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Poppy seeds are oil seeds which are highly nutritious in nature and are used as a condiment in cooking. They are nutty and pleasant to taste. These seeds are procured from dry fruits or pods of the poppy plant. Interestingly, poppy fruit pods also produce opium poppy, a useful anaesthetic drug used in medical opiates such as Morphine. However, the poppy seeds are said to be free from any side effects of opium poppy. These oilseeds are particularly obtained from Papaver somniferum, a species of poppy.

The poppy plant originates from the Papaveraceae family, it is a biennial (grows for two years without replanting) herb belonging to the East Mediterranean and Asia Minor. In the presence of proper sunlight and fertile soil, poppy plants can grow up to 5 feet tall. The kidney-shaped poppy seeds grow from globular or oval-shaped poppy fruits which has a length of 4 to 6 cm and diameter of 3 to 4 cm. Poppy plant flowers in the season of spring. Depending on the variety, the flowers of poppy could be lilac, blue, red, or white in colour.

According to some historians, the tiny, kidney-shaped seeds are being harvested for thousands of years. Poppy seeds were considered healthy food by the ancient Egyptians. It was through these Arab traders that the opium cultivation was spread to India, Ancient Khorasan and Persia. In today's world, poppy seeds are commercial crops that are established well in many parts of the world which includes Germany, India, the East European region, France, Turkey, and the Czech Republic.

Poppy seeds are absolutely safe to use and consume as they contain almost negligible quantities of toxic elements present in the opium poppy. This makes them popular for oil pressing and also as a condiment.

Some basic facts about poppy seeds:

  • Botanical Name: Papaver Somniferum
  • Family: Papaveraceae
  • Common names: Posta dana, Khus Khus
  • Geographical distribution: Opium poppy is grown commercially in Oxfordshire, Hampshire, Lincolnshire, Berkshire, and Wiltshire.
  • Parts used: Seeds, pods or fruits, and flowers
  1. Interesting facts about poppy seeds
  2. Poppy seeds nutrition facts
  3. Poppy seeds health benefits
  4. Poppy seeds side effects
  5. Takeaway
  • Each plant of a poppy seed contains around 10,000 to 60,000 seeds.
  • Poppies were welcomed even after knowing that they were weeds found on agricultural land because they ensure the fertility of the soil.

  • On the back of Canadian $ 20 notes, the poppy flowers are featured.

  • Singapore has classified poppy seeds under prohibited goods for people traveling between countries on planes because they contain opium alkaloids, which if ingested, are capable enough to make one fail a drug test.

Poppy seeds provide only 525 calories in a 100 gram serving. They contain essential minerals like Calcium, Phosphorus, Manganese, Magnesium, Zinc, and Iron, along with considerable quantities of thiamin and folate. The seeds also contain linoleic acid, which is an omega-6 fatty acid essential for a healthy heart. Poppy seeds contain 42% fat, 28% carbohydrates, 21% protein and 6% water.

As per the USDA Nutrient Database, 100 g of poppy seeds contain the following values:

Nutrients Value per 100 g
Water 5.95 g
Energy 525 kcal
Protein 17.99 g
Fats 41.56 g
Carbohydrate 28.13 g
Fibre 19.5 g
Sugars 2.99 g
Minerals  
Calcium 1438 mg
Iron 9.76 mg
Magnesium 347 mg
Phosphorus 870 mg
Potassium 719 mg
Sodium 26 mg
Zinc 7.90 mg
Vitamins  
Vitamin C 1.0 mg
Vitamin B1 0.854 mg
Vitamin B2 0.100 mg
Vitamin B3 0.896 mg
Vitamin B-6 0.247 mg
Vitamin B9 82 µg
Vitamin E 1.77 mg
Fats/ Fatty acids  
Saturated 4.517 g
Monounsaturated 5.982 g
Polyunsaturated 28.569 g

Poppy seeds are not just another condiment in your kitchen; they are loaded with biologically active compounds that not only help prevent and relieve common health conditions but also promote overall well- being. Let us explore what all benefits these tiny seeds provide for our health. 

