POPPY IN PROFILE

OPIUM POPPY
Papaver somniferum

Papaveraceae
Common names:
White Poppy, Opium Poppy, Mawseed, Herb of Joy, Mohn, Klapper-Rosen, Mago, Magesamen, Weismagen, wilder Magen, Magensaph, Rosule, Adormidero, Hashas, Kheshkhash Abu Al Noum, O Fang, O Fu Jung, O P'Ien, Tengkoh, Ya P'Ien, Yu Mi.

Description:Link to botanical glossary - for all those technical terms !
An erect herbaceous biannual/annual growing to a height of about 2-3’ ft. The leaves and stem are bluish green with a rubbery appearance. The leaves are pinnately lobed with serrated margins that clasp around the stem. The flowers usually have four large petals that vary in colour from white to pink and purple with a dark spot at their base. (Some hybrids and uncommon forms are double flowered). In the center of the flower head, around the ovary are numerous stamens. The flowers only last a few days before the petals fall off and the ovary ripens into the characteristic round-bellied seed capsule. The capsule narrows at the top like a draw-string purse. When the seed is ripe the capsule begins to dry out thus lifting the top cover of the capsule and giving rise to little openings around the rim through which the seeds can be released. The seeds are numerous tiny gray to brown kidney-shaped speckles which are edible and yield a fine, high quality oil. The leaves, stem and capsule all contain a white milky juice which extrudes as soon as the surface of any of these parts is broken. It becomes brown when dried and is commonly referred to as ‘raw Opium’. Flowering time is between April and August.

Distribution:
Poppies are common throughout Europe and Eurasia as wild escapes from cultivation. They often grow in corn fields and waste places where they get plenty of sun and well drained soil.

Cultivation:
Sow in a sunny position in well drained soil, autumn or spring - about 0.5 cm (1/5th") deep - most poppy plants resent being disturbed, but perennial varieties are usually propagated by division as they will not often come true from seed.

Status:
In most countries it is illegal to cultivate Poppies without license, though in Europe it is commonly grown as an ornamental. Harvesting, however is strictly prohibited everywhere. P. somniferum is subject to statutory control as a weed in Australia.

Parts used:
Seeds, latex, leaves, petals.

Constituents:
Contains about 40 different alkaloids. The most prominent being Morphine, Codeine, Thebaine, Papaverine and Noscapine.

Magical Uses:
Love magic and divination, prophetic dreams, incense for divination, potions in sex magic, Flying Ointment, prosperity charm, protection against demons and vampires, happiness and peace, invisibility.

Medicinal Uses:
Analgesic, narcotic, sedative, antispasmodic, anti-diarrheal, antitussive, diaphoretic, aphrodisiac.

The dried latex rolled into pills in combination with other substances has long been valued as a highly effective painkiller. As a sedative it is used to bring sleep to agitated children and suffering patients. It has also been employed to calm hysterics and otherwise mentally or emotionally disturbed patients. Its antidiarrheal properties still make it one of the most powerful agents for the treatment of colic and dysentery, whilst its antitussive action still makes it (Codeine- alkaloid of Opium) one of the most widely used ingredients in all kinds of cough remedies and is invaluable in treating persistent spasmodic coughs. In the past it was much used to treat tuberculosis. As an aphrodisiac it plays an important role in treating sexual problems such as impotency and premature ejaculation.

Caution:
Opium, Morphine and Heroin are all addictive substances. Opium use can lead to constipation.

"Poppy: divine herb of joy or evil weed of daemons ?"
was written by Kay Morgenstern

Web presentation designed by Matthew Sleigh


Bibliography:

G. & M. Haerkötter, Hexenfurz und Teufelsdreck, Eichborn Verlag, Frankfurt 1987.
R..E. Schultes & A. Hoffman, Pflanzen der Götter, Hallwag, Bern 1987
Christian Rätsch, Lexikon der Zauberpflanzen, Adeva Verlag, Graz 1988
Christian Rätsch, Von den Wurzeln der Kultur, Sphinx Verlag, Basel, 1991
Christian Rätsch, Pflanzen der Liebe, AT Verlag, Aarau, 1995
Christian Rätsch, Räucherstoffe - Der Atem des Drachen, AT Verlag, Aarau, 1996
Richard Rudgley, Essential Substances, Kodansha Globe International, 1993
Hofmann, A. 1978. "A challenging question and my answer" in: Wasson, R.G. et al. The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries. Ethno-mycological Studies No. 4. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York.
Bert Marco Schuldes, Psychoaktive Pflanzen, Nachtschatten Verlag (Solothurn) & MedienXperimente (Lohrbach),
Lise Manniche, An Ancient Egyptian Herbal, British Museum Press, 1993 T.F.
Thiselton Dyer, The Folk-Lore of Plants, Llanerch Publishers, 1994
Esther Gallwitz, Kleiner Kräuter Garten, Insel Verlag, 1992
Jaques Brosse, Magie der Pflanzen, Walter Verlag, 1992
Paul Huson, Mastering Herbalism, Stein and Day Publ. Scarborough, 1983
M. Grieves, A Modern Herbal, Penguin,1984
R.C.Wren, Potter’s Encyclopaedia, C.W.Daniel.
1985 Richard Mabey, New Herbal, Penguin, 1991
Edith Hamilton, Mythology, Mentor, 1969

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