Opium Poppy, sometimes referred to as Papaver Somniferum in Latin, is famously known for its beautiful flowers and culinary seeds. It has also been used for medicinal, culinary and recreational purposes for many centuries. However, there is something particular to these opium poppies which make them very popular – they are also the originating ingredient of many opiates with sedative properties.
Poppies are some of the most beautiful flowers you could hope to find in a garden. There are a multitude of these poppies available in different colors, including white, pink, purple, yellow, orange, red, and blue. You can grow many poppy variants like the dark blue Oriental poppies or the golden brown Turkish poppies in your garden.
Quite a few of these species, however, are widely used in medicines and food. One such variety is opium poppy or Papaver Somniferum. Opium poppies contain opium which is a source of many sedative derivatives. However, contrary to popular belief, not all poppies contain opium.
The opium poppy is a colorful flower, which initially grows into a pod from which petals bloom. Papaver Somniferum is a Latin term, in fact means “the sleep-bringing poppy, white form”.
As I said earlier it papaver somniferum is the major source of opiates, such as codiene, morphine, noscapine and papayerine. It is illegal in most countries to extract the contents of certain poppies to get raw morphine.
It is also important to note that opium poppy and opium straw, including the crude extract of poppy straw in liquid, solid or powder form, are listed as Schedule II controlled substances by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the US. Another derivative of opium poppy, the deadly Heroin, is listed in Schedule I. Heroin, not only claims millions of lives each year, but it also ruins the lives of those addicts who are unable to break away from the habit forming drug.
Poppies are not always used for illegal purposes. They are also use for ornamental or craft making purposes When the petals fall off, the pod can be cut and hung. After they have dried, these papaver somniferum pods can be used as decor items (or in flower arrangements) or for medicinal purposes. When it comes to their culinary use, opium poppy seeds are legal to possess and consume, they are widely used in cooking, breads and deserts in the US and many other countries. If you go into most grocery stores in the United States you will probably find poppy seeds on the shelves with other ingredients. However these seeds contain very low levels of opiates, but it is also true that you could get a positive result if drug tested within 24 hours of eating them.
It is really important to know that growing opium poppies, even it is just to obtain seeds that can be used in cooking, is illegal in most countries. Since the plant produces opium, heroin, and morphine, then you could could face heavy penalties in court if you are caught growing these types of poppies. The risk of growing poppies is indeed substantial; the US penalty for growing opium poppies without a license could be up to 20 years in prison. The problem isn’t just growing these plants, but if you are found to be in possession of poppy straw or even the dried poppy plants themselves then you could face the same court fines and/or prison sentence that you could expect to face if you actually grew them yourself.
The fact that the opium poppy derivatives (listed in Schedule I and II) require significant amount of knowledge and processing skills for manufacture compel many growers to think that growing a handful of plants in their garden for flowers or seeds means they are not breaking any laws. But, it is wrong to assume that. DEA regulations and consequences are the same irrespective of the number of plants that you grow. So it is advisable to buy poppy seeds for your cooking requirements from the grocery stores and if you want colorful, dried papaver somniferum pods for decoration, it is better to buy them from a flower store or online stores authorized to do so. There is always a legal risk of growing poppies. Please note that opium poppies for legal commercial pharmaceutical use and culinary purpose are grown by suppliers who obtain special government licenses around the world.