Poppy, Red

Medical Herbs Catalogue


Poppy, Red

Botanical Name: Papaver Rhoeas (LINN.)
Family: N.O. Papaveraceae

Synonyms: Corn Rose. Corn Poppy. Flores Rhoeados. Headache.
Parts Used: Flowers, petals.

The Common Red Poppy, growing in fields and waste places, has petals of a rich scarlet colour when fresh, and is often nearly black at the base. They have the peculiar heavy odour of opium when fresh, but becomes scentless on drying.

There are several varieties, differing in the size of the lobes of the leaves and in the character of the fruit, which may be nearly cylindrical or globular, smooth or furnished with stiff hairs. The intensity of the scarlet colouring of the petals also varies. The fresh petals are used for preparing a syrup. The Red Poppy with petals having a dark spot at the base makes the deepest-coloured syrup; that with the oblong capsule should not be used, as it contains an alkaloid resembling Thebaine in action.

Collection: The petals find a steady, though limited market, but must be collected in large quantities, by an organized band of collectors, to be of any use. Farmers might arrange to deliver the fresh petals to manufacturers. They can be collected by children in small muslin bags suspended from the neck, so that both hands are left free for gathering. The petals should not be taken out of the bags, but packed in them, among straw, and sent off the same day as collected, before they fade or lose their bright colour. All the collecting should be done in dry weather, and all handling possible should be avoided.

Although in this country the Field Poppy is only regarded as a weed, and only a limited amount of the petals are used, it is cultivated in Flanders and several parts of Germany for the sake of its seeds, which are not only used in cakes, but from which an excellent oil is made, used as a substitute for olive oil.

The foliage is said to have been used as a vegetable, and the syrup prepared from the petals has been employed as an ingredient in soups and gruels.

Attempts have also been made to utilize the brilliant red of the petals as a dye, but the colour has proved too fugitive to be of use. The syrup has, however, been used as a colouring matter for old ink.

Constituents: Papaver Rhoeas is very slightly narcotic. The chief constituent of the fresh petals is the red colouring matter, which consists of Rhoeadic and Papaveric acids. This colour is much darkened by alkalis.

All parts of the plant contain the crystalline non-poisonous alkaloid Rhoeadine. The amount of active ingredients is very small and rather uncertain in quantity. There is great controversy as to the presence of Morphine. Also it has not been determined whether Meconic Acid, which is present in opium, is a constituent.