  • Promotes sleep: Poppy seeds are one of the best remedies for reducing sleep problems. It has also been found to be helpful in improving the quality of sleep by inducing calmness and reducing stress.
  • Relieves constipation: Being a rich source of fibre, poppy seeds help provide bulk to stools so they can easily pass through your intestines. It also increases the frequency of stools thereby relieving constipation.
  • Increases female fertility: Studies indicate that flushing the fallopian tubes with poppy seed oil helps in removing the debris and blockages from it, which are one of the major causes of infertility in females. It also improves libido and overall sexual health.  
  • Helps improve vision: Poppy seeds are a good source of zinc, which is known to improve vision and reduce macular degeneration of eyes. The antioxidants present in these seeds further aid in reducing the risk of age-related vision loss by reducing oxidative stress on eye cells.

Apart from the abovementioned benefits, poppy seeds are also known to help in improving immunity and reducing mouth ulcers, though there is no confirmatory evidence for either of these benefits.

  1. Poppy seeds for digestion
  2. Poppy seeds for female fertility
  3. Poppy seeds for good sleep
  4. Poppy seeds for mouth ulcers
  5. Poppy seeds prevents cancer
  6. Poppy seeds benefits for immune system
  7. Poppy seeds for heart health
  8. Poppy seeds for eyes

Poppy seeds for digestion

Poppy seeds contain high dietary fiber that can support digestion. The fiber present in poppy seeds provides bulk to the food and softens the stools thus helping in easy passage of stools from the body. It can also help in treating constipation by increasing the frequency of stools.

Poppy seeds for female fertility

Studies show that flushing of the fallopian tubes with oil of poppy seeds can boost fertility in women. The main function of fallopian tubes is to transport the egg to the uterus from the ovary. Unfortunately, there may occur several blockages in the fallopian tube which could affect the fertility in females. A research shows that the poppy seed oil is efficient enough to dissolve any mucus or debris present in tubes and in turn increase fertility. This technique is also known as hysterosalpingography. Tests conducted on a group of infertile women showed that 40% of women achieve a successful pregnancy using this technique. Poppy seeds are also known to boost sexual desires and enrich sexual health.

(Read more: Libido boosting foods)

Poppy seeds for good sleep

According to a study, consumption of a drink made of poppy seeds can decrease cortisol (stress hormone) levels in the human body. In this study, it was found that on consumption of poppy seeds, the stress levels significantly dropped and it also had some calming effects. The individuals also reported being more relaxed and less fatigued. Subsequently, opium poppy is also believed to be effective in promoting sleep. Sipping some poppy seeds before going to bed may help to better sleep.

Poppy seeds for mouth ulcers

Poppy seeds provide a cooling effect to the body and are an effective treatment for mouth ulcers. The research is limited but an anecdotal evidence is found to suggest the above-mentioned statement. According to a review article, juice of poppy seeds is found to have some antiulcer effects.

Most of the allopathic medicine has their own set of side effects. So, herbal medicines and traditional remedies are by far still the best because they have a low incidence of side effects.

Poppy seeds prevents cancer

According to an Indian study, Poppy seeds can increase the activity of a carcinogen-detoxifying enzyme which is known as glutathione S transferase or GST. The study also claimed that the anti-cancer property of poppy seeds is good enough that it can be considered a dynamic for cancer treatment. In fact, a famous anticancer drug is already obtained from the opium plant. Besides, an extract of a poppy plant is believed to be effective in treating cancerous ulcers.

(Read more: Cancer symptoms)

Poppy seeds benefits for immune system

Poppy seeds contain zinc which has an essential role in strengthening the immune system. However, there are no studies to prove the same.

Poppy seeds for heart health

Poppy seeds can help in lowering cholesterol levels as they contain high dietary fiber. According to a study,  the higher the amount of poppy seed oil added to a food item the lower is the cholesterol content. A balanced cholesterol level doesn't only reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases but also it helps in maintaining good heart health.

