sometimes called Papaver paeoniflorum) is a sub-type of opium poppy whose flowers are highly double, and are grown in many colors. Papaver somniferum Laciniatum Group (sometimes called Papaver laciniatum) is a sub-type of opium poppy whose flowers are highly double and deeply lobed, to the point of looking like a ruffly pompon.
A few of the varieties, notably the "Norman" and "Przemko" varieties, have "low morphine" content (less than one percent), making them markedly less useful for drug production. Most varieties, however, including those most popular for ornamental use or seed production, have a higher morphine content.
In the United States, opium is listed as a Schedule 2 controlled substance by the Drug Enforcement Administration. In addition, "Opium poppy and poppy straw" are also prohibited. However, this is not typically enforced for poppies grown or sold for ornamental or food purposes. There is a common misconception that there is a clear distinction between poppies useful for opium extraction and ornamental or food poppies. It is not difficult to manufacture opium tea with a high morphine content from opium flowers readily available at flower shops.
Opium poppy cultivation in the United Kingdom does not need a license, however, a license is required for those wishing to extract opium for medicinal products.
The seeds of the poppy are widely used as the popular "poppy seed" found in and on many food items such as bagels, bialys, muffins and cakes. The seeds can be pressed to form poppyseed oil, which can be used in cooking, or as a carrier for oil-based paints. The primary flavor compound is 2-pentylfuran.
Although the amount of opiates in poppy seeds is not enough to produce a narcotic effect in cooking or consumption, the television show MythBusters demonstrated that one could test positive for narcotics after consuming 4 poppy seed bagels. The show Brainiac: Science Abuse had subjects who tested positive with only 2 poppy seed bagels. This situation was parodied on the show Seinfeld.
In India, Iran and Turkey opium poppy is known as Khaskhas or Haşhaş (pronounced: "Hashhash" or in Persian: "Khash Khaash") and is considered a highly nutritious food item, mostly added in dough while baking bread, highly recommended for pregnant women and new mothers.
In Lithuania and Eastern Slovakia a traditional meal is prepared for the Kūčios (Christmas Eve) dinner from the poppy seeds. They are ground and mixed with water; round yeast biscuits (kūčiukai) (slovak - Bobalky) are soaked in the resulting poppy seed 'milk' and served cold.
Poppy seed production in tonnes (2006)|
|Czech Republic||31,591||38 %|
|Other countries||3,196||4 %|
|World total||83,435||100 %|
|The sum does not equal 100 % due to rounding|
In both India and Turkey, opium production is used for medicinal purposes, making poppy-based drugs, such as morphine or codeine, for domestic use or exporting raw poppy materials to other countries. The United States buys 80 percent of its medicinal opium from these two countries. However, there is an acute global shortage of opium poppy-based medicines some of which (morphine) are on the World Health Organisation's list of essential drugs as they are the most effective way of relieving severe pain. A recent initiative to extend opium production for medicinal purposes called Poppy for Medicine was launched by The Senlis Council which thinks that Afghanistan could produce medicinal opium under a scheme similar to that operating in Turkey and India (see the Council's recent report "Poppy for Medicine" ). The Council proposes licensing poppy production in Afghanistan, within an integrated control system supported by the Afghan government and its international allies, in order to promote economic growth in the country, create vital drugs and combat poverty and the diversion of illegal opium to drug traffickers and terrorist elements. With poppy for medicine projects, opium poppy can be used as a valuable resource.
The British government has given the go ahead to the pharmaceutical company Macfarlan Smith (a Johnson Matthey company) to cultivate opium poppies in England for medicinal reasons. This move is well received by British farmers, with a major opium poppy field based in Didcot, England.
Many countries grow the plants; some of which rely heavily on the commercial production of the drug as a major source of income. As an additional source of profit, the same seeds are sold in the culinary trade shortly thereafter, making cultivation of the plant a significant source of income. This international trade in seeds of Papaver somniferum was addressed by a UN resolution "to fight the international trade in illicit opium poppy seeds" on July 28, 1998.
Opium was used for treating asthma, stomach illnesses, and bad eye sight. The Opium Wars between China and the British Empire took place in the late 1830s when the Chinese attempted to stop the sale of opium by Britain, in China.
Many modern writers, particularly in the nineteenth century, have written on the opium poppy and its effects, notably L. Frank Baum with The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, and Thomas de Quincey's Confessions of an English Opium Eater
The French Romantic composer Hector Berlioz used an opium hallucination for the program of his Symphonie Fantastique. In this work, a young artist overdoses on opium and experiences a series of visions of his unrequited love.
Processing in Southeast Asia from the School of Pacific and Asian Studies
Quantitative .sup.1.sup.H NMR metabolomics reveals extensive metabolic reprogramming of primary and secondary metabolism in elicitor-treated opium poppy cell cultures.(Research article)
Jan 22, 2008; Authors: Katherine G Zulak ; Aalim M Weljie ; Hans J Vogel ; Peter J Facchini (corresponding author)  Background...