The poppy plant is an erect, annual herb, with smooth surface and latex in all parts. The plant is endowed with roots of strong fragrance. The milky ooze from poppy plant obtained by incision from the unripened capsules and thickened by spontaneous evaporation, is known as opium. Opium is one of the most valuable medicines available in the sap of the plants and if properly administered, can serve as a very useful drug.
Poppy seeds are found in poppy heads. They are recommended in many prescriptions for tonics. Poppy seeds consist of moisture, protein, fat, fiber and substantial amount of carbohydrates. Its mineral contents are calcium and phosphorus.
The sap of the plant contains oxalic acid and opium which has 25 alkaloids, the chief being codeine, morphine, thelaine, narcotine, narceine and papaverin.
Botanical Name: Papaver somniferum
Indian Name: Khas-khas
Below are some of the medicinal properties of poppy seeds:
- About 30 grams of milk extracted from the poppy seeds mixed with sugar can be used for treating insomnia. A teaspoon of poppy seed oil taken every night is also very effective.
- Poppy seeds are used as a home remedy for dysentery. About quarter teaspoon of the powder of poppy seeds are sauted to a golden brown in honey. Taken twice a day, it gives relief from the symptoms. As these seeds have a sedative effect, they should not be taken for more than three days continuously.
- The poppy plant has many uses as an external remedy. A paste of the root rubbed on the skin can remove burning sensation of the body. A paste of its pulverized rots in water can be used as a cooling agent. It finds use in external application in fevers.
- Poppy seeds on the stalks, which have not been slit to produce opium have soporific properties and are used for relieving pain. They can be used beneficially in gripping pains after childbirth, colic and pain in the testicles.
Opium is beneficial in rheumatism, tumors of different kinds, cancers, carbuncles, abscesses, ulcers, leprosy, syphilis or scrofula – that is, tuberculosis of the lymph node in which pain banishes sleep, especially at night. The commencing dose is 6 centigrams of the extract. If it is insufficient, up to 18 centigrams may be advised to those who are unaccustomed to opium. Beyond this, it is unsafe to go without any professional advice. This may be combined with 12 or 18 centigrams of camphor. Opium is very effective in spasms of bowels, relieving of pain and irritation of the bladder caused by stone.
- Poppy seeds ground to paste with lime juice are effective when rubbed on the areas affected by dry itch.
- Opium is beneficial as a liniment for soothing both muscular and neuralgic pains. The liniment can be prepared by mixing 90 centigrams of opium in 15 grams of coconut oil. It even soothes painful piles. In painful teeth cavities, a centigram of opium is put into the hollow of the tooth, but the saliva should not be swallowed.
Opium can cause great harm if used without proper precautions or in case where the person is intolerant to its action or gets upset even with a smallest dose. In such cases, the drug should be avoided.
Infants and young children have poor tolerance to opium and they should be administered only under medical advice. It should be avoided during pregnancy and in kidney diseases.