According to a report, poppy seeds also contain Omega-3 fatty acids which are popular for their cardioprotective properties. Omega-3 fatty acids cannot be produced in the body. So, they must be procured from external sources.

(Read more: Heart disease symptoms)

Poppy seeds for eyes

Serious eye diseases like macular degeneration can be prevented through a regulated consumption of poppy seeds as they are a good source of zinc. According to some studies, zinc is very beneficial for improving vision or eyesight. Poppy seeds also have antioxidants present in them which can be beneficial for the health of the eyes.

  • Poppy seeds for a drug test
    Poppy seeds can trigger a positive reading for opiate morphine which is considered as a drug. Consumption of poppy seeds, even if in small quantities like a slice of poppy seed cake or a bagel with poppy seed topping, are more than enough for you to fail a dope test as it red flags even a non-drug-user.

  • Consumption of poppy seeds in excess can be extremely dangerous and toxic
    If a case is to be believed, poppy seeds can cause bowel obstruction and increase morphine levels in the blood which may even cause death. However, such cases have not got too much recognition and there remains a doubt whether poppy seeds are toxic or not. An overdose of poppy seeds must be avoided

  • Poisoning by Morphine
    The poppy plant contains a lot of alkaloids like morphine, codeine, papaverine, thebaine, narcotine, narcotoline and narceine. A study shows that an overdose of poppy seeds can lead to a poisoning which is very similar to a drug overdose.

  • For allergic individuals
    Some people may be naturally allergic to poppy seeds. People who are allergic to nuts should also be cautious before consuming poppy seeds.

Poppy seeds are harvested in large quantities every year majorly. Its aromatic oils and nutty flavour is considered a delicacy in many cuisines. The various components of poppy seeds are believed to cure different health diseases like heart diseases, digestive disorders and much more. Despite the various benefits provided by the poppy seeds to the human body, the high morphine content in poppy seeds make it infamous and has resulted in a ban on the product in various countries like Singapore, Taiwan, China, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The travellers of the United Arab Emirates are prohibited to carry poppy seeds along with them, and the rules are so strict that their violation can lead them to imprisonment. Also, the morphine content present in them may cause severe health diseases if overdosed. So, keep a check on the limit of its consumption as prevention is better than cure!

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References

  1. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service. Basic Report: 02033, Spices, poppy seed. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Legacy Release [Internet]
  2. The University of Adelaide Adelaide, South Australia. 100-YEAR-OLD FERTILITY TECHNIQUE REDUCES NEED FOR IVF.
  3. Armstrong, W.P. The Opium Poppy (Papaver somniferum). [Internet]
  4. Kahla Redman, Ted Ruffman, Penelope Fitzgerald, Sheila Skeaff. Iodine Deficiency and the Brain: Effects and Mechanisms. Journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition Volume 56, 2016 - Issue 16
  5. Aruna K, Sivaramakrishnan VM. Plant products as protective agents against cancer. Indian J Exp Biol. 1990 Nov;28(11):1008-11. PMID: 2283166
  6. Purdue University, ndiana, U.S. [Internet]. Papaver somniferum L.
  7. Herman Friedman, Catherine Newton, Thomas W. Klein. Microbial Infections, Immunomodulation, and Drugs of Abuse . Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003 Apr; 16(2): 209–219. PMID: 12692094
  8. Vel Gök et al. Effect of Replacing Beef Fat with Poppy Seed Oil on Quality of Turkish Sucuk . Korean J Food Sci Anim Resour. 2015; 35(2): 240–247. PMID: 26761834
  9. National Eye Institute. Antioxidant Vitamins and Zinc Reduce Risk of Vision Loss from Age-Related Macular Degeneration. National Institutes of Health
  10. Schuppener LM, Corliss RF. [linjk] J Forensic Sci. 2018 Mar;63(2):614-618. J Forensic Sci. 2018 Mar;63(2):614-618.
  11. Kwiecień-Obara E et al. [Morphine (obtained from poppy seeds) and dextrometorfan poisoning– a case report]. Przegl Lek. 2016;73(8):596-8. PMID: 29677437